Ombudsman Rules Merton Council At Fault Over Care Funding Decision Delay

Ordered to apologise and pay compensation to family of elderly woman

Morden Civic Centre

By Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

There is uncertainty whether Merton Council’s slow action led to a ‘confused and distressed’ woman falling shortly before her death, a report has concluded.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigated the case of Mrs C, an elderly woman with dementia, publishing a report last week.

Back in 2017 she was getting care at her home costing her £72 a week.

At the request of her two daughters she received a fortnight of respite residential care that September.

But Merton concluded that she needed to contribute £199.83 per week towards her respite care four months after she received the service on January 25, 2018.

This was the same day she fell and fractured her hip, ending up in hospital.

At this point her two daughters had been telling the council for a nearly a month that their mother needed to be in a care home permanently.

Her dementia had deteriorated she was falling more frequently and was now wearing incontinence pads.

And notes from one of the panels show that the end of life care team questioned why the council had “overturned the best interests decision and not placed Mrs C in a care home despite the high risk of her falling”.

One of her daughters was very unhappy with the decision saying her mother was increasingly confused and distressed.

It wasn’t until January 18 that the council agreed that a permanent place in a residential care home was in Mrs C’s best interests.

But unfortunately it wasn’t offered immediately and more meetings took place.

A day before Mrs C passed away, the council informed the family that they would not fund a care home place for her.

This was despite implying to the family twice that her care would be funded.

The ombudsman said that the council was at fault for this, and for taking so long to consider whether she would have to pay.

The report found that this caused confusion and meant that Mrs C’s daughters were delayed in finding the correct care for their mother.

On the case of whether or not she would have had the fall, which eventually led to her death in hospital, the ombudsman could not say either way.

The report concluded: “The delay was only three weeks and I cannot conclude Mrs C would not have fallen if she had been moved to a care home, but it has left uncertainty over whether events could have been different if the council had acted more quickly.”

The council was asked to apologise to Mrs C’s daughters and pay £250 in compensation.

The ombudsman also advised that in future Merton Council makes sure that financial information is provided in a timely manner.

Merton’s cabinet member for adult social care and health, Councillor Tobin Byers, said: “Ensuring all our residents get the right care to meet their needs is our highest priority and so we have already made improvements to ensure the lessons are learned from this case.

“Following the ombudsman’s recommendations we have enhanced our procedures to make sure all those needing care, and their families have full and timely information on funding for care services. We have apologised to the family of Mrs C.”

April 16, 2019