Vulnerable patient died after being 'isolated from family for years'

Steps were not taken despite multi-agency concerns, the Mental Welfare Commission found.

Steps ‘not taken’ to help vulnerable patient who died after being ‘isolated from family for years’ iStock

Steps were not taken to protect a vulnerable Scot who died while under the influence of another person, an investigation has found.

The person, known anonymously as “AB”, was isolated from their family by the other person over several years and had their treatment disrupted up until their death.

AB had learning disabilities and physical ill health and died in hospital in February 2019.

Concerns had been raised by AB’s family, by social work and health services and by others, leading to AB being subject to three Adult Support and Protection investigations and two periods of detention in hospital under the Mental Health Act in the five years leading up to their death.

A report into AB’s treatment has been published after an investigation led by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWC).

The report found action could have been taken to ensure there were protections in place for them having been under the influence of this other person for several years.

Suzanne McGuinness, executive director of social work for MWC, said: “This is a very distressing case, where a vulnerable person was isolated from their family by another individual over many years, to their personal detriment.

“It resulted in increased poor health and an early death. Despite opportunities, no effective intervention which would have changed AB’s circumstances was made.

“Our recommendations for change cover social work and health care, but they also address the issue of legal authority and power of attorney, recognising that someone who may lack capacity for decision making about their health or welfare needs may be under the undue influence of another person.”

She added: “It is vital that this report is shared, read and discussed in detail by social work, mental health and general health services across Scotland, and by legal services.

“We believe there are lessons to be learned across the country and we hope this in-depth report will help raise awareness of the importance of identifying where undue influence may exist and the legislative frameworks which can be used to avoid similar situations in future.”

The MWC made six recommendations for change jointly to the NHS health board and local authority involved in the case as well as one recommendation to Scottish Government.

Mental health minister Maree Todd said: “The death of this vulnerable patient is a tragedy. My thoughts go out to the family for their loss.

“The relevant local authority and health board with responsibility for adult support and protection have been issued with several recommendations and learning points. We expect the recommendations to be fully implemented.

“The Mental Welfare Commission also recommended a review of the existing systems and processes for obtaining guardianship orders. The reform of adults with Incapacity legislation, which governs guardianship applications, is our priority as set out in the response to the Scottish Mental Health Law Review and work has already begun on this.”

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