Review of adult neglect case calls for guidance on handling obstructive families

Man waged campaign of obstruction against adult services while his father accumulated conditions that led to his death

Picture credit: didbygraham (Flickr)

A safeguarding adults case review has recommended developing guidance on dealing with obstructive family members after a man stopped services from helping his 91-year-old father, who later died.

William Hedley continually blocked attempts by social care and other services to provide help or to assess the mental capacity of his father Edward by waging a campaign of non-cooperation, complaints, disruption of safeguarding meetings and legal action.

Eventually, community nurses were called to the Hedleys’ home in Newcastle on 24 December 2012 and found Edward in an emaciated state with serious pressure sores and colorectal abscesses.

William aggressively prevented the nurses from taking his father to hospital, resulting in the police being called to assist.
Extreme obstructiveness

Despite three weeks of treatment in hospital, Edward died on 12 January 2013. William was convicted of willful neglect of an adult lacking mental capacity last month and has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The case review for Newcastle Safeguarding Adults Board described the son’s obstructiveness as “extreme” and said that the services involved in the case had done almost everything they could have under the circumstances.

“In short, [William] did everything in his power to prevent access or treatment of [Edward] and went to considerable trouble and expense to achieve his purpose,” said the report.

“It is hard to envisage that public services will soon again encounter such trenchant resistance to such obviously necessary care for a vulnerable adult.”

Services tried to protect

It added: “There was no lack of activity in his case and there was no lack of effort by the many police officers, social workers and other staff who tried to protect the health and wellbeing of [Edward].”

The review said that in hindsight the decision to include William in the safeguarding process “added to the delay and distraction” even though this decision was taken for the best reasons.

As such the review said Newcastle Safeguarding Adults Board should create guidelines on dealing with vexatious complaints and the role that obstructive family members should have within safeguarding adults strategy meetings.

Further recommendations

The review also recommended further training for professionals in relevant aspects of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Mental Health Act 1983.

It also said that while individual agencies worked effectively, more multi-agency co-operation could have taken place and mental health services could have been more fully involved in the case.

The review also noted that the Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy Service was deployed at too late a stage in the case.

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