Man died after neglect from care agencies

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A VULNERABLE St Helens man died after he was left to live in a squalid, cockroach-infested flat - a damning new report has revealed.

A joint investigation by the Health Service and Local Government Ombudsmen found that St Helens Council and the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust failed to adequately monitor and risk-assess the man - referred to only as Mr B.

Mr B, who suffered from schizophrenia, had lived in his own home in St Helens for more than 10 years with a support package delivered jointly by the trust and council, via a community mental health team.

He was visited regularly by a support worker, a community psychiatric nurse and council cleaners.

But concerns about his health and living conditions only came to light when Mr B’s cousin, Ms A, alerted the authorities after moving back to the St Helens area.

In a visit to Mr B’s flat, Ms A told how she found cockroaches and flies, food that was more than a year out of date, uneaten takeaway food, stains on every surface and faeces and urine marks on the carpets and furniture.

She subsequently spent several days cleaning the flat.

When Mr B’s health quickly deteriorated, he was admitted to hospital as an emergency.

He was found to be severely malnourished, dehydrated, lethargic and confused and was diagnosed with myeloma, a bone marrow cancer.

Ms A complained that because Mr B was so ill and weak when he was finally admitted to hospital he could not receive the usual treatment for myeloma and, therefore, his life expectancy had been reduced.

He was eventually moved into a nursing home - where he died last June.

In a 42-page report, the Ombudsmen found that poor communication and gaps in records, as well as a failure to review Mr B’s care and assess in-depth his mental state, led to his physical condition deteriorating to “an unacceptable state”.

They added that staff had not been “in a position to recognise the urgency of the situation” when Mr B started to suffer critical ill health in February 2008.

Council cleaners had raised concerns, but little action had followed.

The Ombudsmen asked the trust and council to apologise to Ms A and pay £2,000 compensation and £1,500 towards legal costs.

Both agencies also agreed to produce action plans for the future.

Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, said: “This is an extremely sad case about a vulnerable person who was not supported in the way he should have been.

“Although we cannot conclude definitely that there would have been a different outcome for Mr B, we did find that the failure to implement his care plans and manage risk appropriately played some part in his rapid deterioration.”

Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex, added: “Our investigation resulted in assurances from the 5 Boroughs Partnership and St Helens Council that lessons have been learnt.

“When health and local government join together to provide a combined ‘seamless’ service - joint services mean joint accountability if things go wrong.”

A spokeswoman for the 5 Boroughs Partnership said: “We fully accept the findings of the Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman.

“Lessons have been learnt from the investigation and we are working closely with the Local Authority with regards to the recommendations made.”

A St Helens Council spokesman said: “We note the contents of the report and are giving careful consideration to the recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman.”