‘IT WAS unacceptable’ – Royal Borough Council is reviewing measures after a damning report concluded it was at fault for separating an elderly couple after 59 years of marriage.

The director of adult services at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Hilary Hall, stated the council has reviewed its assessment and care management process to ensure a case like this never happens again.

In report published by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman on September 3, they concluded the council had ‘little regard’ for the couple’s welfare when the wife – known as Mrs Y – was discharged to a care home after leaving hospital.

The husband – known as Mr Y – was ‘devastated’ by the separation and received little care, meaning his health quickly deteriorated through not eating or drinking properly, he lost weight, and spent a lot of time in bed rather than going outside.

On one occasion, Mr Y was found in urine-soaked clothes by his family after the care worker only stayed for 10 minutes instead of the scheduled 30 minutes and did not help the man to the toilet.

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The family complained and the council agreed to take more steps to help Mr Y visit his wife – but he sadly passed away weeks later. Mrs Y has also now passed away.

The report concluded the council took too long to assess the man’s needs, did not properly look if the couple could carry on living together with the help with live-in carers, and the council made ‘inadequate’ efforts to help Mr Y see his wife.

At an adult, children, and health overview and scrutiny meeting on September 30 (Wednesday), Hilary Hall said the council has accepted the recommendations set out by Ombudsman to apologise and give compensation to the family as well as set out a plan of action ensure this doesn’t happen again.

She said: “The test for me is whether this would’ve been good for my mum and dad – which the answer is an unequivocal no.

“It was unacceptable and on behalf of myself and the service in the council, I offer my sincere, heartfelt, and unreserved apologies to the family.”

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She said new procedures and processes on assessment have been implemented across the whole service as the previous methodology, called Each Step Together – which was adopted in 2016 – wasn’t consistently introduced throughout the whole service.

A new system has been introduced where one senior manager will oversee each complaint received, particularly when it involves several agencies.

A dedicated officer will oversee and monitor companies who provide domiciliary care to check their performance is meeting the council’s standards.

It was also found that there was a lack of clarity on assessment time scales and the council has issued guidance to senior managers and practitioners for transparency on performance.

Work is underway to ‘significantly’ update communicate information to the public to ensure residents and their families are fully aware their care needs are met.

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It was also heard the council’s safeguarding process is midway through a midway fundamental review.

Councillor Stuart Carroll, lead member for social care, offered his apologies to the family and said: “I think the important thing here is around learning lessons from this case, although an isolated and serious case and one we need to ensure that does not happen again.”

A letter will be sent to the Care Quality Commission asking when an inspection can be done on Carewatch, who were the second care company looking after Mr and Mrs Y.

It was understood Carewatch – who were rated as ‘requiring improvement’ last year with improvements made – were due an inspection this year but was pushed back due to the pandemic.

The report will be taken to cabinet for comment.