Privacy settings

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (18 010 795a)

Category : Health > Hospital acute services

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr Z’s complaint about the Council’s involvement in his late father’s hospital discharge. The complaint is late and that there are no good reasons to investigate it now.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr Z, complains about the Council’s actions around his late father Mr X’s discharge from hospital in 2016. Specifically, Mr Z says that
    • the Council’s communication with two NHS hospital trusts and Mr X’s family was poor, and
    • the Council wrongly allowed Mr X to be discharged to his own home and without a home care package, rather than to residential care.
  2. Mr Z says that the Council’s actions contributed to a flawed discharge from hospital which caused Mr X and his family avoidable distress.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered information Mr Z has provided in writing and by telephone. This includes complaint correspondence from an NHS Trust. I have also considered written information from the Council. Mr Z has had an opportunity to comment on a draft version of this decision.

Back to top

What I found

  1. Mr X was admitted to a local hospital in June 2016 because of abdominal and chest pain and difficulty breathing. He was a patient there for just over a month before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital because of a worsening in his mental health. After about a week at the psychiatric hospital, Mr X was transferred back to the local hospital before being discharged to his own home in late August 2016.
  2. Mr X initially told a Council social worker that he wanted to move to residential care and did not want to go back to his own home. However, by the middle of August 2016 he told the social worker he wanted to return to his own home. The social worker assessed Mr X’s needs on 15 August 2016. The assessment says Mr X needed support from a carer three times a day should he be discharged home. Mr X decided to return to his own home with support from family before the Council could arrange for a care agency to start providing the support. Mr X died in September 2016, about a week after returning home. This was before the Council had arranged for carers to start visiting him.
  3. Mr X’s family is distressed because staff from either a health or social care organisation tried to visit Mr X at his home after he had died.
  4. Mr Z was aware of the problems he complains of around the time they happened, in September 2016. He first complained to us via the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) in March 2018, about 18 months after becoming aware of the matters he complains about. This means that his complaint is ‘late’.
  5. I have carefully considered whether there are good reasons we should investigate Mr Z’s complaint about the Council even though it is late. Having done so, I have decided that we should not investigate the complaint.
  6. In reaching this view, I have considered Mr Z’s reasons for not complaining to us sooner and whether it would still be possible to get the evidence needed to investigate the complaint fairly.
  7. Mr X’s family complained promptly to the NHS Trust which runs the hospital that discharged Mr X home. That NHS Trust coordinated a joint response from both hospitals and the Council. The local complaint process took from October 2016 to December 2017 to complete. Mr X’s family engaged with the process and did not allow the matter to rest for long periods of time. Mr Z believed he could not complain to us until he had exhausted the local complaints process. These are good reasons for not complaining to us sooner.
  8. However, the social care and hospital records that are already available to us indicate that, by the middle of August 2016,
    • Mr X was keen to return to his own home
    • Mr X was prepared to return home without a care package and wait there for the Council to arrange for carers
    • Mr X had capacity to make a decision about hospital discharge.
  9. Mr Z is concerned that Mr X’s desire to go home may have been motivated by fear of a return to the psychiatric hospital. He is also concerned about the adequacy of any capacity assessments and the information Mr X’s family got before his discharge.
  10. However, the documentary information that is already available shows the Council acting in accordance with Mr X’s wishes to return to his own home; the Ombudsman is unlikely to find fault with this. An investigation is unlikely to find other relevant contemporary records of the Council’s involvement in Mr X’s discharge from hospital, or other reliable evidence that indicates there was fault by the Council in Mr X’s discharge from hospital. The events happened so long ago that it would not now be fair or robust for us to rely on people’s memories of events.
  11. The Council has said, in its report to the NHS Trust that responded to the family’s complaint, that the staff who called at Mr X’s home after he died may have belonged to a care agency that was unaware he had died. The NHS Trust’s complaint response to the family said that it was unable to establish which organisation the staff belonged to. It has, however, acknowledged the distress the visit caused and apologised. Mr X’s family does not consider the apologies already offered are meaningful. However, an investigation by the Ombudsman now is unlikely to achieve more for Mr Z.
  12. For these reasons, we will not investigate this late complaint now.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. Mr Z’s complaint about the Council’s involvement in his late father’s hospital discharge is late. There are no good reasons for us to investigate it now.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page