Nascot Lawn: Herts County Council will not refer NHS decision to defund centre to Jeremy Hunt

The outside of Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Photo: Danny Loo.

The outside of Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Herts County Council has decided against referring the decision to remove funding for Nascot Lawn to the Health Secretary.

Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) decided last year to stop funding Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford, which provides short breaks for children with disabilities and special needs from across the region - a decision which would close the centre.

Since then, the issue has been mired in High Court battles, protests and committee meetings as the parents of those children fought to keep the centre open.

However this fight has been put on the back foot after Herts County Council, which runs social care, decided not to refer the decision to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for arbitration.

One of the parents fighting to save Nascot Lawn, Nikki Lancaster, said: “We are very disappointed Herts County Council have refused to refer the flawed decision to close Nascot Lawn to the Secretary of State.

“In the week of the NHS’ 70th birthday, councillors and health chiefs have decided to weaken health provision in Hertfordshire.

“Our very disabled children will no longer have respite services which can meet their needs.

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“This is short term cost cutting rather than proper planning to support families like ours, it will have terrible long term consequences.

Campaign manager for the Disabled Children’s Partnership Stephen Kingdom said: “Our members, alongside the families who have fought so hard to keep Nascot Lawn open, are utterly baffled by the county council’s decision not take more decisive action over the CCG’s decision to withdraw funding for the centre and refer the matter to the Secretary of State for a final decision – an option open to the council under local authority regulations.

“The CCG’s decision to stop funding Nascot Lawn needn’t have been the end of the matter if the council considered that this would not be in the interests of the local health service.

“It seems self-evident to us – and to parents – closing Nascot Lawn is not in the interests of the health service in Hertfordshire, given the impact it will have on children with complex health needs and their families.

“The council have missed a real opportunity to stop the closure of a much valued facility that helps local families with some of the most severely disabled children get a short break from caring.

“It’s also a false economy because keeping Nascot Lawn open could have also saved the council and the state money in the long run.

“If families with disabled children don’t get the support they need they are more likely to reach crisis point at far more cost to the council and state than the cost of keeping Nascot Lawn open.”

A Hertfordshire County Council scrutiny committee spokesperson said: “The committee carefully considered the evidence available to it, noted Herts Valley’s Clinical Commissioning Group had largely accepted all of the recommendations made by the committee in March and that progress towards a formal binding agreement to support health input in to an overnight short break service for all children with complex health needs in Hertfordshire as being made.

“The committee concluded it was not appropriate to consider referral to the Secretary of State for Health at the present time; rather it was appropriate to continue to scrutinise the progress on the binding legal agreement and the development of the overnight short break service to ensure the recommendations it had previously made were acted upon.

“The committee also asked Seamus Quilty, acting as the chairman of the committee, to write to Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England to outline the committee’s concerns and considerable disquiet about the manner in which Herts Valley’s Clinical Commissioning Group approached their decision to withdraw funding from Nascot Lawn NHS Respite Centre.”

A HVCCG spokesperson said: “Our absolute focus has been on ensuring the health needs of all children who have used Nascot Lawn are met in county council overnight short breaks services. A good and equitable service for everyone in need is what we are all working towards.

“Transition meetings continue with all partners to oversee this process and to ensure that planning for each child remains closely and carefully managed. We are making sure that each child’s clinical needs are fully assessed.”