Gloria Foster's death ‘a serious mistake’, says report
Published on 17 September 2013 12:00 PM
A woman who died after being left without care for nine days was the victim of 'a serious mistake', a report by Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board said.
Gloria Foster, 81, was found in a poor physical state after Surrey County Council and the agency Carefirst24 failed to provide her with the four daily visits that she needed.
Surrey County Council became responsible for Mrs Foster's care after a number of agency workers who helped to care for her were arrested in a raid by the UK Border Agency in January.
Council knew premises were to be raided
The report into the failings suggested that the council knew that Carefirst24's premises were to be raided on 15 January and that the company would not be able to continue providing care afterwards.
A Surrey Council Council log made on 25 January said that there had been no reply to a phone call made to Mrs Foster on 16 January; however, the council's telephone systems did not contain a record of such a call being made.
The report said that the manager responsible for contacting Mrs Foster thought (or assumed) that she had been contacted and a member of staff had spoken to her.
The report added: 'A serious mistake seems an inadequate description of what happened. But leaving aside all the "what ifs", that is exactly what happened.
‘Certainly a number of professional omissions were made by a social worker at the Reigate and Banstead office, ones which seem rooted in false assumptions and left unquestioned at supervisory level.'
Mrs Foster was rushed to hospital on 24 January after a district nurse found her in a collapsed state. She died a little under two weeks later on 4 February.
A police investigation failed to find that the standard of care met the criminal threshold for wilful neglect or ill treatment.
Two council staff are however facing internal disciplinary procedures for their role in the incident.
‘This cannot be allowed to happen again'
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, said:
'This is such a tragic story and one that just cannot be allowed to happen again. The care of the most vulnerable in our society is one of the most important issues facing the country.
‘Mrs Foster was well known to Surrey County Council - since 2007 when the council assessed her needs and agreed that she was eligible for care.
'It is therefore all the more astonishing that she slipped through the net and was left without help.
The law is clear - if a local authority assesses someone as eligible for care then regardless of whether that person is funding her own care or not the local authority has a duty to ensure that they receive that care.
‘Older people who struggle daily with chronic ill health, frailty and disability should at the very least have the peace of mind that they will be well cared for in times of need.
‘This is too important to be cast aside or simply labelled as "too costly or difficult" and corners cannot continue to be cut.
‘The heartbreaking and shocking stories we hear of older people let down by the care system must stop. This cannot continue.'
Copyright Press Association 2013