A disabled university graduate who has become a prisoner in her Birmingham home due to acute care needs, hopes an Appeal Court judge will back her legal challenge against a city healthcare trust next month.
Ruth Whapples, who is virtually blind and can only move her head and neck, depends on professional care to cater for her most fundamental needs.
The 50-year-old, who last set foot out of her Harborne home in December 2005, needs 24-hour care but only receives 10 hours daily assistance.
She was only a teenager when she loss the use of her limbs, as a result of a degenerative spine, the cause of which doctors have been unable to pinpoint.
Ms Whapples’ case reached the High Court in London on March 14 after lawyers unsuccessfully challenged the decision by Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust (BEN PCT) decision to "terminate" her independent case manager.
Mr Justice Cranston rejected her application for a full judicial review, holding that the PCT’s decision was not perverse and within its discretion.
However the judge granted a six-week "stay" on implementing the change while lawyers lodge an appeal, due to be heard at the High Court in London next month.
Yogi Amin, of Birmingham-based law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the role of independent case manager was vital to Ms Whapples' well-being as he or she co-ordinates the resources she desperately needs.
He described Ms Whapples as having a compelling and "intensely deserving case", who has effectively become a reluctant recluse and as a result leads a "miserable life".
"She is not able to engage with anyone outside her house. She would love to go out in the community, to visit the theatre, and do what most people do," said Mr Amin. "Instead she sits at home in fear because there are times when she just doesn’t have a carer in the home. However, we’re hopeful that the pressure of this case will encourage the PCT to appoint an interim care manager for Ruth."
Ms Whapples, who is tetraplegic and uses her mouth to operate her motorised bed, relies on one carer and as such feels she has "missed out on life".
"The PCT were given a court order in 2005 to ensure I received 24-hour care package, I’ve been fighting to get that care ever since," she said. "I’m stuck in bed because getting me up, getting me to the bathroom or into my wheelchair requires two people and to leaving the house requires nothing short of military planning. I’ve not left this room since December 9, 2005.
"That’s why I was so surprised that we lost the case for a judicial review at the High Court, I couldn’t believe that people could believe my situation is anything other than desperate."
After receiving long-term care at Moseley Hall Hospital, Ms Whapples moved to Harborne in 1985 and started studying computer science at Aston University.
"I could go to college, meet friends, just get out and about, that’s the real difference having a full care team and a manager to co-ordinate them makes," she added. "This isn’t about wanting to do self-indulgent things, it’s about regaining my independence and liberty, simple things like going to the shops to get food, just having the liberty to do so.
"My father is dying and I’m not able to be the daughter to him that I should be, I can’t go and visit him in hospital and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to be with him at any other stage.
"The PCT has told me that this is not a financial decision, but until they appoint a new care manager there’s no other way I can access the funding they say they have for my care."
A trust spokeswoman refused to comment on the specific issues involved in this case, citing the PCT’s "duty to patient confidentiality."
She added: "BEN PCT is currently working with Miss Whapples’ solicitors to resolve issues surrounding the provision of her care.
"The PCT does not comment on specific arrangements for individual patients because of its duty to patient confidentiality.
"BEN PCT is responsible for providing complex care services across Birmingham. The complex care team is dedicated to providing personalised care to those patients who require specialised and long term support."
But Ms Whapples is determined to "fight this as far as I can" if the Court of Appeal uphold Mr Justice Cranston’s ruling.
"Even if we don’t win our appeal I will keep fighting, I have to keep fighting because it really is a question of life or death," she said. "I’ve missed weddings, I’ve missed family occasions and so much else. I’ve missed life, there’s no other way to put it, and I don’t want to miss any more.