Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman refuses to rule on personal care

Not much use an Ombudsman who refuses to look into complaints .. but one way to do it is to lay the blame at Parliament & the politicians ... who is right and who is wrong ? and who should have been asking for wider powers all along ?

The Herald reports :

Impossible to rule on personal care, says ombudsman

DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor

The Public Services Ombudsman warned yesterday she has had to suspend investigations into "unremedied injustice" facing patients who have problems with NHS provision of Continuing Care.

Professor Alice Brown said she cannot rule on them because the Scottish Government's guidelines are so out of date, linking the problem to her repeated warnings to ministers that they have to sort out the confusing law on Free Personal Care.

In her monthly briefing on cases the public bring to her with complaints about public services, the Ombudsman said yesterday that she has formally suspended investigations into complaints on NHS Continuing Care until ministers address the weaknesses in the system.

Continuing Care is the provision for those assessed as having medical needs, often with chronic conditions, which is provided by the NHS in a care home or their own homes, often after being discharged from hospital. The guidelines were published in 1996.

The Ombudsman said no single health board could address the issue until it is tackled nationally.

Previous warnings to the Scottish Executive before the election had led to a promise that there will be a report in January.

Next week, there is to be a meeting in Perth hosted by the executive to discuss the problems involved.

"The concern and belief that unremedied injustice exists is raised in a number of complaints about Continuing Care brought to this office," said Professor Brown.

"This continues to cause distress and anxiety for vulnerable individuals and their families and to take up considerable amounts of NHS time and resources in addressing these.

"This office will, in turn, continue to receive complaints which it is unable to determine."

Her suspension of investigations follows her ruling from a woman whose mother suffers from Alzheimer's, claiming she had been wrongly charged for care in her nursing home.

The Ombudsman did not rule in favour of the woman, because she found the health board cannot be held responsible for a lack of provision in the legislation for a clear, accessible and transparent assessment system.

She has linked it to her concerns about the lack of clarity in the legislation on Free Personal Care, funded through local authorities, after a Court of Session judge ruled last week that the law did not secure provision for more than 9000 care home residents who fund their own places.

This is to be debated at Holyrood this morning, with Conservatives using their parliamentary time to pressure SNP ministers over their decision to turn down Lord Macphail's request to explain their policy in his court, during a legal battle between the Ombudsman and Argyll and Bute Council.

Speaking in advance of the debate on free personal care, David Manion, chief executive of Age Concern said yesterday: "What the judge made clear was that the words of politicians are not what counts in law.

"The law determined by parliament is what counts and until the legislation is amended, the confusion will continue."

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