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Kent care provider has “dubious distinction” of Ombudsman first

A Kent care home has been heavily criticised for the second time by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for the way it treated an elderly resident with advanced dementia.

The Ombudsman has issued an Adverse Findings Notice (AFN) about Foxley Lodge Ltd. It is incredibly rare for the Ombudsman to issue such measures about an independent care provider, but the Deal home now has the dubious distinction of being the first to have received two.

In the past 10 years since the Ombudsman was given the power to investigate independent adult care providers, it has investigated more than 1,300 complaints, and issued just 10 AFNs, including the first against Foxley Lodge.

The original complaint, which was investigated in 2019, was about how the care provider increased its charges to the resident by 25% at its Sonia Lodge care home. It threatened her with eviction when her family said they would only pay an increase of 5%, as stated in their contract.

Following that investigation, the Ombudsman asked the care home to review its complaints process, but the care home did not properly respond to the Ombudsman, leading to the first AFN being published.

After this, the care home gave notice to the woman, who by then had an advanced form of dementia, without consulting health care professionals and contrary to its own contract. It said it could no longer meet her needs. Sadly, the woman died before she had to move.

The family again complained, and the Ombudsman was forced to issue High Court witness summons to the care provider to demand evidence the woman needed the extra care it said it could not provide.

The second investigation found the care home did not investigate the family’s complaints properly, offer a full response in writing, or signpost the family to the Ombudsman at the end of its complaints process. The Ombudsman recommended the care home apologise to the family and review its complaints processes.

The care home has again failed to engage with the Ombudsman or respond to its recommendations to remedy the complaint.

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

“It is disappointing to say the least, this care provider has failed to respect our role – agreed by parliament – of investigating in a fair and independent way, which has given it the dubious distinction of the first ever to receive a second critical notice.

“I cannot tell the extent this behaviour might cast doubt in the eyes of current or future service users, about how fairly they would be treated if they were unfortunate enough to experience an issue with their care.

“But anyone considering care for themselves or a loved one will have to ask themselves whether an organisation showing this level of disdain for its ombudsman is still one they can put their faith in.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman looks at individual complaints about adult social care services in England, regardless of whether that care is paid for or arranged by a local authority or privately.

Where its finds fault that has caused injustice, the ombudsman makes recommendations to put things right for the individual, as well as recommendations to improve services for everyone. An Adverse Findings Notice is published in the very rare cases where the ombudsman is not satisfied an independent care provider has carried out its recommendations.

The Ombudsman is sharing its findings with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator for health and social care who is responsible for registering care providers and taking enforcement where appropriate, and will discuss any potential next steps. It is also informing councils in the area, who may consider commissioning care services, of the case.

Article date: 09 September 2021