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Coercive Control

Many people contact the Court of Protection team at Lanyon Bowdler at a time when they are most vulnerable. We often receive calls from upset and distressed sons and daughters who are calling regarding their mother or father who lack capacity and are facing difficult decisions regarding where their family members are going to live and who will take care of them. Sometimes we receive calls and are told that an incapacitated person (“P”) is currently living with a family member and the caller fears they are being taken advantage of.

What can you do in situations where someone may be subject to coercive control?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) aims to ensure that people who have an impairment of the mind or brain are supported to make their own decisions wherever possible. The MCA only applies where a person lacks capacity as defined in the MCA – i.e. ‘if at the material time he is unable to make a decision for himself in relation to the matter because of an impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain’. This means that capacity is decision and issue specific: someone may have capacity to create a Will but lack capacity regarding their property and finances. An impairment could be the result of a brain injury, dementia or other injuries or conditions.

It is important to firstly ascertain if the person lacks capacity with regard to the specific issue. This is determined by a capacity assessment which is completed by a GP or other health practitioner. However, it is noted in the MCA that an unwise decision is not an incapacious decision, so first it must be asked whether there has been coercion or simply has an unwise decision been made by someone with capacity.

The recent case of Re BU [2021] EWCOP 54 dealt with this question. The case concerned BU, a 70 year-old woman with a diagnosis of a global cognitive impairment. BU had an investment portfolio estimated to be worth £1.3 million. She had formed a relationship with NC; a man nearly 20 years her junior who had a history of criminal convictions including offences relating to fraud and theft and notably a nine year custodial sentence for an offence of dishonesty and blackmail. BU had a close relationship with her daughters and elderly father. Her marriage to her daughters’ father broke down when they were young and she had not formed any meaningful relationships with a man until she met NC. The relationship BU had with NC had a significant impact on the deterioration of the close relationships with her family and concerns were raised by the family headed by her daughter WU. The concerns were raised following expensive purchases such as vehicles, a caravan and various property, liquidation of investments and the creation of a new Will seemingly driven by NC’s coercive behaviour. BU’s family sought; a declaration from the Court of Protection that BU lacked capacity to make decisions about her contact with others, including NC, an Order preventing NC from having further contact with BU and an Order preventing BU and NC entering into a Civil Partnership or Marriage. Mrs Justice Roberts in the case stated:

“There is no evidence at all to suggest that she presently wishes to reduce or eliminate her contact with him (indeed, the evidence points to the contrary). I consider nevertheless that she lacks capacity generally in relation to her contact with NC. The expert evidence, which I accept, is clear. Because of the corrosive and coercive nature of the control which I find NC to have exercised over her, BU has been deprived of autonomous decision-making in this context”…

“Put simply, she no longer has the ability to exercise her individual free will in the context of any ongoing relationship with NC. The degenerative vascular changes in her brain have resulted in a global cognitive impairment which has impacted upon her ability to weigh and use information to the extent that a person with full capacity could”.

Mrs Justice Roberts concluded that she would be making a final order prohibiting any contact between BU and NC. The current injunction prohibiting contact which had been breached numerous times by NC would be replaced with a final order which would include a penal notice meaning that if NC breached the terms of the Order he could be found in contempt of court and face a period of imprisonment. Although Mrs Justice Roberts stated it would be a final order she advised she would be open for the order to be reviewed should circumstances change.

Given Mrs Justice Roberts’ conclusions about BU’s capacity it fell to her to make determinations about BU’s best interests. In all decisions before the Court regarding P, the Court will only intervene if necessary and any intervention must be reasonable and proportionate and in P’s best interests. In a case of coercive control it will be asked whether it is in P’s best interests to limit contact or whether they should be removed from a living situation in which they are subjected to the influences of the person exhibiting coercive control. If P is subject to coercive and controlling behaviour an injunction can be sought to limit or cease contact between the two parties.

If you have concerns that someone you know may lack capacity and is being subjected to coercive or controlling behaviour and would like more information please contact a member of our Court of Protection team.

Q&A: Focus on Warranty and Indemnity Insurance for SMEs

Warranty and Indemnity Insurance, commonly referred to as W&I insurance, is often used in private mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to cover financial loss, that may arise from a breach of the seller’s warranties in a sale purchase agreement. Historically, W&I Insurance was a niche market and targeted at private equity investors. However, recent market trends are seeing it used in a range of company sales, including SMEs, to ease lengthy and costly negotiations, and give both the buyer and seller a positive outcome.

