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Death of Finsbury Park man sparks investigation into home care

Published: 26 August, 2016
by JOE COOPER

AN investigation is being carried out into the service which provides care at home for some of the most vulnerable people in the borough, the Tribune can reveal.

Details of the probe emerged this week during an inquest into the death of David Willis, who died of heart failure at his Finsbury Park home on January 31.

A carer has been suspended after failing to check on Mr Willis on the day he died. He was found dead in the bedroom of his home by his family.

Islington Council is now looking at an “overarching review” into the Home Care Complex Needs Service after the incident exposed wider failings in the department.

The actions of other long-standing members of staff were “causing concern”, according to an investigator.

The service cares for people with dementia, mental illness or disabilities, allowing them to live independently in their own homes.

The Tribune understands a report, currently in draft form, details serious failings in the service, including claims that other staff tried to cover up the carer’s actions. She was due to visit the home of Mr Willis, 43, on January 31 but left without seeing him after only checking in the living room and failing to read his care plan. Mr Willis, who was housebound and had learning difficulties, had a history of drug and alcohol problems.

At a St Pancras inquest on Wednesday, assistant coroner Richard Brittain said that, from the post-mortem report, he believed Mr Willis was already dead when the carer arrived.

But Mr Willis’s family, four of whom were at the inquest, questioned that account. One spoke to him in the early hours of that morning.

One family member said: “If she rang an ambulance might he have been alive?” Another said the carer should “never work again”.

The carer told the inquest: “When I accessed the property I said: ‘Good morning.’ No one responded. I called the office saying I did not see Mr Willis.” She said that she was told to sign out and leave.

When asked why she did not read the care record or fully search the property, she replied: “There is no reason. I am just reading the instructions given to me.”

The council’s supported living service manager Margaret Blake-Williams said of the carer: “She did fail in her duties because she did not search the flat. The council expects people to follow the procedure.”

Ms Blake-Williams said the council was looking into carrying out an “overarching review” of the service.

“Ways of working of long-standing staff have become an issue,” she said. “What people say and what people are doing is causing concern.” 

She added that various systems within the department were “not working in conjunction with each other”.

In a further error, Mr Willis’s family were told he was “at church” when they called the department to ask where he was, despite him lying dead in his room.

Ms Blake-Williams said council procedures were updated after the incident.

Dr Brittain concluded that Mr Willis died of natural causes contributed to by the recent use of multiple drugs, both illicit and prescription.

An Islington Council spokesman said: “We take the death of any service user extremely seriously and are investigating the quality of care which Mr Willis received. 

“We are grateful to Mr Willis’s family for their continuing cooperation with this investigation. A council employee has been suspended, as a precautionary measure, while this investigation is ongoing.”

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