New Year Resolution – Patients relatives must use their power to speak up!

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Families of people receiving poor care in hospital are being urged not to lose their power to speak out on their behalf and secure a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.

The Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare is often confused with financial power of the same name. But Amanda Piper, Head of Elderly for Care and Court of Protection at Worcestershire law firm mfg Solicitors, says it is a vital, often under-used tool to ensure loved ones are treated fairly and with dignity.

Amanda has issued the alert after dealing with a variety of recent cases where the children of people in hospital are unhappy with the care their parents have been receiving, but their parents have been unable to complain because of their conditions and they were not in a position to give permission to their children to complain on their behalf.

“It effectively meant their children and other relatives were gagged,” Amanda said.

She has also been dealing with cases where families were unhappy with local authority social services and their lack of action when they believed their parents were not being cared for properly.

Vitally, the families concerned failed to secure a Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare and meant parents were under threat of being shipped off to a care homes miles away on the local authorities say-so – with their loved ones powerless.

Amanda said: “The tragedy in all these cases was that had Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare been in place, something could have been done. It is so important to set this up early so that relatives can act on behalf of their loved ones.

“If things go wrong, solicitors can challenge social services and hospitals but this isn’t always successful and can be very expensive should the Court of Protection need to be involved. The message is prevention is better than cure.

“People think if they have Enduring Power of Attorney or Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs they are covered for this as well, but they are not. It only gives authority to deal with finances. It requires a separate power to be set up. And just as with financial power, it has to be done before capacity is lost and the person is no longer able to declare that they give their consent for this to happen.

“It is heart-breaking to have to watch someone suffering and being let down and unable to do anything about it.”

Readers looking for advice can contact Amanda Piper on  0845 55 55 321 or email amanda.piper@mfgsolicitors.com. Amanda is offering readers a free 15-minute consultation on the issue.

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