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High Court ruling warns local authorities over timely care to vulnerable individuals

Court criticises 'deeply frustrating and disorganised thinking, planning and management' within a local authority responsible for brain-injured Colombian woman

Posted on 05 September 2018

A 54-year-old Colombian woman, who suffered a brain injury in 2014 whilst living in London, has been returned home to Colombia after a three-year legal battle for an appropriate plan to be devised by the NHS and her local authority to allow her to return to her family.

Anna Moore from the human rights team at Leigh day acted on behalf of the woman, known only as P to protect her identity.

Ms Moore said the final ruling in the case from the High Court, which was handed down on 31 August 2018, provides a stark warning to public authorities that when dealing with vulnerable individuals in their care they must make decisions in a timely manner and ensure that they set aside sufficient resources to comply with statutory duties.

In conclusion to his ruling Mr Justice Newton said:

"I set out a summary of these unhappy proceedings, not just because they should not have been necessary, but to highlight the very deeply frustrating and disorganised thinking, planning and management within the authority. As a result a vulnerable adult has been kept unnecessarily miserable against her will, confined in an environment for much longer than was necessary. In my best estimate, for 3 years."

Following the brain injury, which she suffered following a cardiac arrest, P required 24-hour care. She also expressed a wish to return to her home country of Colombia and her family were desperate for her return.

However, for three years P was kept in hospital against her express wishes and at a cost to the UK taxpayer of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The plan for her discharge was delayed because insufficient staff and funds were allocated to ensure that there was a plan that could be properly executed to return her safely to Columbia.

Eventually a plan was approved in principle, however, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Local Authority responsible for her care failed to confirm minor details such as the insurance required for P to travel and whether customs duties would be paid on the wheelchair that she required, which meant there was further delay in securing her repatriation.

It took the involvement of the Official Solicitor, whose job it is to make decisions for people who do not have the mental capacity to represent themselves, in the Court of Protection to push the CCG and the Local Authority responsible for her care to come up with an appropriate plan to authorise P to return home.

She is now back in Colombia being cared for close to her family and as Mr Justice Newton said in his judgment handed down on 31 August 2018 there is ‘finally, a happy ending to a tragic story’.

Anna Moore an Assistant Solicitor at Leigh Day said: “This judgment sends a clear message that public authorities need to provide sufficient resources and impetus to enable compliance with their statutory duties and with orders of the court. “It is not good enough to leave people in dire circumstances because a situation is unusual or complex. Time and resources must be allocated accordingly.”