Mental welfare investigation finds steps ‘not taken’ to help vulnerable person who died

An investigation has found steps to protect a vulnerable Scot who died while under the influence of another person were “not taken”.

The person, known anonymously as “AB”, had learning disabilities and physical ill health and died in hospital after being under the influence of another person for several years.

The investigation was led by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWC), who published a report into AB’s treatment.

There were “multi-agency” concerns about the impact of the individual’s influence on AB and the MWC found action could have been taken to ensure there were protections in place for them.

The report also concluded that access to needed treatments was impeded up to the time of their death.

AB’s identity was kept anonymous, as is the case with all MWC investigations.

The investigation heard that AB’s family, social work, health services and others had previously raised concerns surrounding their wellbeing.

This led to AB being subject to three adult support and protection investigations and two periods of detention in hospital under the Mental Health Act in the five years leading up to their death.

The MWC made six recommendations for change jointly to the NHS health board and local authority involved in the case as well as one recommendation to Scottish Government.

Suzanne McGuinness, executive director of social work for MWC, said: “This is a very distressing case, where a vulnerable person was isolated from their family by another individual over many years, to their personal detriment.

“It resulted in increased poor health and an early death. Despite opportunities, no effective intervention which would have changed AB’s circumstances was made.

“Our recommendations for change cover social work and health care, but they also address the issue of legal authority and power of attorney, recognising that someone who may lack capacity for decision making about their health or welfare needs may be under the undue influence of another person.”

She added: “It is vital that this report is shared, read and discussed in detail by social work, mental health and general health services across Scotland, and by legal services.

“We believe there are lessons to be learned across the country and we hope this in-depth report will help raise awareness of the importance of identifying where undue influence may exist and the legislative frameworks which can be used to avoid similar situations in future.”

The Scottish Government and NHS were unable to comment.

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