ASK THE EXPERT: How to challenge a false neglect allegation

Philip Williams

Legal consultant Philip Williams of leading serious fraud, crime and regulatory law firm Blackfords LLP offers advice on how to challenge a false neglect or wrongful death allegation

Figures from the CQC released last year show that of 4,042 residential nursing homes inspected, 1,496 – or 37% – were considered unsafe.

These statistics will be troubling for the majority of nursing and residential homes across the country that endeavour to protect and safeguard against the neglect of those in their care.

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But what can be done if a facility feels it is wrongfully accused of neglect? And, if this turns into an allegation of wrongful death of a resident, what steps can they take next?

In order for an allegation of neglect to be made, certain criteria must have been demonstrated.

For example, care home negligence can be demonstrated through factors including emotional and social neglect, medical negligence, basic needs negligence, or personal hygiene neglect.

Issues within these categories could include malnutrition, lack of clean bedding, ineffective lifting aids, and failure to provide medication.

Nursing or residential homes which have stringent checks in place to ensure the effective care of their residents, will be able to present these in their defence should a legal case arise.

It is vital to remember that in any of these instances, the complainant must have substantial evidence that the facility or staff member was abusive and caused significant harm or suffering to the patient.

Should a legal allegation arise at a facility, managers can prove that their staff underwent the necessary DBS checks before interacting with patients.

Furthermore, practitioners can introduce a raft of measures such as introducing staff checks, care plans, and charts to demonstrate how frequently and in what capacity a staff member was caring for a patient. This proof could help to counteract any false accusations brought against an individual employee if an investigation progresses. It can also serve to highlight the patient’s satisfaction with the level of their care.

In addition, what steps do nursing and residential homes need to take in cases where a patient passes away following a neglect allegation? Could they face a wrongful death lawsuit?

As in the case of negligence, the strength of evidence is vital. And it falls to the complainant and their solicitor to produce this once again.

In order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a facility, a solicitor must prove the home’s conduct directly contributed to the death. For example, if the patient fell and suffered a serious injury but was consequently left without aid for a number of hours and then died.

They must also prove neglect and also liability, as in the case of a serious fall, inadequate or faulty lifting aids were provided which contributed to the fall.

It must also be noted that the injury or abuse must be judged as severe or timely enough to have resulted in the eventual death.

In relation to the example of a fall, the death must be linked with symptoms arising from this, or occur soon after. An unrelated matter which arises some months later would not necessarily leave you liable.

Effective protocol and filing systems are essential in order to challenge any potentially false claims. A well maintained patient care plan, or daily chart system could be the difference between a wrongful death conviction or not.

In any of these instances the accused should seek legal advice from the complaint’s inception.

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