The UK's most senior family judge has warned the country will have “blood on its hands” if an NHS hospital bed cannot be found for a 17-year-old girl who has tried to kill herself several times, according to the BBC.
The unnamed teenager [X], who has been detained for six months, is due to be released from secure youth custody in 11 days because she will be too old. Sir James Munby, the president of Family Division of the High Court, said today that society should be "ashamed" that no hospital place has been found for her where she can continue to receive treatment.
The Guardian reported that the intervention by the courts "highlights the state of mental health provision in the UK". Sir Munby said it showed a "disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of the clinical, residential and other support services".
“If, when in 11 days’ time she is released from ZX [the unnamed facility], we, the system, society, the state, are unable to provide X with the supportive and safe placement she so desperately needs, and if, in consequence, she is enabled to make another attempt on her life, then I can only say, with bleak emphasis: we will have blood on our hands,” Munby wrote to the court. “We are, even in these times of austerity, one of the richest countries in the world. Our children and young people are our future. X is part of our future. It is a disgrace to any country with pretensions to civilisation, compassion and, dare one say it, basic human decency, that a judge in 2017 should be faced with the problems thrown up by this case and should have to express himself in such terms."
Sir Munby has no power to put her under a care order from mid-August. Despite ordering a plan for her future care back in June, she did not meet the medium secure unit threshold as she is only deemed a threat to herself. There is a six-month wait list for low secure unit beds. Staff at the unit where she is being held say that sending her home would be a "suicide mission to a catastrophic level".
Copies of the judgment will now be sent to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and the chief executive of NHS England in the hope of an intervention.
“This is tragically not as unusual a case as people might think," said Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem former health minister, according to The Guardian. "Many lives are lost due to such failures in the system. We have made big advances in reducing death rates among people with heart conditions and HIV/ Aids but across the world we have not made the same progress on suicide, one of the biggest killers of young people there is."
An NHS England spokesperson said: “We have heard the comments from the judge and completely agree that a solution must be found."
If you are thinking about suicide, please contact Samaritans on 116 123. All calls are free and will be answered in confidence.