Bath and North East Somerset Council’s discharge process ‘flawed’

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s discharge process for a woman with mental health problems was “seriously flawed”, a local government ombudsman ruled today.

The council discharged the woman from section 117 aftercare because it ruled that her mental health had stabilised and her dementia was improving.

The woman, known as Mrs Fletcher for legal reasons, was originally detained in hospital in July 2003 under section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 for refusing to take prescribed psychiatric medicine.

When she was released from hospital in September 2003, the section 117 aftercare covered the full cost of a care home which specialised in dementia. 
In February 2006, staff from the council’s community mental health team judged at a multi-disciplinary review meeting that Mrs Fletcher no longer needed residential care and was not at risk of being readmitted to hospital. It also found that she was settled in her care home.

However, Mrs Fletcher’s family disagreed with the clinical assessment of her condition and appealed against the decision.

Jerry White, the local government ombudsman, agreed with the family and judged that the council’s criteria for making the decision was “seriously flawed” as Mrs Fletcher.

White said the council’s criteria for discharging people from section 117 aftercare was “maladministrative” because looking at whether a person was settled in a residential placement was an “irrelevant consideration”.

“These defective criteria fatally flawed the decision that Mrs Fletcher was no longer at risk of readmission to hospital. The council’s criteria would allow it to avoid its public responsibility under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983,” said White. 

White found maladministration causing injustice and the council agreed to reviews its discharge criteria, continue to pay for Mrs Fletcher’s residential care costs and pay the family £250 compensation.

More information

Local Government Ombudsman

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