A carer claimed to have checked on the wellbeing of a recuperating resident and given him breakfast at his Hertfordshire home – even though he had died hours earlier.

According to First Choice Medical Solutions, a home care company, the carer failed to notice the man was dead during the visit, assumed he was asleep and did not check on his wellbeing.

And it was only later in the day, when a neighbour raised the alarm, that the man was discovered to have died sometime during the previous night.

The man’s daughter complained about the care – commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council – to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).

Her complaint was upheld, concluding that the man had died in advance of the visit and that the carer had falsified records and had not provided the care they said they had.

The complaint was one of 22 made to the ombudsman last year, during 2019/20 time period, in relation to adult care services provided by or commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council.

Of those 22 complaints the ombudsman found some fault in six cases – including two with no injustice caused – and is yet to determine 11.

The data was reported to a meeting of the county council’s adult care and health cabinet panel on Monday, November 2, although this particular report was not detailed or discussed.

According to the ombudsman’s report into this complaint – which was published in March 2020 – the carer had been involved in a minor accident on the morning of the incident.

Their employers First Choice Medical Solutions have since made changes to their work practices, including the cancellation of shifts of any carer who reports they have been involved in an accident.

They have also, according to the ombudsman’s report, retrained carers on how to deal with the discovery of a service user who has died and ensured care staff have counselling if this happens.

Meanwhile the county council has apologised to the man’s daughter for the incident, which occurred in July 2019.

Following its own safeguarding investigation the council has required First Choice Medical Solutions to tell staff that if they falsify records they can be dismissed and to deliver further training.

And it has committed to remind all the other carer providers about the seriousness of falsification of records and likelihood of disciplinary action.

Commenting on the specific complaint a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “We’re very sorry about this incident, which should never have happened, and we’ve apologised directly to the family of the person involved.

“While this was a one-off incident, and not the result of any wider problem, we do take it very seriously and have made significant changes to policies and procedures to ensure that it won’t happen again.

“The annual complaints report discussed at panel shows that, considering the number of people we support every day, we receive relatively few complaints.

“Most of these complaints are dealt with effectively at a local level, and we regularly review our policies and procedures to ensure that we learn lessons from where things have gone wrong.”

The council spokesperson also referred to the steps that had been taken by the council and the agency and to continued monitoring by the council.

“The council’s commissioning team has been carrying out monitoring visits to record evidence of the action taken, and the LGSCO confirmed that it is satisfied that the council have taken all the recommended actions,” said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile First Choice Medical Solutions, based at Waltham Cross, has also confirmed that the recommendations made by the ombudsman have been followed.

“Due to Data Protection regulations, we cannot comment any specifics regarding this case,” said a spokesperson for the company.

“However, we followed all the recommendations that were made by the ombudsman’s office and we continue to work closely with the local authority to keep our service users safe.”

In addition to the 22 complaints lodged with the LGSCO this year, the report to the cabinet panel acknowledged nine decision that had been made by the ombudsman relating to complaints from the previous year.

Of those nine decisions one was not investigated, one had ‘no fault’ and seven had some fault identified.