Council failed to inform family when their mother was admitted to hospital says Ombudsman

Essex County Council has been criticised by a local government watchdog after staff failed to communicate with a family when their mother was admitted to hospital.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said “Mrs C” was admitted to hospital in February 2021 after her mental and physical health deteriorated, but a council social worker assigned to her case could not be contacted.

Essex County Council did not give clear and complete information about who would pay for Mrs C’s care after she was discharged and delayed carrying out a reassessment, says an Ombudsman report.

According to the report, the county council apologised to Mrs C’s family and paid for 33 weeks of her care, between March and October 2021.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said in a statement: “We have acknowledged and accepted the findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman and the recommendations contained in the report.

“We remain dedicated to ensuring all our residents receive the highest quality of care and are committed to learning to improve.”

After Mrs C was hospitalised, her daughter tried phoning and emailing the social worker but did not receive a response, or out-of-office message, according to the report.

Her other daughter rang the social work team number and was told to wait for the social worker to return her call.

The social worker replied two days later, apologised and said she had been on leave, that the email was not in her inbox and a team member should have dealt with the enquiry.

The Ombudsman found the council was at fault for its poor communication with Mrs C’s family when they “needed advice at a stressful time.”

However, at that time the hospital was responsible for Mrs C’s discharge and did not inform the council or advise the family, the report says.

A reassessment for Mrs C was also completed in August by the social worker, despite having been promised for March.

The report also said the social worker was “unclear” about who would pay for the first four weeks of care and by October 2021 Mrs C owed over £11,000 to the council.

However, the council later commissioned the care for Mrs C for a total of 33 weeks, which saved her approximately £8,500, according to the report.

The family also complained about the lack of help from the council’s brokerage team, however the Ombudsman did not find fault with the actions of the brokerage team and said the social worker’s advice that they could help the family find a care home was “misleading” and “led to frustration.”

According to the report, the Ombudsman considered the commissioning of 33 weeks of care and the apology to have made up for the injustice and no further remedy was needed.

Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter