Authorities tried to help couple found dead

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The Independent Online

An independent review into the care of an elderly couple found dead in their home found today that authorities had tried to help but they had "consistently refused support".

The bodies of Jean and Derek Randall were found at their home in Northampton in January.

At the time a concerned neighbour said she had tried to get the couple, in their 70s, help from various authorities, to no avail.

But a Serious Case Review launched by the Northamptonshire Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults Board found they had not been neglected by authorities.

The independent review involved local GPs, Age Concern, Northamptonshire County Council, and Northamptonshire NHS.

Serious Case Reviews are usually launched when a vulnerable adult dies and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor.

No inquest will be held into the Randalls' deaths as they died of natural causes, but the Safeguarding Adults Board said a Serious Case Review was launched amid concerns more should have been done to help the elderly couple.

A summary of its findings said efforts had been made to help the Randalls, which they had not taken up.

But bosses said important issues had been raised and an action plan put in place to learn for the future.

The report said the couple - referred to as Mr and Mrs R - lived together in their own home and Mrs Randall had only partially recovered from a broken hip in 2007.

In December 2009, Mr Randall told his GP his wife's condition was deteriorating and the couple were contacted by the district nurse, and referred to social services, the report said.

"The couple chose not to accept the offers of services made but did agree to advice being provided by Age Concern about the possibility of residential care," it said.

"Information was given by telephone and post and was not followed up by Mr and Mrs R."

The report found a neighbour also tried to get the couple help from the social care service and Age Concern, while their local MP also wrote to the director of Adult Social Care Services.

"This resulted in a manager attempting to contact Mr and Mrs R by telephone on January 7," the report found.

But it said by that time the couple had been found dead in their home in Birch Barn Way, Northampton.

"Mr and Mrs R died from natural causes and no evidence was found of abuse or neglect," the report said.

"At least until the final days of their lives, Mr R was able to successfully care for his wife and the couple rarely sought assistance and consistently refused support following Mrs R's discharge from hospital in 2008.

"Both were judged fully capable of making decisions regarding their care needs on different occasions by different professional staff."

Mr Randall's niece Susan Spring, 52, previously said the couple became reclusive when their disabled son David was born. He died in the late 1970s when he was about 18, she said.

Today Northamptonshire County Council's corporate director of health and adult social services, Charlie MacNally, said: "We welcomed the serious case review as we were keen to investigate fully the surrounding circumstances of this distressing case and ensure any opportunities for improvement were identified.

"The coroner's findings had already made clear that the couple had both died from natural causes and that this was not a case of abuse or neglect."

But he said the review raised important issues and an action plan for its recommendations had already been put in place.

"It can be difficult to accept that adults who have sound mental capacity are entitled to refuse professional help or services, as was the case here," he added.

"But nevertheless, it is vital that as an organisation we are ready and able to support those adults who do ask for support and have taken on board fully those recommendations that will help us to do this better.

"This includes making sure that information is effectively shared, both across council services and between partner organisations, to allow health and social services professionals to be able to respond in the correct way."