Case of Vulnerable Adult, who died when ‘abandoned’ by his Community Care Team, settles for undisclosed sum

We represented the family of a 36 year old man from Gillingham who died in April 2014 due to failings on the part of his local Community Health Team.

The deceased was a vulnerable adult with multiple social, mental and physical health problems and needs.

His physical ailments included chronic bilateral leg infections so severe as to require multiple hospital admissions including twice in September 2013. He was treated for his cellulitis by the local community Trust, through visits to a leg ulcer clinic and home visits by district nurses when his infected legs had to be carefully dressed. He also took antibiotics as prescribed by his GP.

The deceased lived alone and struggled with social interaction and maintaining personal and environmental hygiene. He found it difficult, at times, to engage with his health care and other service providers.

On 06.11.13 he was visited at home by his GP who found both legs in a very poor condition with dressings not having been professionally attended to for a considerable period. The GP wrote an urgent fax to the Community Health Trust and two nurses visited the next day when it was discovered that the deceased had been applying compression bandaging himself which had not been done correctly resulting in tornequeting around his legs. The legs were re-dressed and the deceased was given clinic appointments.

When he subsequently failed to attend these no further contact was made with him by the community team.

At an inquest into the deceased’s death held in June 2015, no explanation could be given by witnesses who appeared on behalf of the Trust as to why no further appointments were made and nothing further was done to try and make contact with the deceased.

Further, on 22.02.14, the deceased was suddenly removed from the Community Trusts’ case load.  At the inquest no one could explain what had prompted this.

At the end of March 2014, the deceased was admitted to Medway Maritime Hospital, by ambulance, via the out of hours service, with severely infected legs. Despite the legs being treated, in hospital, with dressings and washes and the deceased being treated with antibiotics and other medication he died on Monday 01.04.14 of sepsis secondary to cellulitis of his legs.

We represented the family at the inquest and subsequently sent a detailed Letter of Claim, under the Pre Action Protocol in July 2016, claiming that the deceased’s death was caused by neglect, which was negligent, and a breach of the Human Rights Act in that the death was caused by systems failings.

This case has now been settled for an undisclosed sum despite the Community Trust’s lawyers representing, repeatedly, that the matter would be fully contested through to Trial.

Nick Fairweather, who had conduct of this matter, commented as follows:-

This was a tragic case with a wholly unnecessary death arising due, seemingly, to institutional indifference and/or incompetence on the part of the Trust. It is very important that vulnerable people are recognised and receive appropriate treatment including outreach endeavours where appropriate. I can only hope that the Trust has genuinely learned from its mistakes in this case given the consequences.”

The deceased’s father, for whom we acted, thanked everyone at Fairweathers for getting answers to the questions surrounding the death of his son, further commenting:-

…it is good to know that from this case lessons have been learned and procedures are now in place to help persons in a similar situation.”