Lancashire County Council has been fined just £750 after failing to provide care to a disabled man which left him bed-bound in the final month before he died.
An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found that despite two occupational therapists identifying the man’s need for a special chair, it had still not been provided some seven months later, when the man passed away.
He could no longer sit in a chair because he was at risk of sliding to the floor, and his wife was unable to help return him to the chair because of her own health problems.
An NHS occupational therapist (OT) referred the recommendation for a special chair to the council. Its own OT assessed the man, made a number of recommendations to make the couple’s life safer, including a special chair, but delayed making the arrangements for the chair.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “This man should not have had to spend his last few weeks bed-bound.
“He could no longer sit in a chair because he was at risk of sliding to the floor, and his wife was unable to help return him to the chair because of her own health problems. While the council had already apologised before my investigation, it failed to identify the root cause of the delay.
“When things go wrong, lessons can only be learned to improve future services if the correct causes are identified.
“I am pleased Lancashire County Council agreed to my recommendations, but I would urge it to reflect on my report and consider what action it now needs to take so other people are not similarly affected.”
During a stay in hospital, the man was finally assessed by a contractor for a new chair, but this was not in place by the time he was discharged. For the last month of his life he was forced to stay in bed because he did not have appropriate seating.
Following her husband’s death, the woman complained to the council. The council apologised for the delay and told her it was making changes to its procedures. But the council gave her mixed messages about the reason for the delay. She complained to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council delayed requesting the specialist chair, failed to record its contacts with the contractor who would provide the chair and took too long to approve the funding.
The Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve services.
The council agreed to apologise to the lady and pay £750 for the distress caused.
It will also act to ensure officers manage their work effectively and without delay and produce a schedule for filling OT vacancies as soon as possible.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The Local Government Ombudsman found fault on the part of the Council, and this caused injustice to the complainant. The county council has apologised fully to the family for the distress caused by its failings.
“Lancashire County Council has agreed with the action recommended by the LGO and drawn up an action plan to address the shortcomings identified in his report.”