Justice against care home neglect for ageing population and their families

Woman with elderly mother

We live in an era with an ageing population, presenting a number of challenges for families with elderly or vulnerable relatives.

At a time when state budgets for adults with incapacity are stagnating, the demands on these budgets are increasing year on year.

There is no foreseeable solution to this problem with the over 75-age bracket predicted to be the fastest growing age group in Scotland over the next decade.

This relentless pressure, lack of funding and resources results in an increased risk of mistakes and negligent care, which can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Number of complaints against care homes

In 2018 alone, the Care Inspectorate recorded over 600 complaints. These were largely against privately owned Scottish Care Homes. 

The Care Inspectorate website provides an excellent resource for families trying to choose the right care home for their loved one. Not only does it help identify care homes near by, it provides inspection reports about the quality of care provided. Furthermore, National Care Standards have been created to try to promote a baseline standard of reasonable care amongst Care Homes. 

Thankfully, the majority of care homes do meet or exceed these standards. However, there are a minority that fail to provide a reasonable standard of care to residents.

The majority of complaints regarding elderly care facilities relate to the provision of healthcare and welfare, which results in injury to residents.

Other complaints are general and relate to the lack of resources, lack of knowledge and training as well as poor communication between Care Home staff and families. 

Legal action against care home neglect

Families are often anxious and emotional when contacting a solicitor to discuss the care of their relatives. It is essential that they are treated with compassion and given the correct advice.

In the first instance, families should be encouraged to make a formal complaint to the care provider and also to the Care Inspectorate.

The Care Inspectorate will assess the complaint and decide whether a formal investigation should be undertaken. These responses can often provide useful information and help build a legal case.

In cases where a complaint is being raised against the Health Board, families should be encouraged to lodge a formal complaint and attend any meetings with the Health Board to discuss the conclusions of any investigations that have been conducted.

Relatives should be advised not to mention that they are in discussion with a solicitor. If the Health Board become aware that there are solicitors in the background then they will sever contact with the family and refer them to the Central Legal Office, who are the solicitors who act on behalf of the Health Board.

Families can also make a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), if they are dissatisfied with the response that they have received from the Health Board.

Pursuing a negligent care case can be challenging. Many insurers acting on behalf of care homes will aggressively defend cases and make things as difficult as possible.

This is why choosing the right solicitor is vitally important, not only to ensure you get sound legal advice but also to help your chances that the case is successful.