A HEALTH watchdog is set to investigate issues surrounding mental health services which a coroner concluded contributed to death of a 25-year-old autism patient.

North Yorkshire scrutiny of health chairman Councillor Andrew Lee said the committee would launch an in-depth study of NHS services such as the Tees Esk and Wear Valley Trust following a request from a member of Yorkshire Adult Autism Action Group.

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It is understood part of the wide-ranging inquiry will examine ongoing concerns that mental health support in North Yorkshire has been perceived by numerous service users to drop away as patients become adults.

The move comes two months after North Yorkshire coroner John Broadbridge ruled the lack of understanding and support offered by the trust contributed towards the death of Zoe Zaremba, of Bedale.

Ms Zaremba, died in June 2020 and her body was found in undergrowth around a mile from her home following a six day search by police.

The inquest had already heard that Zoe faced “a lack of understanding” of her autism and did not receive a care plan for her needs following an independent review.

Mr Broadbridge added a misdiagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder by the trust had a “detrimental” impact on her and said Ms Zaremba's case should be heard by a much wider audience in the hope changes would be made to the care of people with autism.

Ms Zaremba's death followed health campaigners and the scrutiny of health committee repeatedly warning of dire consequences if the trust pressed ahead with plans to close adult mental health units in North Yorkshire, particularly after it emerged long-held plans to build a £16 million mental health hospital in Harrogate had been scrapped.

The trust has previously stated a long-term plan to increase services in the community and reduce the need for people to be admitted to hospital.

It has accepted all the findings and recommendations in an independent review of Ms Zaremba's, and has stated training was under way in the trust to address the issues.

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Campaigner Roger Tuckett, of Yorkshire Adult Autism Action Group, told a scrutiny of health meeting at County Hall in Northallerton while there was clearly a need to scrutinise the NHS service on an ongoing basis there had been a lack of transparency.

He said he had become "suspicious of a delay, deny and deflect approach" and was keen the watchdog used its powers to get answers over issues raised by Ms Zaremba's death.

Mr Tuckett emphasised that the diagnosing of autism, or failure to do so, had wide-reaching implications.

He told the committee: "Undiagnosed autism has completely ruined my life, financially, relationships, everything."


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