Two young women fighting to be allowed to continue their treatment with the Richardson Eating Disorder Service (REDS) in Newcastle have taken the first steps to bring a legal challenge against the decision to close the award-winning unit.
On May 9, The Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust announced its decision to close the REDS unit in the Royal Victoria Infirmary and replace it with an intensive day unit in Walkergate later this year.
The closure decision followed decisions by NHS England commissioners to stop using the 10 inpatient beds at REDS. As a result some eating disorder patients from the North East have been offered placements in units as distant as Norwich.
The women are taking legal action against both the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which provides the service, and NHS England, which commissions specialist inpatient eating disorder services.
They have instructed Ben Hoare Bell Consultant Simon Garlick, who has sent formal pre-proceedings letters to both organisations on the grounds they have acted unlawfully by failing to consult with people affected or potentially affected by the proposed changes.
The pre-action letters allege that NHS England has failed to consult with and involve patients and the public in accordance with legal requirements, and has failed to be transparent in their decision making.
The Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust is said to have failed to consult those affected by the closure.
Over 100 people currently use REDS as out patients, day patients and inpatients. After the change, due to take place in October, only a fraction of those people will be able to access this service.
Inpatients will be sent to the 15 commissioned beds for the North East in Darlington or out of the area for treatment when these are full.