Sheffield Children's Hospital 'truly sorry' as mother of girl who went missing appeals for better youth mental health support
The mother of a young girl who went missing from Sheffield Children’s Hospital has called on the hospital to provide better treatment for her daughter’s mental health conditions.
On Tuesday, July 20, Lila Veasey, 13, who suffers with anorexia nervosa, depression and anxiety, ran away from the hospital because she ‘could not face’ spending any more time there, her mother says.
Speaking to The Star – giving a statement she later shared on her own social media page – mum Emma Shepherd, of Foxhill, blamed the fact Lila is confined to a room due to her attempts to escape, and her limited counselling sessions, for her ‘deteriorating’ condition.
She said she has been trying to get Lila a bed in a specialist unit, but to no avail.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital clarified that the inpatient beds for patients with conditions like Lila’s are in short supply nationally and are allocated through NHS England. It is therefore the national Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) that is responsible for allocating these beds, rather than Sheffield CAMHS.
Emma said: “Lila is going out of her mind been stuck in the same room day in day out and I feel so helpless as her mother because I cannot do anything about it. I can’t bring her home because of her condition so I have to leave her there and wait for news on a bed.
“Lila has been an inpatient at Sheffield Children's Hospital for the last three months and has been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, depression and anxiety.
“When Lila was first admitted on the 5th of April 2021 she was very underweight and hardly eating anything. She had been like this for a couple of months before.
“From then to now she has got drastically worse and her mental health has deteriorated rapidly due to the lack of mental health support while she's been in there.
“Lila is limited to one counselling session per week and is confined to her room on a daily basis because she keeps trying to run away.
“She often tries to run away and self harms because shes struggling to cope with being stuck in the hospital and wants to get outside.
“We have been trying to get lila a bed in a specialist hospital but we are constantly told that there simply are none available because she requires an NG tube for feeds and needs restraining to do so.
“We have been told that Lila is on a waiting list. However, she has been on this list now for two months and is still waiting.”
On Tuesday evening, Lila managed to escape and run past nurses and security at the hospital, something Emma believes is due to staff shortages.
She said that Lila left the hospital with no shoes, phone or money. Hospital staff called Emma to tell her that her daughter had gone missing and that the police were out looking for her.
Emma said: “I was so worried with it being hot and her running that she was going to be dehydrated and with her condition this could be very dangerous.
"I told my close friends, asked my mum to come and look after my baby amd took my 10 year old son out searching the streets around the hospital.
“After an hour of no luck it started to go dark and I started to worry more so decided to post her picture on Facebook and asked people to keep an eye out for her and contact the police if they have seen her or know where she is.
“I had a huge response and lots of people shared my post and came out to help find her.
“The police informed me that three people had contacted them claiming to have seen lila in the crookes area heading for Rivelin and the fields around it.”
Lila was found approximately four hours later wandering the streets of Malin Bridge, around three miles from the hospital.
“She was scared, shaken and very upset,” Emma said. “She said she thought she'd never see me again but she couldn't face going back to her room in the hospital.
“I feel so worried now for her safety and mental wellbeing. I am so frustrated with the lack of help and support from CAMHS.
“If Lila was in the right place then this would not have happened and she would be getting better not worse.
“I'm am crying out to get my daughter moved as quickly as possible to the right place because I honestly fear for her life.
“I am a single mum of three and I meed my little girl better so that she can come home to me, her brother and sister again.”
Sheffield Children’s Hospital staff have promised to provide Lila with ‘the best care’ while she waits for a bed in a specialist unit, and said they are ‘truly sorry’ for the distress Emma and her family are facing.
Sally Shearer, the hospital's director of nursing and quality, said: “We are truly sorry for the distress caused to Lila’s family by the situation on Tuesday. We have reviewed what happened and are identifying actions to prevent another situation of this kind in future.
"We remain absolutely committed to ensuring the safety, security and wellbeing of all children and young people in our care and will make sure we learn as much from this situation as we can.
"We understand it is incredibly worrying for families waiting for a suitable placement for their child. Work is going on across the country to provide more places for children and young people who need more advanced support, like those offered at our Becton Centre, but in the meantime our clinical teams are working hard to provide the best care we can in the children's hospital.
"We hope a specialist placement can be found for Lila shortly, and we are working closely with NHS England and the family to help secure a suitable place for Lila's care."
The hospital also sought to reassure families that staffing shortages are not a problem at the moment, and did not contribute to Lila being able to run away.
"We would like to reassure families that we take safe staffing levels very seriously. The high Covid infection rates that the country is currently experiencing do mean that we have more colleagues needing to self-isolate at the moment but shifts are being covered by other colleagues and qualified agency staff and we have been able to maintain staffing levels throughout."
Since Lila wa found, well-wishers have gathered together to raise money to help Lila’s family get private care so she does not have to wait as long for specialist treatment.
Family friend Rebecca Grafton set up a GoFundMe page to help raise them money.
Jade Savage, who set up a seperate Sheffield Stars fundraiser, said: “The [NHS CAMHS] services are underfunded and due to COVID I dread to think what their waiting lists are just to get a first initial appointment. I have sent up a page to raise funds so her mum can seek some private help.”