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Case Study: Clients Oppose Hospital’s Failure to Ensure their Father was Safely Discharged


How Chloe Scarr, Community Care Law solicitor, helped Emily and Ben whose father, Ernie, had been unsafely discharged from hospital despite their best efforts to prevent it.

The situation

Ernie, 89, had been admitted to hospital having collapsed at home, where he lived alone. He was in a poor state of health and required treatment and tests to find out what had happened to him. During the six weeks he spent in hospital, his two children made numerous attempts to obtain information about their father’s condition and prognosis and the prosed discharge plan. Unfortunately, hospital staff and Social Services failed to communicate with them, despite the fact that they were Ernie’s carers and also his Attorneys. Ernie had mental capacity, but was completely deaf. He had difficulty communicating with the staff without his hearing aids, which were on his side table, and which he needed staff to put in for him. Unfortunately, when the doctors and nurses spoke to Ernie, he could not tell them that he couldn’t hear them.

One day, Ernie was asked if he would like to return home, to which he said he would. Because of the lack of clear communication by the hospital and Social Services, it had been assumed that Emily and Ben would be able to fill in the gaps in Ernie’s care plan. The hospital discharge team arranged for Ernie to be discharged the next day and Social Services put Re-Ablement Services in place. He had a care needs assessment which suggested that he needed two one-hour visits per day from one carer; once in the morning and once at lunch.

It was only on the day of discharge that Emily was told that Ernie was going to be sent home. Emily and Ben were not sure if they would be able to continue caring for their father as his needs had increased so much. They were worried he would be at risk of harm with such a small care package. Emily and Ben managed to persuade the hospital to give them an extra day to prepare Ernie’s home for his return. When Ernie arrived at his home, he was expecting to have a carer with him all the time. Ernie was very upset when his children explained that he would only have two 1-hour visits. Ernie was unhappy and very frightened of being on his own. He decided to stay in bed after his lunch time call because he felt safer knowing he was less likely to fall if he was lying down. Ernie wasn’t able to make himself meals or snacks and also needed help with taking his medication.

What Martin Searle Solicitors did

Chloe contacted the hospital discharge team in Croydon immediately, explaining that Emily and Ben were very concerned about their father’s return home. As they had been excluded from the pre-discharge assessment & planning process, there were a number of errors on the discharge form & care plan, suggesting that Ernie was more mobile and capable than he really was.

It was evident that Ernie had mental capacity to make decisions about how and where he was cared for. However, because he had difficulty hearing people, his views hadn’t been properly acknowledged & he hadn’t understood everything that he was told about care at home.

Chloe requested that Social Services asked Ernie for his consent for his children to be involved in his care planning and to visit Ernie with his children present to help him explain his needs. Ernie said that he definitely wanted his children to be involved in his care.

At the same time, Chloe persuaded Social Services to reassess Ernie urgently as it was clear that he needed more than two one hour visits each day.

The result

Social Services acknowledged that Ernie’s hearing problems meant he had not really understood the care arrangements. They also accepted that they did need to involve his children, who remained his main carers. They increased Ernie’s care package with immediate effect and provided him with other aids to ensure he felt safe when he was on his own. Ernie no longer felt that he had to stay in bed all afternoon to feel safe.

The short term care at home package was replaced with a long-term care package and an Allocated Worker to monitor his progress. Ernie was much happier with his additional visits, each of which were now made by two carers. The District Nurse also visited him in the evenings. Emily and Ben were satisfied that Ernie’s new care at home package met his needs and that they were fully involved in their father’s care planning.

If you, a relative or a friend is due to be discharged from hospital and you have concerns about their safety, our Community Care Team can help. Contact us today on 01273 609911, or email to find out how we can help.

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991

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