The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs B and Mrs C say that the failure of the Council’s Careline system led to their mother’s permanent injury and they seek compensation. The Ombudsman has discontinued the investigation as the court is better placed to consider this claim.
- Mrs B and Mrs C complain on behalf of Mrs D who is their mother. The Council supplied Mrs D with a Careline pendant which she could use to raise the alert if she had a fall or needed help. Mrs B and Mrs C complain about the Careline’s failure to work when Mrs D had a fall.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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:
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- 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)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have discussed the complaint with Mrs B and Mrs C and I have considered the documents they and the Council have sent and both sides’ comments on the draft decision.
What I found
- Mrs D is an elderly woman who lives on her own. She suffered a fall during the night of 27/28 March 2018 and pressed the Careline pendant, but no help came.
- She had a cut on her head which was bleeding and was left on the floor the entire night. Mrs D was taken to hospital the following day and was discharged from hospital on 10 April 2018.
- The Council assessed Mrs D in hospital and provided a package of support which consisted of a carer’s visit twice a day to assist with personal care and meals.
- Mrs B and Mrs C complained to the Council about the failure of the Careline alarm. The Council carried out an investigation and concluded that the problem lay with the telephone line supplied by British Telecom and not with Careline.
- Mrs B and Mrs C have come to the Ombudsman. They say Mrs D never recovered mentally or physically from the fall and they had to hire carers to provide round the clock support to Mrs D. This has cost them £10,000.
- The Council says Mrs B and Mrs C never raised any concerns about the care package the Council provided nor did they mention they were supplementing this with private care. Mrs B and Mrs C did not raise the cost for the care of £10,000 as part of their complaint.
- I have considered the complaint but have decided to discontinue the investigation as the Ombudsman cannot deliver the outcome that Mrs B and Mrs C seek.
- I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs D and her daughters. They relied on the Careline pendant and the system failed. This led to a terrible ordeal for Mrs D and the family says she has never recovered.
- Mrs B and Mrs C say the Council’s failure led to the personal injury Mrs D has suffered and this injury (mental and physical) is permanent. They want compensation for the costs they paid as a result.
- In my view, this is something that can only be decided by a court. The court can decide where the liability lies, considering the contractual terms. The Court can say whether Mrs D suffered a personal injury because of the Council’s actions and, if so, whether any compensation / damages need to be paid as a result.
- The Ombudsman cannot investigate personal injury claims and cannot recommend compensation and I am therefore discontinuing the investigation.
- I have discontinued the investigation as further investigation will not achieve the outcome that Mrs B and Mrs C seek.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman