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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Ministers must investigate 'serious' West Sussex failings over care of two injured disabled

THE Government must investigate the ‘multi-agency failure’ of West Sussex’s care community – a senior Labour cabinet member said today [Mon 30 April]. Barbara Keeley, MP, Labour’s shadow on social care, demanded action over the failings highlighted in a damning report into the case of two men with learning difficulties who suffered serious injuries at a Sussex Healthcare home in Horsham.

Barbara Keeley MP

Published earlier this month, the highly-critical report revealed a catalogue of failings by West Sussex County Council and other agencies in their care for Matthew Bates and Gary Lewis, who both suffered broken femurs at the same Sussex Healthcare home at the same time in 2015.

Ms Keeley MP told OlderLivingMatters: ‘This report is a damning account of serious multi-agency failure in the cases of Gary Lewis and Matthew Bates, for which no-one has been held accountable nearly three years later.

‘There remain serious questions about the inadequacy of the investigation into how these serious injuries were sustained and whether these were criminal acts, including why Sussex Police weren’t informed at an earlier stage, why they did not lead the investigation and what action was taken to safeguard other residents still in the care home, given the nature of Gary and Matthew’s injuries.

‘Government Ministers need to undertake an urgent investigation into the conduct of all the agencies involved in this case so that Gary, Matthew and their families receive justice.’

Last year, two years after the men's injuries, Sussex Police launched an investigation into 12 deaths at homes belonging to the Sussex Healthcare group. And WSCC banned placements at certain homes. But the men’s case is not part of the inquiry - although, as the report revealed, it calls into question mismanagement and poor procedures at SHC'.

Earlier this year, Gary’s brother Martyn Lewis had a meeting with Ms Keeley and he and Matthew’s father, Mark Bates, today backed the politician’s call for the Government to step in over the agencies’ mishandling of the cases. They said: ‘We welcome Ms Keeley’s comments and hope that her support in pressing Ministers to take action will produce answers and results.’

It was a hospital consultant’s concern over the ‘coincidence’ of the men’s injuries which led to the case being taken seriously. But, even then, there was a failure to pursue the matter actively by the authorities responsible – as was detailed in the report. It took years of campaigning by the families to force WSCC to disclose the full extent of its mismanagement of the case.

In their dogged pursuit for justice, the families have been branded ‘vexatious’ and ‘obsessive’. But they were fully vindicated in the report, which shone a horrifying spotlight on the agencies’ blunders and chaotic methods. There is still no explanation, however, as to what happened to the two men. And it is feared the authorities in West Sussex, which frustrated the families at every stage, will try to sweep the matter under the carpet – unless Ms Keeley’s demand for Government action is taken up by ministers.

Cllr Amanda Jupp

The response from Amanda Jupp, WSCC Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, did not reassure campaigners. She accepted the report’s recommendations, but the county councillor placed responsibility firmly with Sussex Healthcare.

She said: ‘It is difficult to comprehend the pain and upset caused to the two vulnerable individuals involved and their families and loved ones in this case. It is clear from the report that the care provided by Sussex Healthcare was not good enough. WSCC take on board the recommendations for the council that that arise from the independent report and will continue to improve our safeguarding services. We will work closely with the Independent Safeguarding Adults Board to oversee the safety and care of residents in all West Sussex-based care homes.’

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