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Ombudsmen release joint guidance to tackle common mistakes in aftercare of mental health in-patients

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) have released new guidance to tackle common and repeated mistakes seen in the aftercare of patients receiving support under the Mental Health Act. 

PHSO and LGSCO work together on complaints that involve both health and social care bodies. The guidance brings together common themes seen in their joint investigation work. It includes practical recommendations for councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to make improvements and avoid the mistakes of others. From July 2022 Integrated Care Boards will replace CCGs, for better joined up health care. This guidance will support practitioners in delivering a continuity of care during this transition.

Councils and CCGs have a joint responsibility to provide or arrange free aftercare for adults, young people, and children until they are satisfied the person no longer needs it. These responsibilities are set out in the Mental Health Act Code of Practice. They aim to reduce the risk of worsening the person's mental health condition and reduce the risk of needing further hospital admission.

Through a series of case studies, the guidance draws attention to recurring mistakes seen in the joint investigation work of PHSO and LGSCO when there are misunderstandings between a council and CCG about their collective responsibilities; these include:

  • care planning for patients
  • funding for aftercare
  • accommodation needs 
  • ending mental health aftercare

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, said:

"The cases outlined in the guidance demonstrate the traumatic and lasting impact mistakes can have on patients and their families when council and CCGs fail to manage mental health aftercare effectively.

"When a person receives treatment under the Mental Health Act, they are vulnerable. Organisations responsible for their care must deliver the best service possible to maximise the patient's recovery.

"The work of the Joint Working Team is vital in ensuring that the organisations involved are held to account when mistakes are made across the health and social care sectors."

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

"Where complex cases span multiple organisations and bodies, it is all the more important for those bodies to get things right. We've issued this guidance not only to share learning from the complaints we have received, but also to highlight to councils and CCGs our joint working team's role in investigating those cases.

"I hope practitioners in this area will take on board the learning it contains and apply it to their practice to ensure the people in their care are properly supported."

Article date: 08 April 2022