A damning report has found no-one took responsibility for the care of a vulnerable senile Huddersfield pensioner who disappeared and then died.

The investigation looked into the tragedy of Bernard Hallas, 84,who went missing in his pyjamas, a sheepskin coat and a hat on December 18, 2012.

Despite extensive searches by the police, the Bradley resident, who was suffering with severe dementia, was lost for more than two months.

The search ended in heartbreak after his body was discovered in woodland in Newsome by two children walking a dog on February 24, 2013.

An inquest in July 2013 heard that it in all likelihood he died within 24 hours of his disappearance. Coroner Roger Whitaker recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Following the inquest Mr Hallas’ daughter Elaine Wisniewski claimed she and her sister, Andrea Gill, had been “let down and fobbed off by the care system”.

Family of Bernard Hallas - Daughter Elaine Wisniewski, Janet Hallas (daughter-in-law), Stephen Hallas (son), Andrea Gill (daughter), Jordan Wisniewski (grandaughter)
Family of Bernard Hallas - Daughter Elaine Wisniewski, Janet Hallas (daughter-in-law), Stephen Hallas (son), Andrea Gill (daughter), Jordan Wisniewski (grandaughter)
 

Now a serious case review has given a damning verdict of the actions of health and social care workers at Kirklees Council and mental health teams from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

The review by Kirklees Safeguarding Adults Board reveals Mr Hallas’ family described work by the community mental health team as “pointless”.

The report says despite dementia that caused him to regularly wander off and to not recognise his own reflection, psychiatric nursing, occupational health and social care teams had all closed cases on him, effectively passing the buck between one another for several years.

Just ten days before his disappearance he was found collapsed behind a McDonalds restaurant and admitted to HRI.

But he was deemed “medically fit” and discharged the next day. A hospital worker emailed Kirklees Council to suggest an urgent assessment.

No action was taken by social workers at the council.

The review also found just a month before Mr Hallas disappeared, care workers decided not to give him a GPS tracker watch that would have allowed him to be found in minutes.

The decision was made despite numerous occurrences of Mr Hallas wandering off from home.

The report’s author admits the service given to the Hallas family “bore little resemblance to the aspiration of Kirklees’ dementia strategy”.

Bernard Hallas
Bernard Hallas
 

It goes on: “There is no evidence that Kirklees Council professionals who were involved in Mr Hallas’ case understood the urgency of his dire circumstances”.

A lack of connectivity between different NHS IT systems has also been blamed.

The review also found serious shortcomings in skills of health and social care workers.

“Mr Hallas’ daughters learned the hard way that the majority of professionals they met did not have specialist knowledge about vascular dementia,” the report says.

“(His) daughters had valuable knowledge about their father...they believe their accounts of their father’s mental and physical health were set aside in favour of those of untrained staff or insufficiently experienced professionals.

“It is regrettable that professionals did not validate the growing expertise of his own family.”

Mr Hallas, who was also suffering with prostate cancer, had left his home a week before Christmas.

It is thought he may have been trying to make his way to Meltham, where one of his daughters lives, but he boarded a bus to Marsden by mistake.

Bernard Hallas
Bernard Hallas
 

He stayed on the bus when it reached Marsden and returned to Huddersfield Bus Station.

Staff tried to help him but he was last seen walking away down High Street in the direction of Wakefield Road.

There were numerous police appeals for help through the Examiner, other newspapers, TV and radio.

And his worried family set up a Facebook campaign with a page called Help Find Grandad, with information about Mr Hallas and the CCTV footage of when he was last seen.

He leaves two daughters, Andrea and Elaine, and two sons, John and Stephen.

Kirklees officials apologise for shortcomings in run up to Bernard Hallas death

Officials leading the review into Mr Hallas’ death have apologised and vowed to fix the broken system.

The serious case review was commissioned by Kirklees Safeguarding Adults Board and carried out independently.

Keith Smith, chair of Kirklees Safeguarding Adults Board, said all the agencies were committed to thoroughly investigating the circumstances and role of each organisation.

He said: “The review highlighted many areas that could be improved, and we sincerely apologise for the distress experienced by Mr Hallas and his family, who had done all they possibly could for their father.

“The overall standard of care and support provided, and the lack of co-ordination between services, was wholly unacceptable. The board agrees that the family’s concerns were not always listened to and acted upon appropriately. Since this came to light, the priority of each agency has been to take urgent action, address the areas of concern and improve the way services work with local families, especially where dementia is an issue.

“An action plan has been produced as a result of this Serious Case Review and the report recommendations. This includes offering people timely information and advice regardless of their eligibility for services and identifying one organisation to lead co-ordinated communications - so that all agencies and the family are kept fully updated on the details of each case.

Bernard Hallas
Bernard Hallas
 

“The action plan also includes raising staff awareness about ways that assistive technology can support people, for example GPS location tracking. In addition, a fundamental review of the district’s dementia strategy is being carried out, so that it better reflects the needs of local people.

“Our recent work has also included encouraging people to become a dementia friend. There are nearly 600,000 Dementia Friends in the UK and 1,200 of those are in Kirklees. We also support Kirklees Dementia Alliance, a social action group who receive funding from the council, to offer Dementia Friends training sessions to local organisations and the public, and Safe Places a scheme that helps vulnerable people to travel safely.

“It is the responsibility of each agency to act on the recommendations in this report. The Board is monitoring that process extremely closely, with the aim that all families will experience higher standards of care and understanding.

“The picture in Kirklees is reflected nationally – there are many vulnerable people and families who need the support of professional services. We all share a total commitment to improving the way we work in any way that is possible.”