Ombudsman orders Northumberland County Council to pay out and apologise after 'distress' for care home resident

Northumberland County Council has been ordered to apologise and pay out £500 to a man who complained about the care provided to his wife.
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The local government and social care ombudsman found no fault with the care provided to the woman, referred to as Mrs X, at a Berwick care home. However, it did take issue with the council’s care plans, as well as its response to the ombudsman’s inquiries.

The husband, known as Mr X, complained about the care provided and the care charges the council had asked him to pay.

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He was unhappy Mrs X was placed in a bed with raised sides, administered with a catheter, and said the home did not carry out adequate care supervision.

County Hall in Morpeth County Hall in Morpeth
County Hall in Morpeth

He said the actions caused “avoidable distress” to himself and Mrs X. Following the ombudsman’s investigation, however, there was no fault found with any of the care provided by the home.

Despite this, the investigation did find fault with the council’s care plans. The ombudsman’s report said the council’s care plans did not “specify how the council intended to meet Mrs X’s needs while she was receiving care.”

Instead, they showed how the council “intended to meet Mrs X’s care needs while she was receiving care at her home.” This meant the care and support plans were “flawed.”

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The ombudsman also found fault with the way in which the council handled Mr X’s initial complaint.

The report said that the time taken by the council to provide a response to Mr X was “not in line with its complaints policy.”

Mr X said the council’s actions caused “avoidable distress” to himself and Mrs X. The ombudsman said “the injustice flowing from the fault identified is the uncertainty regarding the care plan for Mrs X.”

As a result of the findings, the ombudsman ordered the council to apologise for the faults identified and make a “symbolic payment” to the couple to “recognise the distress, uncertainty, and raised expectations.”

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Responding to the report, a spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “We accept the findings in the report and can confirm that the recommendations are being actioned.

“We aim to provide the highest quality services to people in Northumberland and where lessons can be learnt we will always take action to improve the service for our residents.”