A blind woman with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities was stuck on a hospital ward for 18 months because social workers refused to let her go home to the care of her family, according to Scotland’s mental health watchdog.

The Mental Welfare Commission said the 59 year old’s rights had been breached and workers broke the law by refusing to listen to her views. As a result she was left in an unsuitable environment, separated from her mother, brother and the pet she loved, for a year and a half when the situation could have been resolved in just a few weeks.

After a fall in December 2015, in which she suffered a neck fracture, the unnamed woman was nursed back to health on an acute orthopaedic ward in hospital. She remained there until September 2017, despite doctors saying she was fit to return home in March 2016.

This did not happen, because the local health and social care partnership insisted she could not safely return to the home where devoted family members provided almost all of her care, with a package of social work support.

Instead, social workers became fixated on the need for her to move into a care home, against the woman’s and her family’s wishes. Risk assessments conducted by social work had indicated she would not be safe at home with her family, even though they had taken steps to ensure her safety, including moving to a ground floor flat.

The report says the “prolonged disagreement” between her family and the local health and social care partnership could have been avoided if genuine attempts had been made to find a solution with the family. Such an approach is a legal requirement under Self-Directed Support rules.

However the MWC says the system failed in this case, forcing the family to seek legal guardianship which contributed to the delay in returning Ms ST home. She finally was discharged in September 2017 and continues to live at home successfully with her mother.

Kate Fearnley, executive director (engagement and participation) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said Ms ST and her family had been caused unnecessary distress. The NHS had incurred significant costs, and other patients who might have benefited from the acute bed she occupied would have missed out.

She said health and social care partnerships were meant to create closer partnerships between health, social care and hospital-based services. “But there appeared to be no mechanism between these services to address and progress fundamental differences of professional opinion,” she added.

“The Health and Social Care Partnership also appear to have concluded that the family were impossible to work with. This attitude led to the Partnership becoming unwilling to take on board other perspectives, which we feel does not reflect the partnership approach that characterises good social care.”

Although Ms ST had a family who were willing and able to have their loved one living back at home, with support, the had to fight their cause over many months, she said.

She added: “We want all health and social care partnerships to read the report and ensure that this cannot happen in their area. They should always take the patient and family view into account, and ensure social work and health services are working effectively together.”

Ms ST’s brother, who gave up his job to look after her and currently provides her with around 53 hours of care a week, said: “My sister endured and survived 18 months on a hospital ward after health professionals said she was medically ready for discharge – time she should have spent at home with her family, particularly her mum with whom she has lived all her life. During this time in hospital the family covered the larger part of the cost of providing additional support by her existing carers.

“It was the clear wish of my sister and the family that she should return home with the appropriate care package in place. The local authority did not support this plan or at any time advise us of the options available under the Self-Directed Support Act.

“After a protracted court battle, which was traumatic for all of us, I was appointed legal guardian and my sister was released from hospital in September 2017. She has since settled back into life at home with her mum within her local community.”

However the HSCP involved is still not paying for care it agrees she needs, he said. “The care package is only viable on account of the fact that I personally provide more than 50 hours of support to my sister each week, and that the family additionally pays more than £32,000 annually towards the cost of daytime support. This is clearly not sustainable .”

“We hope that the publication of today’s report will prove to be a significant landmark in ensuring the resolution of the issues that have faced our family, and may be facing other families across the country.”