A dad who endured a 517-mile round journey to see his severely autistic son has joined the call for more mental health beds in the North West.
Michael Balshaw from Ashton, made the trip to a specialist hospital in Norfolk for four years to see son Michael, now 37.
He spoke out after the Evening Post revealed there were are just 16 beds mental health beds available for children across the county, with other patients catered for in Norwich and Sheffield.
Although the travelling took its toll on the 60-year-old, he said the situation was better than Michael being accommodated at local facilities without specialist staff. Michael was moved to the unit in 2005 after removing his own eye while at a home in Accrington.
Mr Balshaw said: “We need more facilities in the North West, but it comes down to money and the people at the top are struggling. A care package for someone like Michael costs in excess of £400,000 a year. So while the locations are not ideal, we don’t want a situation where we keep people with extremely complex cases in the North West when we don’t have the highly-skilled staff to look after them.”
Michael’s condition improved in Norfolk and though he’s now at a centre in Cheadle, his dad is still fighting to bring him nearer home as he revealed how difficult the travelling can be. He once drove to Norfolk to find Michael didn’t want to see him, only for him to change his mind when he got back to Preston.
Mr Balshaw said: “He didn’t realise that it could take up to eight hours to do the journey.
“I remember feeling very low after that. It’s not only a long drive, but the disappointment of not seeing him.”
NHS England said 56 new beds will be made available nationwide from next year.