Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 18 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the care provider’s actions in respect of his deceased aunt,
Mrs Y. This is because Mr X does not have the consent of Mrs Y’s executor. The Ombudsman will not investigate the other parts of the complaint because there is insufficient evidence of significant injustice to Mr X.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr X, complains about the care provider’s actions in respect of his deceased aunt, Mrs Y, including failure to answer the phone, to follow his instructions and its own policy and to dress Mrs Y in her own clothes. He states that these failings caused him alarm and distress.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We may investigate a complaint on behalf of someone who has died. The complaint may be made by:
- their personal representative (if they have one), or
- someone we consider to be suitable.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(2), as amended)
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. 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 the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered information provided by Mr X and by the care provider. I also sent a draft version of this decision to Mr X for his comments.
What I found
- Mr X had a close relationship with Mrs Y, who was a self-funding resident at the care provider’s care home. After her death Mr X made several complaints to the home. He said that an end of life care plan agreed with Mrs Y’s family had not been followed, in that music had not been played during her final hours. He also complained that he had been unable to contact Mrs Y by phone over the previous Christmas period, causing him and his family distress, and that incorrect information had been provided by the home about Mrs Y’s nutritional intake.
- Responding, the care provider explained the music had not been played because Mrs Y had died unexpectedly in the early morning and had been sleeping. Staff had followed other steps in the end of life plan. While the home apologised for difficulties in contacting the home at Christmas it said Mrs Y had received many family visits over the period and had showed no concern over lack of contact. It also clarified the situation regarding her nutritional needs. It denied its staff had contributed to Mr X’s distress.
- My view is there is insufficient evidence of significant injustice to Mr X to warrant investigation of these parts of the complaint.
- Mr X also raised several concerns relating to Mrs Y’s property. He complained that the care home had allowed Mrs Y’s executor to remove her belongings after her death and that the executor had not signed in to the home before doing so. He also said that prior to her death items of his aunt’s clothing had gone missing and that at times she had not been dressed in her own clothes. He asked the home to write off the final care bill as compensation for the distress caused by these failings.
- In its response, the care home accepted that Mr X’s cousin should have signed in, but said it had no authority to prevent the removal of Mrs Y’s property by her executor. It said Mr X had no Power of Attorney for his aunt and she had not expressed a wish for him to have rights over her property. It said that its bill was due in full as this related to care provided to Mrs Y before her death.
- We may investigate a complaint about someone who has died, if the complaint has been made by their personal representative or another “suitable person”. In this case those parts of the complaint which concern Mrs Y’s property and finances should be brought by the executor who is Mrs Y’s appointed representative. I asked Mr X to obtain the executor’s consent to him bringing the complaint, but he has not done so. As we have not received consent, we will not investigate this part of the complaint.
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because Mr X has not obtained the executor’s consent to make this complaint on Mrs Y’s behalf. There is insufficient evidence of significant injustice to Mr X in respect of the remaining points of complaint to merit an investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman