Ombudsman critical of council’s role over care of woman

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman

Ealing Council is to review whether it continues to work with Metro Home Care after it was found to have falsified records during an ombudsman investigation.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was asked by a daughter to investigate the care provided to her mother by the homecare agency after she left hospital following a fall.

The daughter complained that during the 10 days her mother was out of hospital and cared for by the agency, she developed bed sores on her feet that had become necrotic and were at a serious stage.

Metro Home Care had been commissioned by London Borough of Ealing to visit the mother four times a day to provide help with taking medication and personal care. However, the daughter complained the carers were not always on time, and sometimes did not show up at all.

She also had concerns about the safeguarding investigation carried out by the council following the mother’s second admission to hospital.

She provided the ombudsman’s investigation with photographs of care notes taken when her mother was admitted to hospital. However, the notes provided by the agency were entirely different. They had different handwriting and the names of one of the care workers was spelt differently. Times, durations and activities carried out for each visit were also different.

The falsified notes recorded care workers had called the GP and district nurse on three separate occasions. The original notes showed no recordings of those calls, and this was backed up by the ombudsman’s enquiries of the mother’s GP.

An ombudsman investigation found there was no evidence the council took any immediate action following the hospital’s safeguarding referral. The social worker did not ask for the woman’s care records until five months after the council’s investigation started in April 2019.

The homecare agency told the social worker it had carried out its own investigation and found it had provided an appropriate level of care, which the council accepted.

‘The care agency has not been able to provide me with any reason why the notes it sent to me were different from the contemporaneous notes provided by the woman’s daughter,’ said ombudsman Michael King.

‘The original notes I received suggest the care workers did nothing when it became apparent the mother was having difficulties standing, and was feeling unwell. Had medical professionals been called in, the mother’s bed sores could have been spotted sooner.

‘Chillingly, the records the agency provided to my investigation show the care workers were either early or late on 21 out of a possible 36 occasions – and on three occasions the notes suggest there was no visit at all.

‘Although councils can contract out care to agencies, they cannot contract out responsibility for that care, so I have also found fault with London Borough of Ealing for the care provider’s actions.’

Ealing Council has agreed to apologise to the daughter and pay her £1,000 to acknowledge the distress caused.

A council spokesperson said: ‘We are taking immediate corrective action in relation to the agency in addition to reviewing our safeguarding and contract compliance arrangements and have already made improvements both locally and on a pan-London basis in recent months.

‘The provider remains suspended from further use by the council. Consideration of any continued working relationship with them will be managed and assessed through a formal risk review process which will include relevant partners.’

Metro Home Care has been contacted for comment.