What are the benefits of W&I Insurance? Negotiation of warranties, disclosure and seller limitations can be a costly and sometimes insurmountable process. The key benefits of W&I Insurance for the seller include the possibility to cap its liability at nil, or at least a lower amount than would otherwise have been possible, enabling a cleaner exit. It is also considered a favourable alternative to price reductions, specific indemnities with escrow arrangements or parent guarantees. For the buyer, it can claim directly against the insurer and can potentially negotiate an enhanced scope and duration of protection. It is also a helpful alternative to a confrontational negotiation of warranties if the parties need to maintain a commercial relationship in the future.

What are the disadvantages of W&I Insurance? The insurance cover offered tends to exclude the following: known or disclosed facts, losses arising from fraud and certain specific liabilities such as money laundering and environmental. There is also the timing issue of involving the insurer early on in the transaction followed by the co-ordination of an additional third party in the due diligence process and review of the sale purchase agreement. Finally, the cost of the insurance premium will need to be paid. Currently, the premium seems to be around 1 to 2% of the maximum liability covered by the insurance policy.

Who tends to arrange W&I Insurance cover? W&I insurance is predominantly used on share deals and arranged by the buyer However, this does not mean that the buyers always pick up the price of the premium, which is a point of negotiation for parties to the transaction.

How common is W&I Insurance? The use of W&I Insurance has grown considerably for the last five years, particularly in M&A deals involving SMEs and those not involving any private equity party. The growing consensus of city firms is that the use of W&I Insurance is around 20% in private M&A deals and 40% in private equity deals.

So what could be fuelling this increased activity? A key reason has to be cost of the W&I Insurance cover. The number of insurers offering W&I insurance has increased, driving competition between insurers and therefore making the policies more affordable and efficient, with the scope of policies offering more comprehensive and wider cover.

What is the future of W&I Insurance in M&A deals? It seems clear that W&I insurance is behind some fundamental developments in deal structure. Its increased use will inevitably reduce the use of escrows and create more nil seller recourse structures. However, as more policies are created, there is a following trend of increased W&I claims which may in turn raise the premium rates of W&I Insurance reducing its appeal.

If you would be interested in discussing the benefits of W&I Insurance for your company sale then please feel free to contact the Commercial & Corporate department at Lanyon Bowdler.

Protecting Financial Assistance to Family Members Upon Divorce

Very often we encounter situations in which family members wish to help a couple purchase a property together, usually with a contribution towards the deposit. In today’s property market that can be a very welcome boost for getting onto the property ladder and parents or grandparents can gain a lot of pleasure from seeing their younger relative and his/her spouse settled with fewer financial concerns.

However, this enjoyment can quickly turn sour if the child’s marriage breaks down. On many occasions we are faced with a situation where a client says their parent provided money to purchase the marital home and we have to deliver the bad news that, unless something was done at the time to protect that sum of money for the parent, it may well be regarded as having been a gift. As such, it will be absorbed into the marital assets and could be awarded in whole or in part to the other spouse.

The basic position is that, within divorce proceedings, the Court must take all the marital assets into account and divide them so as to produce a fair result for the couple, taking account of various factors such as the existence of children, each spouse’s financial needs and resources, their age, health, etc.

Note that the law does not require the Court to consider fairness to the parents etc who might have provided part of those assets.

For that reason, if you are considering helping out your married child financially it is very sensible to take legal advice to ensure your circumstances are protected as far as possible.

Matters to consider are:

  • Should your name go onto the title deeds to reflect the funds you contributed?
  • Maybe you could have a charge against the property, noted on the title documents at the Land Registry?
  • If the money is regarded as a loan, should a formal loan agreement be drawn up setting out the repayment terms, interest, etc.
  • Perhaps your child and his/her spouse could agree to enter into a pre-nuptial / post-nuptial agreement to try to ensure that your child retains your funds if the marriage breaks down?
  • If you still wish to provide the money on an informal basis, how will this be recorded by the solicitors dealing with the purchase and to what extent will your name and the arrangements be referred to in their file and on bank documents?

All of these options will have important ramifications (such as tax and inheritance) and you should take legal advice in good time before providing the funds.

However, a little thought and investment at this stage could protect you against potentially having to intervene in divorce proceedings further down the line, at considerable cost, risk and disruption to yourself and the wider family.

No Fault Divorces

The suspense around when so-called “No Fault” divorces were due to begin has been almost as bad as the final episode of “Line of Duty” – with perhaps less risk of internet spoilers...

However – fanfare - it is now official that they will start on 6 April 2022.

This marks perhaps the most significant change in family law for almost half a century and will require us all to get to grips with a raft of new terminology, forms and procedures.

For couples who have hit difficulties in their marriage that they don’t think can be repaired, it also represents a really positive development in moving away from the “blame culture”.

Gone are the allegations of unreasonable behaviour, always so difficult to come up with when two people felt it had all just “fizzled out” and they wanted to stay on good terms for the sake of the children or the wider family.

No more allegations of adultery, which often led to conflict, needless worry, confusion and extra costs.

No more need to prove that you had lived apart for a certain period of time, or endured a totally artificial lifestyle under one roof, where one person could not cook for the other (despite there being leftovers), or do the other’s laundry (not ideal in these eco-conscious times when running a half-empty machine is not something a decent citizen does!), without risking the court rejecting their argument they had lived separate lives.

Instead the applicant will simply have to file a document saying the marriage has broken down irretrievably and the other person will not be able to defend it, thus removing a favourite tactic of abusive spouses.

Indeed, if they wish, the couple can even file a joint application for divorce, which has never been permitted before.

They will then be required to wait 20 weeks before they can apply for their Conditional Order (previously known as a Decree Nisi), but can use the time well to try to resolve financial and children matters.

Six weeks after the Conditional Order they can apply for a Final Order (which used to be called a Decree Absolute) which dissolves the marriage.

As such, the later part of the process remains familiar but it is hoped that the initial stages, which used to cause so much delay and potential upset at a time when the parties were sometimes having to deal with all the other new challenges a separation could bring, will be a really welcome breath of fresh air.

ACAS Bereavement

On 16 February 2022, Acas published new guidance with regards to bereavement leave and pay (replacing the previous guidance). This guidance aims to help employers understand the time off and pay that a bereaved employee may be entitled to and to provide advice regarding bereavement in the workplace on the whole.

During an employee’s working life, it is expected that they will experience the death of someone close to them at some point. Therefore, employers need to know what to do in these circumstances. The updated Acas guidance covers bereavements that may be experienced by an employee following the death of a dependant, a child, stillbirth, miscarriage or a colleague, as well as deaths outside of these categories.

Within the guidance, employers are advised to recognise that grief affects everyone differently and that tailored support may be necessary, both at the time of the bereavement and after the employee has returned to work. The guidance also includes a section aimed at employees which provides advice on what they should do after a death. Employers need to be aware of this and be able to direct employees to it if necessary.

Under the new guidance, employers are advised not to discriminate against bereaved employees when considering time off and support provided, and in line with this, the guidance recommends that employers have a workplace bereavement policy to cover time off and pay. This is not new advice, but further advice has been given as to what should be included within the policy, this being:

  • When the leave for bereavement could apply;
  • How much leave will be provided; and
  • The amount of pay for the leave (if applicable).

One of the biggest changes to the guidance is that anyone who is classed as an ‘employee’ has the right to time off if: a) a dependant dies; or b) their child is stillborn or dies under the age of 18. The definition of a dependant has been expanded to include: a) spouse, partner or civil partner; b) parent; c) child (under 18); d) a person who lives in their household (not tenants, lodgers or employees); e) a person who would rely on them for help in the event of an accident, illness or injury; or f) a person who relies on them to make care arrangements. Although there is a right to time off in these circumstances, there is no right to paid leave – this can be paid at the discretion of the employer.

In circumstances where there is no legal right to time off and the employer does not offer bereavement leave, the new guidance recommends that employers consider the use of annual leave, sick leave or unpaid leave as alternatives. It is advised that discussions are held between the employer and employee to discuss:

  • What type of bereavement leave is available;
  • How much time off is available; and
  • Whether the leave will be paid or unpaid.

