Ombudsman warn council after it wrongly charged amputee for care

Weston Town Council discussed it at the Town Hall.

Weston Town Council discussed it at the Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset Council has apologised for incorrectly charging for a man’s care.

The Local Government and Social Care (LGSC) Ombudsman approached the council after it incorrectly charged care home fees when a man left hospital after an amputation.

The authority claimed the care the man received was not intermediate care – which people are allowed for six weeks without charge – but ‘enablement’ care and so charged the family.

The ombudsman found fault with the council for having ‘conflicting’ and ‘confusing’ information on its website and in leaflets.

The investigation also criticised the council for the way the care home sent an incorrect invoice to the family for the care received.

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LGSC Ombudsman Michael King said: “Simply referring to intermediate care by another name does not allow the council to charge for it.

“I am pleased the council has agreed to apologise to the family and pay them the remedy we have recommended.

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“It now needs to identify and repay any others who may have been incorrectly charged.

“However, it now needs to identify and repay any others who may have been incorrectly charged for the care they received.”

The council will repay the £722.40 fees and has reduced the sum the family owe due to the ‘distress’ caused by wrongly backdating the cost.

Under the ombudsman’s recommendation, the authority will also review its adult social care charging policy and procedures to ensure an incident like this does not happen again.

A council spokesman said: “The council recognises the findings of the Ombudsman report and is in the process of implementing all the recommendations within agreed timescales. We have already refunded the family and apologised for any faults identified in the report.

“The council’s enablement service is highly regarded and has been commended by previous Local Government Association and Association of Director of Adult Social Services Peer Review Processes and NHS England.

“They highlighted the lengths the council goes to in order to ensure that service users potentially avoid long-term permanent care placements by extending the timeline on any key decisions to maintain independence.

“We acknowledge the criticism the service has conflicting information on its leaflet and website and accept the Ombudsman judgement the service for those successfully enabled, had become indistinguishable from the intermediate care residential offer offered by the NHS locally.

“In responding to the ombudsman findings, and moving forward, we are seeking a response from our clinical commissioning group with regard to the lack of intermediate care residential provision in North Somerset which is vital when people leave hospital.”

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