THE mother of a teenager with a serious mental health condition has criticised an NHS trust for what she said was a catalogue of failings, and hit out at the level of care available in the community.

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, said her son was left "close to death" following "inadequate" care from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

The Darlington teenager has recently left West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough, and his mother was speaking out following revelations about the facility, including the deaths of two teenagers in its care.

Mental health wards at West Lane were closed last week.

The woman also said the trust’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) took three years to diagnose her son’s autism, did not provide adequate support and aftercare, and also alleged that the trust allowed his condition to worsen after he was discharged.

After what she believed were “classic” signs of autism, the mother made an appointment with CAMHS in 2015.

From there she claims staff failed to diagnose the condition and said key signs were ignored during several further appointments over a two-year period.

She said: “We knew something was seriously wrong – it was a huge escalation in behaviour.

“He found friendships difficult, he found any sort of change from a routine very difficult. Little things would mean a great deal.”

After years of a decline in his behaviour, suicidal thoughts, instances of self-harm, and a sudden refusal to eat food, her son was admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital described in a state “close to death”.

After the escalation in suicidal thoughts, concerns were heightened when he refused to consume food or drink for 36 hours, which later led to his admission to West Lane Hospital.

His mother said: “His behaviour was off the scale when he was admitted to hospital, he spent more than a year at West Lane. They diagnosed him with autism in 2018.

“CAMHS appointments didn’t spot autism as a potential problem despite displaying classic symptoms first seen in 2015.”

During his time at the mental health hospital, staff rehabilitated him to the point of his discharge, but after spending six months at home his condition deteriorated to the point he stopped eating again.

His mother said: “He came out of hospital and feeding him took us around eight hours a day. We had to go into his school for an hour in his lunchtime, but we had no training for it – we just had to do it.

“He had to be readmitted to hospital. He stopped eating, I think he could see how hard it was for us – it became apparent he was becoming suicidal again.”

She requested an urgent appointment for treatment with CAMHS, but was told there was a six week waiting list.

She said: “There had only been one meeting in five-and-a-half months with the person in charge of his mental health care. It was just absolutely appalling. Towards the end of his time at home, I told them 'we need you now'.”

By the time the appointment was available, her son was readmitted to West Lane Hospital.

His mother said that the trust’s “failure” to detect his autism and “lack” of support had caused his condition to worsen, and added: “There is just no care in the community.”

Director of operations in Durham and Darlington at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Levi Buckley said: “It wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on individual cases.

“However, we are aware of the individual’s concerns and we have been working with them to resolve them.

“We are sorry to hear they still have concerns and we would encourage them to please get back in touch with us if they wish to discuss anything further.”