Blind woman kept in hospital for 18 months - but could have been out ‘within a few weeks’

A blind woman with learning difficulties, cerebral palsy and diabetes was kept in hospital for 18 months though deemed fit to leave, according to the mental health watchdog.
The Mental Welfare Commission investigated the case. Picture: TSPLThe Mental Welfare Commission investigated the case. Picture: TSPL
The Mental Welfare Commission investigated the case. Picture: TSPL

The Mental Welfare Commission today published their findings into the case of the woman, known only as Ms ST, who remained in hospital due to a prolonged disagreement between her family, health professionals and the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) about discharge plans.

Ms ST who is registered blind, was in her late 50s when she was admitted in December 2015 following a neck fracture, and was judged fit to leave hospital in March 2016.

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She had lived in the family home all her life, cared for by her mother and brother, with additional social care support paid for by both the HSCP and the family since 2012.

The dispute arose primarily because the HSCP believed Ms ST should move to a care home, and the family wanted her to return home. The family bought a ground floor adapted flat in March 2016 specifically to make life easier once she did so.

Ms ST was finally discharged to her home in September 2017 and continues to live there successfully with her mother, with social care support, which is again funded by both the HSCP and the family, as well as direct care from her family.

The Commission said they had decided to investigate this case because it felt that Ms ST had experienced a very lengthy delay in an unsuitable environment, and this had impacted on her human rights.

The Commission found the principal underlying reason for Ms ST spending so long in hospital was the continuing disagreement between social work and the family on whether or not she could return home.

Had a genuinely open and collaborative planning process taken place, there might not have been a need for other steps that lengthened her stay in hospital, such as an application for guardianship, which was a long process with many delays. This investigation, like all such investigations by the Commission, is anonymised to protect the individuals involved.

Kate Fearnley, executive director at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “It is our view that discharge could have taken place within a few weeks, rather than after almost 18 months of delay. Health and Social Care Partnerships were designed to create closer partnerships between health, social care and hospital-based services. But in this case that was not working.”

Scottish Conservative Health Spokesperson, Miles Briggs, said: “No one should need to be kept in hospital once they are healthy again, but this case highlights the disconnect between health and social care in Scotland. SNP Ministers have failed to get to grips with delayed discharge in Scotland, despite repeated promises that the situation would improve.”