A WIDE-ranging national review has been launched into respite care after families in Teesside won a battle to stop their care being slashed.

Last year the South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group proposed changes to the way respite care for severely disabled adults was issued, with plans to house them in caravans and hostels instead of specialist units.

And it said it could not guarantee the same 33 days of respite care a year following the planned changes.

Now Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care, has ordered that the way respite care services are delivered in the UK be put under review after hearing of the families' plight.

On Friday, Mr Hancock’s office confirmed he had referred the case to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) which will now review how the NHS provides respite services before reporting back to the Health Secretary by the end of May.

The decision comes after both Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland councils wrote to him in response to the plight of Teesside families who were facing the possibility of having their respite services cut.

There are 95 Teesside families looking after vulnerable adults who cannot speak or walk, suffer daily seizures and require regular medication.

For 33 nights a year, the families are given a break from 24-hour care when the vulnerable adults are cared for in the specialist units of Bankfields Court in Middlesbrough and The Aysgarth Unit in Stockton.

But the CCG said last April that it planned to change respite care and the specialist units were put at risk of closure.

The months that followed saw parents backed by both Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland councils and culminated in both local authorities formally raising the issue with the Health Secretary.

In January, the CCG finally said the 95 families using respite services would be able to continue with the support as it now stands.

But Health Scrutiny Panel chair Cllr Eddie Dryden said he would not be withdrawing the panel’s representation to the Health Secretary.

Following Mr Hancock’s decision to refer the case to the IRP, Cllr Dryden said: “This is a vindication of the work of the panel and the decision we took to write to the Health Secretary.

“We were very happy to have a good local outcome with the commitment to keep both the specialist units of Bankfields and Aysgarth open.

“We now hope this referral to the IRP will improve the lives of those caring for vulnerable people throughout the UK.

“We hope the outcome is that respite beds are acknowledged as being separate to normal hospital beds and that, as a result, we can bring an end to the anxiety felt by families who desperately need this service.”