Watchdogs condemn care of vulnerable woman

Picture: PA Wire
Picture: PA Wire
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A VULNERABLE woman was wrongly denied vital support after having both her legs amputated due to a wrangle between NHS and council chiefs in Yorkshire over who should pay the bill.

The woman, 49, who has not been named, has been awarded £27,000 by two ombudsmen after the row left her housebound.

An investigation found the woman was left without the right care package for more than a year because of a dispute between Sheffield Council and Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust.

From 2009, the woman had received a £7,000-a-year personal NHS budget to help her get support for sometimes severe depression.

This was reassessed after her life-changing operation in February 2013 but a dispute broke out between the council and NHS over who was responsible for her needs.

Despite evidence from experts that the delay was having a significant impact on her wellbeing which risked deteriorating further if there was no agreement, none was reached.

The woman, 49, who is remaining anonymous, said the NHS told her her needs were largely physical.

“It was as if after the amputation my mental health needs had miraculously disappeared when they had got worse,” she said.

She was left with only a basic package of care of two visits a day by agency workers paid by the council who helped her with household tasks. She was left mainly housebound, becoming more isolated and depressed.

She said: “I’m very pleased with the findings, in particular that there were failures by both organisations.

“It’s part of the reason I took out the complaint as I don’t like to see injustices done. There are people more vulnerable than me who don’t have a voice.”

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “Even though this complaint was upheld by the trust and council, they failed to put things right, which meant that a vulnerable woman was left without the right care package for more than a year. Both the council and the trust should have acted sooner to prevent the unnecessary distress experienced by this woman.”

Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin said: “This is an example of two organisations, with an important role in supporting vulnerable people, being unable to communicate properly and take a co-ordinated approach to provide suitable assistance for this woman.”

Both organisations have been ordered to draw up an action plan to ensure better working relationships.

The ombudsmen recommended the council and the trust reimburse her £14,000 for the costs she incurred in buying support to meet her mental health needs until February this year, agreed her personal budget as a matter of urgency, pay her £12,000 for the impact of not having an adequate budget in place and pay a further £1,000 for the “avoidable stress and frustration” from continuing to pursue her complaint.

In a joint statement, the council and NHS trust apologised.

They added: “This is a very serious matter and we are working closely together to ensure that lessons have been learned and to make sure that in future people with mental and physical health needs receive a much better joined-up service.”