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Down's syndrome man's care criticised

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A man with Down’s Syndrome had his basic human rights ignored after he was detained in hospital and then kept locked up before he died, an investigation has found.

Serious failings were uncovered in the care provided to a client named only as Mr J by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle City Council and the Coquet Trust.

A joint inquiry by the Health Service and Local Government Ombudsmen found he was kept in hospital unnecessarily for months and then moved into inappropriate locked accommodation afterwards.

The investigation was launched after a complaint by the brother of Mr J, who had been an active, outgoing and sociable man, living independently in rented accommodation with his wife.

The inquiry found he had day-to-day support from Newcastle City Council, and his family, to whom he was close, supported his wish to be as independent as possible.

But when health professionals became concerned about a significant deterioration in his skills and health, Mr J was admitted to hospital for a short assessment.

He was diagnosed with dementia and epilepsy but, in spite of being declared ready for discharge, he was kept in hospital for a further five months.

Rather than returning home, which was now considered to be unsuitable accommodation, Mr J and his wife were moved to a self-contained flat at a care home for older people.

The flat was kept locked to restrict Mr J’s access to the outside, for safety reasons.

Although this was supposed to be temporary accommodation, Mr J and his wife were still living there 10 months later when Mr J became ill with a chest infection.

He was admitted to hospital, where he died, aged 53.

His rights to liberty and family life were not given adequate consideration by those involved in his care, and there was a lack of leadership, the inquiry found.

Health service ombudsman Ann Abraham said: “Mr J’s rights, best interests, and family relationships were not taken into account when the Trust and the Council made plans for his care.

“This was highly likely to have had some impact on the quality of his life, and hence his wellbeing, in the last 18 months or so of his life.

“Mr J’s family were also wrongly denied the opportunity to be involved and will never know if they could have made a difference to his quality of life in those last months, which must be a cause of significant and ongoing distress for them.

“It is shocking that the events described in this report happened in the 21st century. I hope the lessons from Mr J’s story will be understood by public bodies and thereby help to drive improvements in public services.”


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