Nascot Lawn: St Albans’ respite service still “teetering towards becoming unviable“

The entrance to Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Photo: DANNY LOO

The entrance to Nascot Lawn respite centre in Watford. Photo: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

Nascot Lawn respite centre is still “teetering towards becoming unviable“, despite news it is to remain open.

Facing an expensive High Court battle, Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) last week agreed to reinstate funding for the Watford centre.

Harpenden campaigner David Josephs, whose son Dominic uses the facility, said: “As far as the staff at Nascot Lawn are aware, nothing has changed, so they are being urged to find new jobs.

“While the decision is positive, I’m not sure it is a step forward.”

David is one of the many parents who vigorously campaigned to keep Nascot Lawn open, after finding out in June the service would close in October as part of £45m of savings by HVCCG.

HVCCG chief executive Kathryn Magson said at the time: “Our serious financial situation means we have to focus our spending on health services we have a legal duty to provide.”

HVCCG argued Herts county council (HCC) should fund the service, as it fell under their responsibilities.

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At a HCC meeting in July, following an emotional plea from David to “stop this emergency from becoming a tragedy”, the council agreed to fund Nascot Lawn until January 2018.

Several parents also asked lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to seek a judicial review of HVCCG’s decision.

The court case was due to start this week, however it was called off after HVCCG agreed to keep Nascot Lawn open subject to further consultation.

A HVCCG spokesperson said: “The CCG has decided to set aside its decision from January 2017 and will make a new decision regarding the funding of respite services at Nascot Lawn.

“Prior to making this new decision, the CCG is arranging a further meeting with the families involved.”

But now, the Save NHS Nascot group claims there has been no guarantee of funding past January 2018.

A staff member has told them the future allocation of breaks will be reduced due to unsafe staffing levels.

Herts Community Trust, who run the service, said: “We are keeping staff up-to-date with developments, and are actively supporting them during this period.

“Our focus also remains on maintaining safe staffing levels in the unit and we will be keeping families informed about the capacity at Nascot Lawn.”

Despite parents’ trepidation, the news was welcomed by health groups.

Disabled Children’s Partnership chair Amanda Batten said: “We are delighted HVCCG has seen sense at the 11th hour, and reversed its decision to withdraw funding from Nascot Lawn.

“However, the enormous stress families have faced could have been avoided if they had been properly consulted from the start.

“This case highlights the vital role short break services play in keeping families with disabled children together.

“It should encourage local authorities and the NHS to think very carefully and consult fully before proposing the closure of similar services.

“We are calling on the government to review the funding and availability of short breaks services across the country, so disputes like this don’t arise in the first place.”

A HCC spokesperson said: “We are pleased HVCCG has made this decision and hope that it will consult properly about any future decision to cease funding for Nascot Lawn.

“The county council will continue to work with our health partners to assess the needs of children and families to ensure the most appropriate support is available.

“We maintain our ambition to deliver an integrated overnight short breaks offer in partnership with the CCGs.”

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