Willow Tower Opco 1 Limited (23 000 301)

Category : Adult care services > COVID-19

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 22 May 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about adult social care in a residential care home. This is because we could not add to the Care Provider’s investigation or reach a different outcome. The Care Provider has acknowledged the distress it caused by apologising and offering a payment. It has advised of the actions it will take to improve future service. The Ombudsman could not achieve anything further than the remedy already provided.

The complaint

  1. Ms C says the Care Provider failed to give satisfactory care to her uncle (Mr D), including failing to arrange a Covid vaccine. It is devastating for the family that Covid was listed as one of the causes of Mr D’s death.
  2. Ms C says the Care Provider failed to communicate to the family there were residents with Covid, so it put them at risk when they visited the care home. And Mr D’s wife, Ms E, was not allowed to speak with her husband on the telephone ‘because he had Covid’ which was to be her last opportunity.
  3. Ms C says the Care Provider bluntly told Ms E of her husband’s death and has not been empathetic in the way it has dealt with communications about Mr D’s death or about the complaint. Ms C says the Care Provider’s responses have been inaccurate and trying to justify what happened which has added to the family’s distress.
  4. After Mr D’s death the Care Provider failed to protect his belongings; items of sentimental value went missing which can never be replaced.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about adult social care providers. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the care provider, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

(Local Government Act 1974, sections 34B(8) and (9))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr D lived at Signature at Bagshot, a care home run by Willow Tower Opco 1 Limited (the Care Provider). The Care Provider reassured Ms E that it would take care of Mr D’s medical needs, including Covid vaccinations, but it failed to do so. Mr D contracted Covid and died shortly after when he had a heart attack. We cannot know whether the outcome would have been different had he had his Covid vaccine.
  2. Ms C says the Care Provider has been inaccurate with its version of events, such as timings of Covid testing, what was said during telephone conversations, and the reasons Mr D’s wheelchair was not in his room. Although I appreciate this is frustrating for Ms C and her family, it would not be a good use of the Ombudsman’s resource to investigate solely to provide an accurate picture of events. If it is one person’s version of events against another person’s version, we cannot confirm the true events without supporting evidence. So, it is unlikely investigation would lead to a different outcome.
  3. The Care Provider has given a thorough response to the complaint and accepted fault. The Care Provider has apologised for the impact of its failings on Ms C and Ms E. The Care Provider has offered £1000 to acknowledge the distress caused by its actions, and the missing items which are irreplaceable.
  4. The Care Provider says it will be proactive in future to ensure residents get required vaccines. It will agree with residents and families whether it should wake a resident if there is a phone call for them, as it says Ms E could not speak with Mr D because he was asleep not because he had Covid. It will support its staff to take responsibility for communicating news to family, even if medical professionals are present, as it says it was the paramedic who bluntly informed Ms E of Mr D’s death. It will remind staff to take care of resident’s possessions.
  5. Ms C does not have faith in the Care Provider improving its service. However, I consider it unlikely the Ombudsman could achieve anything further by investigation.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Ms C’s complaint because we could not add to the Care Provider’s investigation or reach a different outcome. The Care Provider has taken action to recognise Ms C and Ms E’s distress and advised of the actions it will take to improve future service.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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