A woman was placed in a dementia unit following a hip operation because of a lack of available homecare, according to a report by a watchdog.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has asked Lincolnshire County Council to review other families’ cases after the incident involving the couple, reported to be Malcolm and Trisha Chisholm.
Mrs Chisholm, who has mobility problems, should have returned home with the help of a care package following a hip operation. But to get the support needed, she was placed in a residential home some 15 miles away from the couple’s home in South Lincolnshire, because the council’s contracted providers - Bloomsbury Homecare, based in Bourne - did not have capacity to care for her.
This meant her husband, Malcolm, driving a 30 mile round trip every day to visit, when they both wanted her to return home. Even though she did not have the condition, she was placed in a dementia unit for some of the time, being forced to lock her door to prevent other residents wandering in uninvited.
The Ombudsman found the council at fault for allowing the woman to be placed in the dementia unit, and for not revising her care and support plan when her circumstances changed.
Through its investigation, the Ombudsman found that other people may have been similarly affected by the contracting arrangements.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “This couple found themselves in the situation of a hospital operation leading to 10 months living apart, because of the lack of care provision available.
“The woman was placed for too long in an unsuitable care environment. She wanted to return home to be with her husband, but instead had no choice but to live with people whose care needs were very different to her own, causing her significant distress.”
He went onto say she should have been moved sooner, adding: “Complaints are a learning opportunity. I encourage all councils to look carefully at this report, particularly if they are in the process of reviewing their commissioning models.”
The Ombudsman found that the contracted provider “didn’t have enough capacity to provide care to meet her needs”.
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 pay the husband £750 and the wife £1,000 to reflect their distress. It will also refund the man’s travel expenses for the 10 month period.
The council has agreed to the Ombudsman’s recommendation to identify whether others were affected and provide the same remedy to those families if any injustice has occurred.
A spokesman for Lincolnshire County Council said: “We accept the Ombudsman’s findings and have sincerely apologised to the individuals mentioned in the report.
“The Ombudsman acknowledged the council complied with our duty to provide a service that was safe and met identified needs. In all cases we work closely with the family to consider a number of options and find a placement that is acceptable to them.”
He went onto say that there are now “regular updates and an escalation process in place to prevent these situations arising in the future”.