Poole Borough Council has agreed to pay over £33,000 in care fees after an ombudsman found it failed to carry out a “proper” mental health assessment for an elderly service user.
The case involved a woman, who had a history of mental illness and was discharged from hospital in 2000 with an aftercare package provided under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
The package provides free aftercare, including residential and nursing care, for people who have been detained in hospital under certain sections of the Act.
Shortly after being discharged, the council placed the woman in a nursing home and funded her care. But when she relocated to a nursing home in a different part of the country, the council ruled under legal advice that it was no longer required to fund the woman’s care.
The local government ombudsman, Jerry White, found that the council incorrectly discharged her section 117 aftercare order by not carrying out a proper assessment to judge whether it was still required. This left her son to pay £33,455.58 for nursing home fees until her death in 2002.
White found that maladministration had caused injustice and recommended the council compensates her son for the full cost of the nursing fees plus interest.
John Dermody, head of adult social services (commissioning) at Poole council, said that by the time the complaint was raised two and half years later, all the relevant medical notes and social care records had been destroyed and it was difficult to reconstruct the sequence of events.
“This was a highly unusual circumstance and decision-making was backed by facts available at the time and as a result of the Ombudsman’s decision, we will be looking again at our procedures in conjunction with the NHS,” said Dermondy.