The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss X complained about problems with domiciliary care provided by Westhome Care Services. There was no fault in the care provided and no missed visits to Miss X. On one occasion the care provider billed Miss X for a visit which did not happen. It refunded this. When Miss X drew attention to issues it promptly corrected and reissued invoices. It has improved its systems to prevent reoccurrence. It offered to meet Miss X to discuss its communication with her. There is no outstanding injustice to Miss X.
- Miss X complained about missed care visits, late visits, problems with invoices and lack of communication during a period of seven months with the care provider. She says these problems meant she had to keep contacting the company by phone or email at least once a week to deal with mistakes.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about adult social care providers and decide whether their actions have caused an injustice, or could have caused injustice, to the person making the complaint. I have used the term fault to describe such actions. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 34B and 34C)
- If we are satisfied with a care provider’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I wrote to Miss X with my summary of her complaint and considered information from her.
- I asked the care provider questions about the complaint and considered its records.
- I gave the care provider and Miss X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered Miss X’s comments before making my final decision.
What I found
- In March 2018 Miss X agreed a care plan with Westhome Care Services to provide her with three morning home visits per week.
- The care plan was for a 30 minute visit on Tuesday morning, 45 minute visit on Thursday morning and 30 minute visit on Saturday morning. The carers were to help with household tasks.
- The care provider’s charter includes a commitment to consult regularly with the service user, to ensure carers arrive within 15 minutes of the agreed time and to ring if this is not possible.
Miss X’s complaints
- Miss X complained in April 2018 about the care provider’s charges for various recent visits. She disputed the times charged against times visited. She asked the care provider to check and send a revised bill.
- The care provider replied in May apologising and attaching an amended invoice. It explained it was unaware carers had left early for some visits until she drew its attention to this. Its policy was to charge for the full length of a scheduled visit even if the service user allowed carers to leave early. In this instance it was unclear whether she was happy for the carers to leave early or they had misunderstood the visit length.
- Miss X replied to thank the care provider for this clarity. She said she had forgotten how long she had asked for each visit. She said the problem was probably caused by uncertainty on her part, and that of the carer about duration of visits. She agreed to pay the requested bill.
- The care provider’s director offered to visit Miss X to discuss future care needs and any problems she had with communication. The director arranged to visit. Miss X forgot about it and was not at home at the time.
- On 11 August a carer visited Miss X at the scheduled visit time. Miss X was asleep. The carer knocked but did not get an answer. Miss X spoke to the carer later that day and the carer said she would try to rearrange the visit. The carer was unable to do so.
- Miss X believed the carer said she would call her back about this. The care provider says the arrangement was only to call back if she had been able to rearrange. Miss X is concerned that the carer did not call her emergency contact.
- Miss X later contacted the care provider with a further complaint concerning several invoices and its communication with her. She said she was happy with the care provided but needed better communication and customer service from the company.
- The care provider replied to apologise for what had happened. It corrected the invoices and reissued them.
- Miss X contacted the care provider again in September, raising concerns about three visits:
- A visit on 7 August when a carer came at the wrong time and she did not get another call that day.
- The visit on 11 August when Miss X was asleep. She was not willing to pay this as the carer had not called her emergency contact or called her back as agreed.
- A visit on 21 August. Miss X had requested an afternoon visit that day. The carer turned up in the morning in error. The carer returned in the afternoon at the scheduled time but Miss X was stuck in traffic. Miss X complained no one had contacted her or her emergency contact. She felt she should not have to pay for this visit.
- The care provider responded to Miss X’s complaints promptly. It agreed to amend invoices to ensure it charged her correctly for the care she received. It apologised for the problems and has put in place an improved system to prevent reoccurrence.
- Miss X says this correction only happened because she had to keep contacting the provider to ask for corrections. The care provider recognised there were problems with communication. The director’s offer to visit Miss X to talk through these problems was an appropriate response to this situation.
- The only outstanding contested care visit (21 August) was a situation where Miss X was not available at home at the agreed, scheduled call time. In those circumstances the provider was entitled to charge Miss X for the visit.
- I have completed my investigation. There was no fault in the care provided and no missed visits to Miss X. There were corrections needed to invoices which the care provider dealt with. There is no outstanding injustice to Miss X.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman