NHS and council ignored learning disabled man’s human rights

A council and NHS trust have been slammed for "ignoring the basic human rights" of a man with Down's syndrome. “Mr J's rights, best interests, and family relationships were not taken into account when the trust and the council made plans for his care,” said health service ombudsman Ann Abraham (pictured)

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A council and NHS trust have been slammed for “ignoring the basic human rights” of a man with Down’s syndrome who was detained unnecessarily in hospital for months and then moved into inappropriate locked accommodation until his death.

Newcastle Council and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust failed to take into account the best interests of the man, known as Mr J, involve his family in his care or produce a documented care plan, the local government and health service ombudsmen found in a joint investigation.

Mr J, who was then living independently with his wife, was admitted to hospital for a short assessment after a deterioration in his health, where he was diagnosed with dementia and epilepsy. But though declared fit for discharge, he was kept in hospital for five months, and then moved with his wife into a self-contained flat in an older people’s care home, which was kept locked for safety reasons.

Though this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, they stayed there for 10 months until Mr J became ill with a chest infection and was admitted to hospital, where he died, aged 53.

“Mr J’s rights, best interests, and family relationships were not taken into account when the trust and the council made plans for his care, said health service ombudsman Ann Abraham. “This was highly likely to have had some impact on the quality of his life, and hence his well-being, in the last 18 months or so of his life. Mr J’s family were also wrongly denied the opportunity to be involved and will never know if they could have made a difference to his quality of life in those last months, which must be a cause of significant and ongoing distress for them. It is shocking that the events described in this report happened in the 21st century.”

The two agencies have apologised to Mr J’s family and paid out £2,000 in compensation.

The ombudsmen have also asked them to prepare and report on an action plan to address the failings identified.

“We fully accept the findings of the joint report and once again apologise unreservedly to Mr J’s family,” said Newcastle Council director of adult social services Ewen Weir. “We have also carried out and will be carrying out its recommendations. We could have and should have done better, particularly in relation to finding Mr J suitable accommodation quickly after he was admitted to hospital.

“The events detailed in this report took place some time ago and our service, particularly in the way we deal with vulnerable people like Mr J, is now unrecognisable and fully complies with government guidelines. However, we will continue to work hard, internally and with our partners, to make sure we continue to improve.”

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