Bexley Council has been ordered to apologise to a family after their late father received “service failure” from a care provider commissioned by the council.

Following the ruling by the Local Government Ombudsman, Joanna Dart and her brother Andrew Lilley have decided to speak out about the frustration they’ve suffered over the last 12 months, now feeling they have finally got justice for their late father, Alf Lilley.

In June 2016, following a fall, Alf was diagnosed with two bleeds to the brain, which resulted in him suffering memory loss and being unable to walk without the support of a frame.

Bexley Council arranged a care package, provided by Bluebird Care Bexley, following Alf’s discharge from hospital in July last year.

Alf was under the care of Bluebird for a period of 10 days, being visited by Bluebird carers four times a day.

While under the care of Bluebird, Alf was readmitted to hospital by emergency ambulance in August, with severe sepsis.

Alf’s condition deteriorated and he died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, in May this year.

Mrs Dart and Mr Lilley initially raised their concerns with Bexley Council about the quality of care provided by Bluebird in July 2016, and they say these concerns were also raised directly with Bluebird.

A number of alleged incidents were recorded by Mrs Dart including unannounced visits by Bluebird staff, missed administration of medication and carers failing to put Alf’s emergency alarm call bell around his neck, leaving him unable to raise the alarm if he was to fall.

After nearly a year of experiencing “limited progress”, Mrs Dart and her brother took what Andrew said was their “last resort option” by referring their complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Andrew, of Cranbrook Road, said: “Older people often don’t know how to complain about these things, our parents were lucky we lived locally, and were able to visit regularly to identify these problems.

“Our elderly and vulnerable parents were not in a position to raise these concerns with the council or the care agency themselves."

He added: “The ombudsman’s findings show that all along we were right to complain, we would also like to thank our late father’s MP, James Brokenshire, for the continued support he has given us in addressing these matters with Bexley Council and Bluebird Care.”

Alf, who died days before his 85th birthday, was an engineer who had lived in Bexley for most of his life.

Following their retirement Alf and his wife Pam were actively involved as volunteer fundraisers for the Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice for over 25 years.

Pam also suffers with Alzheimers, meaning that she too needs additional support and care.

A total of nine complaints were made by Alf’s family to the ombudsman, several of which were upheld.

The family complained that Bluebird Care did not tell them when a risk assessment was being completed, failed to properly administer medication, provide consistent carers at prescribed times, shave Alf, ensure Alf had access to his pendant alarm, carry out domestic tasks, provide meals and snacks, take into account the needs of Alf’s wife Pam, and respond to the family’s complaints properly.

The Local Government Ombudsman ruled that Bluebird were at fault for not explaining to the family the changes in visit times, causing anxiety and frustration, as well as failing to properly record domestic tasks undertaken, creating uncertainty for the family over what activities had been undertaken, resulting in a potential breach of regulation.

The ombudsman did not find fault in the care provider failing to shave Alf, due to a lack of supporting evidence, and did not make a final judgement on whether Pam’s needs were adequately taken into account.

In the final decision, the ombudsman said: “The council commissioned care provider did not carry out all the tasks within the care plan. This is service failure.

"The council should review the care provider’s procedures and staff training to prevent re-occurrence of the failings identified.

“I uphold the complaints that the council commissioned care provider did not fulfil the requirements of the care plan. There is uncertainty about the effects of the faults identified but would be unable to say that there is a causal link between the faults identified and Mr X (Alf Lilley’s) hospital admission.”

Andrew said: “Having seven out of the nine complaints upheld in our favour proves that we were right to complain.

“The ombudsman was our last resort and unfortunately our father passed away before the ombudsman’s outcome was finalised.”

The ombudsman ordered Bexley Council to apologise and pay £100 to Mrs Dart for her time and trouble in dealing with the complaint and the uncertainty caused.

A spokesman for Bexley Council said it had apologised to Joanna and Andrew.

The spokesman said: “We have accepted the ombudsman’s findings and have apologised to the family for the service their late father received from the council via one of our commissioned home care providers, Bluebird Care.

“Bluebird Care are a provider that we have used for many years with great success and complaints against them are rare.

“We have since taken steps with Bluebird to ensure that the correct procedures and staff training is in place to prevent re-occurrence of the points the identified by the ombudsman.”

Bluebird Care is rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission.

A spokesman for Bluebird said: "Bluebird Care Bexley aims to deliver excellence in care and any complaints are investigated as matters of the highest priority. 

"Bluebird Care Bexley is regulated by the Care Quality Commission and were subject to an inspection on August 22-24 2016 and were aware of the complaint submitted by the family of Alf Lilley.

"The CQC inspector had no concerns regarding Bluebird Care Bexley’s complaints procedure and confirmed that complaints records seen demonstrated that when concerns were raised they were investigated, responded to appropriately and where necessary, meetings coordinated with the complainant and their relatives."