Cheshire East Council

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Woman hospitalised twice because council failed to consider advice when assessing medical needs, Ombudsman finds

A Gloucestershire woman was left malnourished and without the support she needed for her medical conditions because the county council ignored professional advice, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.

The woman, who has ME – or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – plus a number of other health needs including severe dietary intolerances, complained to the Ombudsman that the council failed to ensure her needs were met at home when her partner could no longer cope with looking after her.

Her eligible care needs included help with preparing meals, and toileting in the night, but the council did not provide enough hours for the care workers to carry out the tasks needed.

The council also decided the woman could eat foods from supermarkets’ ‘Free From’ ranges, despite both the woman’s GP and a specialist dietician writing to say this was not the case and her care hours needed to be increased to allow for the extra time needed to prepare meals. As a result, the woman was not eating enough and was being put at risk of malnutrition. The council also did not provide appropriate night-time care to help with her needs.

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As a result, the woman was hospitalised twice.

The Ombudsman’s investigation criticised the council for not meeting the woman’s care needs and acting contrary to the Care Act 2014 when it failed to take account of the advice from the dietician and GP. The council also failed to reassess her needs properly, in line with the Care Act, when requested.

The investigation also criticised the lack of communication from the woman’s social worker when the woman and her representative made repeated attempts to contact them about her situation.

The investigation also found the council did not ensure a proper carer’s assessment was carried out on the woman’s former partner when he asked for support and respite.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said the case is a “prime example” of the council simply not listening to people involved in the case.

Mr King said: “It failed to take on board information from the woman, her former partner and the medical experts involved in her care.

“It seems very likely that, had the council assessed the woman’s former partner properly and arranged appropriate support and respite, he may have been able to carry on with his caring role for longer. And because it did not act sooner, the council had to put in place hastily arranged support when their relationship broke down.

He added: “The council has already agreed to my recommendations to improve its services, and I welcome its pledge to carry out a review of its adult social care and complaints processes.”

In light of the Ombudsman’s findings, Gloucestershire has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £2,050 to reflect the injustice caused. It will also apologise to the woman’s former partner to reflect his injustice.

In addition, the council has agreed to remind staff about their responsibilities under the Care Act, and share the report with relevant staff including management, and discuss its findings at appropriate team meetings.

The council has also said it will undertake an independent review of its Adult Social Care processes and pathways, and review its complaints process.

Sarah Scott, Executive Director for Adult Care Services and Public Health, said the council “sincerely apologise to ‘Miss X’ and ‘Mr L’ for letting them down”.

Mrs Scott said: “Although this was an extremely complex set of circumstances, not replicated in any of the more than 5000 other adults we support in formal care settings, we know we could and should have done better. Without exception, we accept the Ombudsman’s findings and have already made significant progress towards implementing all of their recommendations.

“As well as the steps taken in response to the LGSCO’s recommendations, we have radically changed the way we deliver adult social care services over the past three years. I am confident the standards of practice, supervision and accountability in place now will prevent a similar situation arising again.”

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