Ombudsmen rule against Buckinghamshire in care home case

A man with severe learning disabilities should receive £32,000 compensation for unacceptable standards of care while in a residential care home, the local government and health ombudsmen have said.

In a joint investigation, they found the man’s needs were never properly assessed at the care home, despite needing one-to-one attention for 95% of his time, which led to “significant failings” in the level of care.

The ombudsmen found “maladministration causing injustice” against Buckinghamshire Council and Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership Trust in a report published yesterday.

No care plan

The man, renamed Frank in the report, Injustice in Residential Care, lived in the care home between June 2001 and September 2003 but without a care plan. The home was under the trust’s sole management until July 2002, when a section 31 agreement was struck between the two agencies to run it jointly.

However, when Frank’s parents complained to the council and trust about their son’s care in September 2002, it was not handled in an “appropriate or timely fashion” because there was confusion as to who should address the complaint.

At Christmas 2002, Frank refused to return to the care home and was suffering from anxiety and depression. He lived at his parents’ home for three months, without external support, until the council took back responsibility and finally prepared a care plan.

Unnecessary distress and financial losses

Although Frank was moved to a residential home for adults with complex needs in March 2003, the council and trust’s failures caused unnecessary distress, anxiety and financial losses, the ombudsmen said.

The council and trust have accepted the conditions at the home were unacceptable, where there were “lapses” in the consideration of Frank’s human rights and residents’ rights to privacy and family life were ignored, the report said.

Mike Colston, Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: “We apologise wholeheartedly to Frank and his family for the distress caused.  The level of care he received was wholly unacceptable, care which was initially provided by the NHS for many years and then by the council for 12 months. During this time,  following extensive searches, we found a home better suited to his considerable and complex needs.”

Council questioning recommendation

However, ombudsmen’s report said that the council was questioning the ombudsmen’s recommendation that both agencies pay £16,000 in compensation. It said that the trust should pay the lion’s share because it was mostly responsible for costs incurred by Frank’s parents while he was in the care home, which amounted to £10,000 of the proposed compensation.

This is the first joint investigation where, under the Regulatory Reform Order 2007, ombudsmen work together to investigate complaints across health and social care.

Ann Abraham, parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said: “This demonstrates the significant value of the Order and in turn has allowed us to think about recommending a remedy to Frank and his parents which addresses, in the round, the injustices they have experienced.”

Tony Redmond, local government ombudsman, added: “One of the outcomes of this case has been identifying the need for robust and transparent governance arrangements to be in place, in order to provide clear accountability for the actions of authorities. A complainant can then be more readily signposted to the body that can better deal with a complaint.”

More information

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen

Local Government Ombudsmen

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