It has recently been reported in the press that ten members of staff at a hospital in Essex have been suspended followed reports that patients were “dragged, slapped and kicked”. The hospital, which is a mental health unit, was alleged to have subjected patients to both physical and emotional abuse. The incidents were investigated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who found that that the residents of the hospital were subjected to poor care as well as abuse. The police are now investigating the incidents of abuse. The allegations of abuse come after the CQC implemented special measures on the facility at the end of 2019 after it was found that there was inadequate leadership, oversight of safety and poor quality of service. The facility was clearly experiencing difficulties for some time, which raises the question as to why things were allowed to get so bad in this facility?
When a patient enters a care setting, such as a hospital or care home, there is a reasonable expectation that they will be treated with care, dignity and respect. Sadly this is not always the case, as this hospital has highlighted. The vast majority of care facilities, and care workers, work tirelessly to ensure the needs of their patients are met and they are well looked after. This makes it more shocking when you hear of cases where an elderly or vulnerable person has been mistreated or assaulted at the hands of those supposed to care for them.
In Scotland, the responsibility for investigating care facilities lies with the Care Inspectorate. Since 2010, they have investigated and upheld 939 complaints. The majority of the complaints will have related to health and welfare concerns, however, sadly, cases have also been reported where service users have been abused and sexually assaulted by care providers.
Unfortunately, the case in Essex is not an isolated incident. At Thompsons, we have dealt with countless cases on behalf of individuals and their families where loved ones have been mistreated in a care facility, whether that be as a result of an assault or mistreatment. In cases like this we look to pursue a claim against the care facility directly rather than the individual who has caused the injury or mistreatment. The care facility has a duty of care towards their service users and patients.
It is morally reprehensible that those in a caring sector would choose to harm those in their care however there is legal recourse for those harmed. Under Scots law, an employer can be held to be vicariously liable for the actions of their staff where assault has occurred during the course of their employment. They are also responsible where their employees have acted in a negligent manner. In order for the employer to be held liable, the incident requires to be “closely connected” with the employment. In the case of care home assaults on service users, where a care worker intentionally mistreats those in their care, the employer is responsible for this as the act has been deemed by the courts to be connected with the care which is being provided.
If you have concerns about a family member in care Talk to Thompsons on 0800 0891 331.
Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Associate Solicitor Dundee