Carers leave woman in pain after burns not detected soon enough

A vulnerable Blackpool woman was left “screaming in pain” with serious burns on her leg after carers left her too close to a hot radiator, a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigation has found.

The woman, who had previously suffered a stroke, was being looked after in her home by carers commissioned by Blackpool Borough Council from ICare. She had limited feeling in her right side, and difficulty communicating.

Following the incident, during which she was left on a commode in her bathroom, the woman received burns to her leg described as being “between seven and 12.5 centimetres in length and one to two centimetres in width”, and was screaming in pain. Despite this, it took carers nearly three hours to identify she needed urgent medical attention.

The woman received hospital treatment, but her wounds became infected. She has been unable to return home and now lives in a care home.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the care agency failed to provide safe care, causing the woman to receive a serious injury, and avoidable pain and distress. The agency also failed to identify obvious environmental risks in her home and to design a plan to minimise those risks.

The report also found fault with the carers’ failure to seek urgent medical attention so the woman could have pain relief quickly. Agency workers also failed to provide an accurate account of what happened, and case records provided to a later safeguarding investigation were misleading.

The Ombudsman also found delay in the council’s safeguarding investigation.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, Michael King, said:

“This distressing case serves to reinforce the need for carers to undertake thorough assessments of the care environment and the risks that they may pose, and the actions they need to take to mitigate those risks. 

“I hope the measures the council will now be putting in place will enable it to keep closer oversight of the agencies it contracts to carry out care on its behalf and ensure other vulnerable clients are not put at risk.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case, the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and her daughter, and pay the woman £5,000 and £500 to the daughter.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve a council’s processes for the wider public.

In this case the council has agreed to ensure risk assessments completed by care agencies acting on its behalf identify obvious environmental hazards and care plans are put into place to minimise risks. It will also conduct regular quality assurance checks with the agency involved to satisfy itself it is implementing effective risk management assessments to ensure clients are safe.

Article date: 09 January 2019