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Ombudsman highlights fault-lines in care in COVID report

COVID-19 exposed existing fault-lines in council and care provider systems that were already present, according to a new Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report.

Unprecedented pressure: Learning from complaints about council and care provider actions during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights a number of case studies from adult social care where there was inappropriate care during COVID. Among the lessons to be learned, the ombudsman highlights the following:

  • Staff should be able to identify people approaching the end of their lives, before they are at the very end of their lives, and put appropriate plans in place
  • Staff should know the process for obtaining urgent, end of life medication, including alerting community nurses when medicines are in the building
  • Providers should have processes in place to give appropriate notice for terminating contracts and reviewing care packages when it has problems delivering them
  • Staff should be trained in making best interests decisions under the Mental Health Act 2005.

The report analyses its cases over the first 18 months of the pandemic, and according to the ombudsman Michael King, it shows that, by and large, councils and care providers weathered the unprecedented pressures they were under. However, he added: “But, when things did go wrong it had a serious impact on people’s lives.”

Cases highlighted in the report include a woman who died from COVID-19 at a care home with poor infection control procedures which was then compounded by staff later trying to cover up the facts.

The report also offers questions councillors and scrutiny committees can ask to reflect on their own council’s practice during this time. King added: “If evidence was needed, this report proves that managing complaints should be considered a frontline service.”

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