Archie Battersbee: Southend MP Anna Firth calls for meeting with health secretary Steve Barclay

Archie Battersbee 
Credit: family photo
Archie Battersbee's mother is pushing for change in the wake of his death. Credit: Family photo

Archie Battersbee's local MP has called for a meeting with the health secretary to discuss the 12-year-old's care, labelling the dispute over his life-support treatment "just not appropriate".

Anna Firth, the Conservative MP for Southend West, is seeking to speak to Steve Barclay about her concerns over the case, which was disputed through the courts for months this summer.

Archie died on 6 August after a High Court judge ruled that it was not in his best interests for treatment to continue, with repeated appeals lodged by his parents ultimately failing to overturn the decision.

Mrs Firth has requested a meeting alongside Archie's mum Hollie Dance, and said she had witnessed the case from start to finish.

“The state process for dealing with the withdrawal of life support for a child where there is a dispute between the parents and the hospital is just not appropriate,” she said. “As a society I think we can do better.”

She added: “I have now formally written, on behalf of Hollie, to the health secretary, requesting a meeting to discuss Archie’s case.”

Ms Dance has also written to Mr Barclay, asking for a meeting, and said she wants a “public inquiry” into the “operation of this system” and a “change of the law”.

Judges at the High Court heard that Ms Dance had found Archie unconscious with a ligature over his head on April 7. She thinks he might have been taking part in an online challenge. He never regained consciousness.

Ms Dance had earlier said she felt “backed into a corner” by the legal system and that her family felt “stripped” of their rights.

Mrs Firth said: “I accompanied Hollie and her family to court in April when they were summonsed with less than 12 hours’ notice, and only three weeks since his accident.

“To me, this was inappropriate and unduly hasty – no time to prepare, no time to process and, most importantly, no appropriate legal representation when they needed it.”

She added: “Although this situation was rectified by the next court hearing, to start the court proceedings in this way is wrong. The parents need a level playing field from the outset. This is basic legal levelling up.”

Archie Battersbee died on 6 August at the end of a long court battle over his care. Credit: Family photo

The MP went on: “Any decision about removing a child from life-support should, ideally, be made with, not to, those who love them dearly.

“Compassion, communication and mediation must be at the core of the process and, critically, sufficient time to process the tragedy they have been through.

“Dragging them through courts and legal processes with courts and NHS trusts, especially without equal legal representation at the very start, automatically creates an adversarial relationship between the parents and those caring for their child.”

Ministers have already said they will commission a review into the causes of disagreement in the care of critically-ill children – detail was given in the 2022 Health and Care Act.

Archie's case has prompted discussion about how such cases are handled by the courts, with one solution suggested being the appointment of an independent mediator.

Anna Firth wants to meet the health secretary to discuss Archie Battersbee's care. Credit: PA

Doctors treating Archie at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, thought he was brain-stem dead and said continued life-support treatment was not in his best interests.

Bosses at the hospital’s governing trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, had asked for decisions on what medical moves were in Archie’s best interests.

A High Court judge, Mrs Justice Arbuthnot, initially considered the case and concluded that Archie was dead.

But Court of Appeal judges upheld a challenge by his parents against decisions taken by Mrs Justice Arbuthnot and said the evidence should be reviewed by a different High Court judge, Mr Justice Hayden.

He ruled after a further hearing that ending treatment would be in Archie’s best interests.

Hollie Dance speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

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