Dad battles with GPs for son’s future

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Devastated dad Ian Johnstone says GPs at Connel surgery are letting his adoptive son down.

Ambulance technician Mr Johnstone says the doctors at the surgery where his son has been registered for years are collectively refusing to carry out an essential capacity assessment and report that would secure him guardianship.

Eighteen-year-old Daniel, who has learning difficulties as well as Asperger’s, Autism and epilepsy, which means he needs one-to-one care and support, is unable to survive by himself, according to Mr Johnstone.

And unless the GPs change their minds by tomorrow (July 19) and his application can be lodged, the legal process of getting guardianship will go back to square one.

Two assessments and reports already completed by a clinical psychologist and mental health officer, neither of whom had met Daniel before, will be have to be repeated – costing the NHS more money – because the three sets of reports all have to be done within a 30-day period.

Mr Johnstone said the surgery had two months notice when an appointment was made for the assessment to be carried out, but just a couple of hours before it was due to go ahead, the practice manager rang to cancel it.

Mr Johnston told The Oban Times: ‘They said the GP felt they were not experienced enough to do it. The practice manager said she would arrange for it to be done with another doctor. I reminded her of the time-scale and she said it was fine. One week later I was told the GPs collectively didn’t feel experienced enough to do it.

‘These are qualified doctors, surely one of them could do it? There are about 10 of them working from there. Apparently they are used to doing such assessments on the elderly but not for someone so young.

‘My lawyer has been trying to find an alternative, go private, but the bottom line is Connel Surgery is where Daniel is registered.’

Mr Johnstone added: ‘It is very clear to anyone meeting Daniel that he does not have the capacity to deal with rents, contracts and banks. He has a very basic understanding. Developmentally and educationally he’s about eight.’

By refusing to assess Daniel, Mr Johnstone said the GPs are failing in their duty of care towards his son.

In an email sent to the surgery, and forwarded to MSP Mike Russell and The Oban Times, he told them: ‘Shame on all of you for holding this young man’s future to ransom.’

Michael Russell has now contacted the NHS, telling The Oban Times: ‘There needs to be an assessment so that Daniel can get the help and support he really needs.’

He added: ‘I am sure the NHS can devise some way of ensuring this happens
without any further delay or difficulty.’

Daniel has been registered at Connel Surgery for a number of years but has not needed much contact before this as he is in good health. When he has had an appointment, he has rarely been seen by the same GP, said Mr Johnstone.

‘I do not believe this is sufficient reason for the surgery to decline to carry out this assessment. I believe some GPs felt they were too inexperienced to carry out such an assessment. This is simply unjustifiable.

‘If they are qualified they should be able to do all the functionality that’s required of a GP.

‘But I’ve been reminded by the surgery that the GPs are self-employed and can decide what they are going to do or not going to do. I was floored by that,’ he said.

He added: ‘If you have people adopting challenging kids then the structure and framework should respond appropriately and be there when needed. I adopted Daniel because I could offer him love, support, warmth and opportunity. He’s a lovely, charming, funny young man with a lot of challenges. All he needs is a little bit of support, but we are having to fight for it with tooth and nail.

‘I can’t believe out of 10 GPs there’s not one that can sit down with Danny. He is not capable of surviving in life without a guardian. For them to say they can’t do his assessment is a disgrace. Shame on them.

‘They are totally negating their duty of care to Danny. They are really letting the lad down and are costing the NHS money. If they fail to provide their support we will have to start the process all over again. The reports all cost.’

The Oban Times put a series of questions to Connel Surgery via the Health and Social Care Partnership, including, if a surgery is not able to provide a service needed by their registered patient, should they not make efforts to recommend/refer that patient to another GP/practice that can help?

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) replied that due to patient confidentiality it cannot comment on individual cases, adding: ‘GPs in Argyll and Bute are contracted to provide Primary Medical Services under the terms of the General Medical Services Contract and are professionally supported by a broad range of specialist healthcare experts, including psychiatric services.’