LEGAL changes mean families of vulnerable dementia patients who die in care are likely to face added heartbreak and delays waiting for inquests and death certificates, it has emerged.
Peter Raistrick, of Eccleshill, Bradford, believes his wife Audrey, who was 87 when she died in Bradford's Marie Curie Hospice on July 15, was the first in the city to be affected by new changes that have made inquests for people like her a legal requirement - even when death is from natural causes.
He said because his wife was legally detained in the hospice under a safeguarding order, he had to wait ten days after she died for an inquest to go ahead and confirm what "everyone knew" that she had died a natural death from severe dementia and end stage renal failure. The family had to wait even longer for the death certificate.
A Supreme Court judgement in March broadened the scope of what kind of care situations should now be interpreted as depriving people of their liberty and needing safeguarding orders.
It meant Mrs Raistrick, a campaigner for older people's rights, was made the subject of a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding (DOLS) Order, when social services and doctors agreed she did not have the mental capacity to make her own decisions about being moved into the hospice away from home.
But Mr Raistrick said the DOLS order achieved no more than piling "unnecessary red tape" on him and he wants other families to be warned.
"I'm not an unintelligible man but I was confused by it. A social worker just read this thing out. We didn't know what consequences it would bring. We were shocked when there had to be an inquest, that we'd have to wait days for it and then wait even longer to get a death certificate. In the end the inquest only confirmed what everyone already knew that she had died from natural causes. "
"It's not as if we had any objections to Audrey going to the hospice to be cared for, we were supportive of it. All this order achieved was to pile unnecessary red tape on us. Audrey would have had plenty to say about this - she was the guinea pig, the first in Bradford."
Mr Raistrick's concerns will now be raised with national networks, after the Telegraph & Argus brought it to the attention of Bradford Council, which has responsibility for issuing DOLS orders.
Its Strategic Director for Adult Services, Janice Simpson said: “We sympathise with Mr Rastrick’s position and understand the distress this has caused him and offer our condolences to him and his family.
“We will use Mr Raistrick’s experience to feed back the unintended consequences in changes to interpretation of guidance.”
Those consequences are already being considered by the UK's Chief Coroner. Meanwhile, the Alzheimer's Society is calling for a review of the DOLS system.
Alzheimer’s Society Senior Policy Officer, Martina Kane said: "The Alzheimer’s Society does sadly come across cases like this which illustrate that parts of the current DOLS process don’t work."
A recent House of Lords review has also called the DOLS provision "excessively bureaucratic" for being overly complex and wants to see it more straight forward to use.