Decision Date: 16th March 2021
Mrs D complained on behalf of her daughter, Mrs F.
Mrs F had been in receipt of a care plan as a result of her entitlement to aftercare services under s.117 Mental Health Act 1983. Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (the Trust) were the lead agency. The local council Kent County Council were involved as responsible for the subject matter of the complaint.
In 2018 Mrs F sent numerous letters to the Trust requesting medication changes, and requested the care plan to be removed from her records. Mrs D thought that the Trust had agreed to the requests, but later found that this was not the case. The LGO report did not explain this further.
In March 2019 Mrs F was mistakenly visited by the Council, as they were reorganising its services and allocated Mrs F to the wrong social care team.
In July 2019 a meeting was arranged with Mrs F where the Trust invited the Council to attend. Mrs D thought that this meant the Trust were transferring Mrs F’s mental health care over to the Council.
Mrs D raised concern about the transfer of Mrs F’s care with both agencies in September, but did not make a formal complaint.
The Trust dealt with her correspondence through its complaints system.
It sent a complaints response in October, stating that the Council was invited to the meeting in July because they both have a responsibility for aftercare planning under s.117. It also stated that it could not remove Mrs F’s care plan from her records, but confirmed that her care plan was ‘closed’.
Mrs D formally complained to Kent County Council in February 2020, still believing that the Trust was attempting to transfer care over to the Council. Mrs D remained unhappy after the Council response in April, and complained again in October.
The Council responded in December explaining that the March 2019 visit was an error due to its reorganisation. It also emphasised that Mrs F’s mental health care had not been transferred to its social care team, nor would it be in the future.
Mrs D complained to the LGO because she believed that the Trust and Council secretly planned to transfer Mrs F’s care solely to the Council.
Mrs D maintained that both the Trust and Council ‘clandestinely’ continued to discuss transferring Mrs F’s care. She stated that there was documentation showing the Trust involved a Community Interest Group as part of this process. The Trust explained that this group had no involvement with Mrs F’s care.
What was found
The LGO found no fault regarding the August care plan, as the plan was closed and Mrs F already had a new care plan in place.
There was also no evidence of fault from the Trust or Council in the way they carried out the meeting in July 2019. They both had responsibilities for care planning, and the LGO stated that it was beneficial that they had a collaborative approach in sharing information.
There was some fault because the Council mistakenly allocated Mrs F to its social care team. However, as soon as the Council became aware of the error it removed Mrs F from the team.
It was also clear to the LGO that Mrs F’s mental health care was not transferred to the Council, and that the Council explained that it would not be transferred in the future. Although the confusion caused Mrs F some anxiety, the LGO stated that the Council acted reasonably and proportionately with its assurances.
With regard to the role played by the Community Interest Group, the Trust stated that it was not connected to the Council, but that it was a service that helped provide links between primary and secondary mental health care. The LGO stated that this was not sufficient evidence that the Trust was transferring care to the Council.
The LGO concluded by declining to investigate further. It stated “there is insufficient evidence of serious harm to Mrs F from the faults and the organisations have already taken action to remedy the complaints”.
Points to note for councils, professionals, people using services, carers and advocacy groups
This complaint is one that demonstrates that where councils act reasonably and proportionately, the LGSCO will consider this when responding to complaints.
The complaint raised related to a perceived transfer of mental health care between the NHS Trust and the Council. This was not the case, but the council did err in relation to the allocation of a social worker to become involved with a care plan review.
It is pertinent however that the council addressed this as it realised and recognised that ‘restructuring’ its services had led to Mrs F’s case being allocated wrongly. The LGSCO identified that this was addressed promptly through an apology and reassurance to the complainant.
Whilst this caused some uncertainty and anxiety, the LGSCO found that the council response was reasonable and proportionate, and that this therefore did not warrant further investigation.
Communications from the Trust to the complainant were also clear. It provided a justifiable reason for inviting a social care representative to her review, this being to enable a holistic approach to her aftercare. Aftercare arrangements are expected to be jointly considered by both health and social care, so this denotes good practice on the part of the Trust and Kent County Council.
The LGSCO remains available to those dissatisfied with the outcome of complaints procedures, but of course does not always choose to investigate where this would not be a good use of such a resource.
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The full Local Government Ombudsman report of Kent County Council’s actions can be found here