A disabled man had to spend his last month in bed because Lancashire County Council failed to provide him with the special chair he needed, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.
The Ombudsman’s investigation revealed 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.
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.”
The man, who had Parkinson’s Disease, lived with his wife in an adapted home. The OT’s assessment noted the man needed a special chair to prevent him sliding onto the floor. The woman said she struggled to help her husband as she had back problems and would have to call on neighbours, or for an ambulance, when this happened.
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 application.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to improve local public, and adult social care, services.
In this case, the council has agreed to apologise to the wife and pay her £750 for the distress caused and the time and trouble in pursuing the complaint.
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.