This is something of an ‘old’ story, so to speak, but last week, The Daily Mail commented on the tragic story of Mr and Mrs Randall – an couple aged 81 and 79 respectively – who were found dead in their home in Northamptonshire even though a concerned neighbour had alerted ‘social services’ on 1 December. The implication in the Mail article is that these calls for help were ignored and in the words of the Mail ‘nothing was done’.
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I’m not saying that things didn’t go wrong – the truth is that an inquiry is to be carried out where more will be learnt about the chronology of events however the local Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph which has a leaked report explaining the cause of death of the Randalls.
As the article says
Jean Randall died in her bed as a result of cancer while her husband Derrick suffered a fatal heart attack.
A police report has shown wheelchair-bound Mrs Randall and her husband, who was her sole carer, passed away within such a small time of each other that it was impossible to say which of them died first.
The difficulty is that if a reclusive couple have mental capacity to refuse interventions, there is little that can be done – however cruel it can seem from the outside. I don’t know the circumstances of this particular case, apart from what has been reported though. Lots of things can affect capacity – one of the things that could be addressed, but likely won’t be, is the way that charging policies have also affected peoples’ wishes to accept services which can sometimes be seen as crucial – sometimes people refuse services that they think they will have to pay for, sometimes people just don’t want strangers coming in and giving care, sometimes it is a matter of negotiating a package of care and sometimes it is incompetent or rushed workers who don’t prioritise effectively. There are many reasons that things might not run as smoothly as they should and while many hold up their hands and look at who ‘should’ act, it is not always as obvious as it seems.
The article goes on to say that a preliminary report
‘.. gives a much clearer picture of the level of contact between health and social care agencies in the couple’s last days together, including visits from a phlebotomist, their GP, a social worker and numerous phone calls with organisations.’
Indeed, a local MP, Brian Binley, (not the same MP as the one quoted in the Mail – for the record’) ‘said that contrary to some media reports, the coroner had documented regular contact with Northamptonshire County Council social services, Age Concern and healthcare professionals on more than six occasions in a 17-day period leading up to Mr Randall’s last contact with outside help on Christmas Eve’
Although it is clear that things did not work as they should have, it is nigh on impossible to force care on people who do not want it and the fact that they lived together would have lowered the perceived risk levels. This isn’t to say that these kinds of stories should not happen – and hopefully an inquiry will provide lessons for us all – but it seems that the reality is not entirely as presented by the Daily Mail.
There’s a surprise.