Investigation finds that man with schizophrenia was failed by lack of monitoring by council and NHS

Lack of regular aftercare reviews left man out of pocket to the tune of thousands, health and local government watchdogs conclude

A man with schizophrenia and Asperger’s was wrongly charged rent, left without a working shower and bath for months and put at risk of financial exploitation after the NHS and his council failed to properly monitor his aftercare.

A joint investigation by the health and local government ombudsmen found that Plymouth Council and the local primary care trust failed to effectively monitor the quality of aftercare the man, known as Mr D, received between 2004 and 2009 after he was discharged from detention under the Mental Health Act.

During this time his care was provided by the Care Company and jointly funded by the PCT and council.

While in their care he was placed in rented accommodation owned by the Care Company employee who was also his carer, a situation that the ombudsman deemed “unacceptable”.

Mr D was also required to make up shortfalls in housing benefit despite not being required to under Section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983, a situation that he says cost him £7,500.

At one point his broken shower went unfixed for six months leaving him unable to shower or take a bath at home.

And although he should have had his aftercare reviewed every six months, only three reviews took place in the five year period, all of which took place after complaints made by his family and two of which the ombudsman’s advisor deemed “perfunctory”.

The investigation also said the primary care trust had failed to respond effective to the complaints made by Mr D about the quality of the care he was receiving.

Julie Mellor, the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman, said: “This vulnerable man was left suffering and was out of pocket by thousands of pounds because no one took responsibility for coordinating his care properly.

“The NHS has a duty to care for people with a mental health problem which doesn’t stop when that person leaves a psychiatric unit or when a service is outsourced.

“This case demonstrates the shocking consequences when that duty of care is ignored.”

The ombudsmen recommended that Plymouth Council and the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which has since taken on the work of the PCT, should write an apology to Mr D and pay him £12,000.

It also said the council and CCG should develop an action plan to ensure a similar situation does not happen again within the next three months.

In a joint statement the council and CCG said: “We acknowledge the findings from the ombudsman and sincerely apologise for the distress caused to the patient and his family by the failings of care.

“We want to learn from this complaint and are developing an action plan to identify how we could prevent a similar event from happening again to others.

“We have also resolved any outstanding expenditure to the patient and his family.

“Patients’ care and safety remains at the heart of everything that we do and we want to reassure people that it continues to be the case.”

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