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Suffolk County Council (21 005 799)

Category : Adult care services > Residential care

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 01 Dec 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: This investigation is discontinued. Any further investigation by this office is unlikely to have a worthwhile outcome, and we cannot achieve the outcome Mr X is seeking.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complains about the care provided to her late father, Mr Y at Chiltern Meadows Care Home, (owned and managed by BUPA) on behalf of the Council.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

  1. If we are satisfied with a council’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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have:
  • considered the written complaint submitted to this office
  • considered the correspondence between the Mrs X and the Care Provider, including the Care Provider’s response to the complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr Y had lived at the care home for over five years before sadly passing away in October 2021.
  2. Mrs X had concerns about numerous issues relating to Mr Y’s care and submitted complaints directly to the Care Provider. She did not alert the Council to her concerns or complaints.
  3. I have had sight of the many complaints Mrs X submitted to the Care Provider. She raised a variety of issues, some were significant, others less so. The concerns related to Mr Y’s personal care and safety, dietary preferences, and the cleanliness of his room and personal belongings.
  4. Mrs X met with the manager from the care home and a director from head office. to discuss her concerns. On a separate occasion the manager of the care home met with Mrs X to review Mr Y’s needs. The records show the meeting to be satisfactory and that Mrs X had a clearer understanding of Mr Y’s care needs
  5. The Care Provider investigated Mrs X’s complaints under its formal complaint’s procedure. I have had sight of its complaint response letter. It is detailed and addresses each point in turn. It acknowledged there had been failings in relation to some aspects of Mr Y’s care. It apologised and explained the action it was taking to address the issues.
  6. Arrangements were made for Mrs X to meet regularly with the care home manager.
  7. Following the complaints, Mrs X felt awkward when visiting Mr Y, and alleged that some care staff ignored her. She did not believe her complaints had been taken seriously and says that some issues continued to occur.
  8. In April 2021 she sent an email to the Care Provider summarising her complaints and said that she believed Mr Y had not received value for money. Mrs X calculated the financial contribution made towards Mr Y’s care over the years he lived at the care home. She quoted a figure of £41978.53 and asked the Care Provider to pay compensation of 25% of this sum.
  9. The Care Provider refused saying it did not believe compensation was warranted. It said where it had found failings, it had apologised and where possible had remedied the issues.
  10. Mrs X brought her complaint to this office, saying she wanted the Care Provider to take her issues seriously and prevent recurrence. She said Mr Y had lived at the care home for over five years and contributed a lot of money towards his care. She believed it reasonable that the Care Provider pay her compensation.

Analysis

  1. When a council commissions another organisation to provide services on its behalf it remains responsible for those services and for the actions of the organisation providing them.
  2. Mr Y’s care was funded by the Council, with assessed contributions from Mr Y. Mrs X’s complaint is against the Council. Therefore, it is the Council, not the Care Provider that would be responsible for any remedy.
  3. I have seen no evidence to show Mrs X complained to the Council. The Council appears not to have been aware of Mrs X’s concerns until notified by this office, so it has had the opportunity to investigate.
  4. In respect of the Care Provider’s investigation, I am satisfied it took Mrs X’s concerns seriously and investigated thoroughly. It acknowledged some aspects of the care provided to Mr Y fell short of expected standards and apologised.. On other matters it provided an adequate explanation. I cannot see that further investigation by this office would add to the Care Provider’s investigation
  5. Any injustice rising for the failings was to Mr Y. Wherever our investigations reveal there has been fault we consider if any injustice has been caused. There must be a clear link between any fault we find and the personal injustice to the complainant, in this case Mr Y. It is not possible to determine the impact the shortcomings in care had on Mr Y, and even if we could establish this, it is not possible to provide a remedy.
  6. In some case, where a person has died we do consider a remedy. This is usually in cases where this a quantifiable loss, for example, where a person has paid care fees that should have been paid by the Council, or where a person should have received housing benefit. Where the injustice is less tangible, for example distress, harm, risk, or another unfair impact of the fault, we will not normally seek a remedy in the same way as we might for someone who is still living. We would not expect a public or private body to make a payment that would enrich a person’s estate.
  7. Even if Mr Y was not deceased, I would not have recommended the Care Provider pay compensation. I would most likely have recommended the Council investigate the issues, and report back its findings. From this I would then have considered an appropriate remedy.
  8. For the same reasons set out above and in paragraph 16, I cannot recommend the Care Provider pay Mrs X compensation.
  9. This investigation will be discontinued because it is unlikely that further investigation by this office would be worthwhile, and we cannot achieve the outcome Mrs X is seeking.

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Final decision

  1. This investigation will be discontinued because it is unlikely that further investigation by this office would be worthwhile, and we cannot achieve the outcome Mrs X is seeking.
  2. The complaint will now be closed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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