Bedworth's Lynn and Paul Leadbitter win care battle award

Lynn and Paul Leadbitter with Sue Barker (centre) - image from Muscular Dystrophy Campaign BBC presenter Sue Barker (centre) presented Lynn and Paul Leadbitter with their award

Lynn and Paul Leadbitter had never considered a battle that included a 60-mile round trip twice a day and a fight with the NHS for funding for their disabled son would lead to a national award.

"I was thrilled, just so overwhelmed because I wasn't expecting it," said Mrs Leadbitter, after winning the Carer of the Year award from the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

For the couple, from Bedworth, Warwickshire, it is the perfect end to a busy year caring for their 34-year-old son Matthew, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

The award also comes after Mr Leadbitter returned home after 12 months living away from his family, as his parents tackled NHS Warwickshire for funds for his 24-hour care.

He was taken in to residential care near Daventry, Northamptonshire, after developing pneumonia last November.

Start Quote

I was thrilled that [Matthew] could come home. It's wonderful, him laughing and joking, his sense of humour”

End Quote Lynn Leadbitter

In December, he had an operation to help him breathe and the Leadbitters were told the PCT was refusing to fund his specialist home care and he would have to live 30 miles away, the charity said.

Now Mr Leadbitter has returned home after it was adapted, using funds that the PCT finally agreed to provide for his care.

Former tennis player and BBC sport presenter Sue Barker, the charity's president, presented the parents with the award at an annual national conference in Nottingham last month.

Mrs Leadbitter said: "I was thrilled that he could come home. It's wonderful, him laughing and joking, his sense of humour.

"He just seems a different lad and chirpy, his old self."

Her son said he felt healthier, and said: "It's important to be at home with my family I think really and I feel a lot better here mentally."

Matthew Leadbitter Matthew Leadbitter said he felt "healthier" after returning home

Asked about the daily journeys to see their son, Mr Leadbitter said it had been "a great burden", particularly when building work was being done.

"I'd be working decorating until all kind of hours at night and then be going to Daventry sort of 10 o'clock at night and stopping with Matthew to sort of half past one in the morning and then coming home."

The charity's chief executive, Robert Meadowcroft, said the couple had shown "amazing fortitude and determination to get Matthew back home" and should be commended "for their tireless campaign".

Fay Baillie, director of nursing for NHS Warwickshire, said she was not sure it "could have done the process any quicker".

'Assessing needs'

Asked by the BBC about the time taken for funding to be made available, she said: "It was never a funding discussion.

"It was about actually assessing Matthew's needs with his family and himself to get a package of care that suited his needs."

Ms Baillie explained that the time taken was down to a combination of assessing Mr Leadbitter's needs and ensure the "right competencies in the community" were put in place to enable him to go home

Responding to the PCT's comments, Mrs Leadbitter said: "In the latter stages, yes, I think that was correct and as responsible parents we wouldn't have wanted him in an unsafe environment.

"But in the earlier stages I don't think that was quite the case. I think it was more about funding and costs and everything else."

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