Harbour Healthcare Ltd (21 018 091)

Category : Adult care services > Residential care

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the care provider not including his late mother Mrs X’s wedding ring on her property inventory, and about the loss of the ring. The care provider’s error in not listing the ring did not cause its loss. It is not possible for us to determine who was responsible for the ring’s loss so cannot provide a worthwhile outcome for Mr X.

The complaint

  1. Mr X’s late mother, Mrs X, lived in a care home for about six months, until November 2021. Mr X complains the care provider:
      1. failed to include Mrs X’s wedding ring on an inventory of her belongings when she went into the care home;
      2. lost Mrs X’s wedding ring.
  2. Mr X says the matter has been extremely upsetting. He wants the people responsible to be held to account for their lack of care of Mrs X’s property.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.

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

  1. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information from Mr X, and the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. The Ombudsman expects care providers to keep an inventory of residents’ personal possessions. The care provider has accepted this was not done here because the ring was not listed. But even if we were to investigate this error, we could not find it led to the ring going missing. There is not enough evidence the care provider’s inventory error directly caused the ring’s loss.
  2. We could never find out what happened to the ring, or whether the care provider is responsible for its loss. So we cannot say the understandable upset the ring’s loss caused to Mr X was due to any actions or inactions by the care provider.
  3. If Mr X believes the ring has been stolen, he should report it to the police. If he considers the care provider is liable for the loss of the ring and should be held accountable for it, he may wish to make a claim against its insurers. If they deny liability, Mr X may wish to seek a liability finding in court. I consider it would be reasonable for him to do this as liability for property loss is a legal matter for a court to decide. We cannot make such legal findings, so an Ombudsman investigation would not be appropriate.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because:
    • there is not enough evidence that the care provider’s inventory error led to the ring’s loss and the upset that loss caused to him;
    • we cannot determine the care provider is responsible for the ring’s loss, so there is no worthwhile additional or different outcome an Ombudsman investigation would achieve.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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