Learning disabilities: Havering finally apologises for man’s poor care

Havering Council in London has finally apologised to the parents of a man with learning disabilities nearly six years after service failings which contributed to his death.

Councillors voted to pay £20,000 in compensation to Mark Cannon’s family this week, as recommended by local government ombudsman Jerry White in a report this week, after managers initially refused to do so.

Mark, who had severe learning disabilities and epilepsy, was 30 when he broke his leg in June 2003 during a short stay at a council-run care home. He contracted an infection and suffered a heart attack, and died two months later.


White upheld a complaint of maladministration against Havering Council for providing an “unacceptable” standard of care.

He concluded staff at the home had exposed him to risk through inadequate supervision on the night he injured his leg. He was also let down by their failure to ensure a safety alarm was in use, poor care planning and an out-of-date risk assessment.

joint report by White and health service ombudsman Ann Abraham this week concluded Cannon’s death was the consequence of public service failings, including the poor care he received in hospital.

Poor complaint handling

Cannon’s parents, Allan Cannon and Anne Handley, made several complaints to the council, but their grief was compounded by the confusing, delayed and insensitive way they were handled, White concluded.

In their report on the death of six people with learning disabilities, the ombudsmen upheld complaints against seven NHS trusts and one other local authority, and asked Havering Council to pay £20,000 in compensation and apologise to the family.

Council rejected recommendations

But the council initially rejected the recommendations – the only agency to do so – in a move White described as “lamentable”.

However, following those criticisms the council issued a statement with an unreserved apology to Cannon’s family.

Unreserved apology

It said the care he had received “was not of an acceptable standard”, and added: “It is a matter of extreme regret to us that complications during his treatment in hospital resulted in his untimely death and we fully understand the grief that his parents felt and still feel to this day.”

Councillors voted unanimously to pay the family the £20,000 at a meeting on 25 March.

The statement concluded: “Since the incident in 2003, we have made changes in our respite care procedures for adults with learning disabilities. Every one who is admitted has their needs reviewed each time they stay to make sure no assumptions can be made about their requirements.   We have also significantly improved the way we handle complaints.”

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