If you would like any advice on the updated guidance, please do contact the employment team to arrange an appointment.

Agricultural Minimum Wage 2022

The Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales advises Welsh Ministers on the Agricultural Minimum Wage arrangements for agricultural, horticultural and forestry workers in Wales, and the Senedd usually passes a new Order each year setting new pay rates.

However, no Agricultural Wages Order was made in 2021, so the current pay rates have been in effect since April 2020 – but, where applicable, subject to increases in accordance with the National Minimum Wage rates effective from April 2021.

The Panel has proposed changes to the current Agricultural Minimum Wage arrangements to apply from April 2022.

The proposals have still yet to be approved, but are as follows:

1. Rates of Pay

Hand in hand with the proposed new pay rates is a new grading structure, which the Panel considers will make it easier to define an agricultural worker’s appropriate grade.

The proposed new grades are explained here, at point 1, whilst the equivalent qualifications referred to in the grade descriptions are set out at point 2.

The proposed new pay rates are as follows:

Grade Rate per hour

A1 – Agricultural Development Worker (16-17 years) £4.81

A2 – Agricultural Development Worker (18-20 years) £6.83

A3 – Agricultural Development Worker (21-22 years) £9.18

A4 – Agricultural Development Worker (23 years+) £9.50

B1 – Agricultural Worker (16-17 years) £4.81

B2 – Agricultural Worker (18-20 years) £6.83

B3 – Agricultural Worker (21-22 years) £9.18

B4 – Agricultural Worker (23 years+) £9.79

C – Agricultural Advanced Worker £10.08

D – Senior Agricultural Worker £11.06

E – Agricultural Manager £12.13

Apprentice Year 1 £4.81

Apprentice Year 2 (aged 16- 17) £4.81

Apprentice Year 2 (aged 18- 20) £6.83

Apprentice Year 2 (aged 21- 22) £9.18

Apprentice Year 2 (aged 23+) £9.50

Other Allowances:

Dog Allowance £8.17 Per Dog Per Week

Night Time Work Allowance £1.55 Per Hour of Night Work

Birth Adoption Allowance £64.29 For Each Child

2. Other Proposed Changes

The current Agricultural Wages Order makes provision for rest breaks of not less than 30 minutes on any day that a worker aged 18 or older works more than 5½ hours (subject to exceptions).

The Panel considers it appropriate in the interests of clarity that provisions should be included relating to daily rest for workers under 18 and in relation to daily rest and weekly rest which replicate the provisions of the Working Time Regulations 1998 – although these are not new rights, as absent any equal or better entitlements of workers under an Agricultural Wages Order, the provisions of the Working Time Regulations must be applied.

For further information and advice in relation to employment law specific to the agricultural sector in Wales, please contact me or another member of the employment team.

For details of increases in the National Minimum Wage and increases to other statutory payments and limits, also to come into effect this April, please see our blog here.

Increases to Statutory Payments and Limits

National Minimum Wage

From 1 April 2022, the National Living Wage increased from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour.

National Minimum Wage rates for those under the age of 23 and first year apprentices are to increase as follows:

  • Workers aged 21 to 22: £9.18 (up from £8.36)
  • Workers aged 18 to 20: £6.83 (up from £6.56)
  • Workers aged 16 to 17: £4.81 (up from £4.62)
  • Apprentices in their first year: £4.81 (up from £4.30)

The accommodation offset rate will increase from £8.36 to £8.70.

Agricultural Minimum Wage in Wales

See our separate blog on the Agricultural Wages (Wales) Order 2022 here.

Family-related payments

From 11 April, Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay and Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay will increase from £151.97 per week to £156.66 (or, if lower, 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings).

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

From 11 April, SSP increased from £96.35 to £99.35 per week.

Compensation limits

For dismissals with an effective date of termination on or after 6 April, the cap on the value of a week’s pay for certain statutory purposes, such as calculating statutory redundancy pay and basic awards of compensation, will increase from £544.00 to £571.00.

The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissals will increase from the higher of 52 weeks’ normal pay and £89,493.00 to the higher of 52 weeks’ normal pay and £93,878.00.

Statutory guarantee pay

During periods of lay-off or short-time working an employee may be entitled to a statutory guarantee payment, which is calculated by multiplying the number of normal working hours on the workless day by the guaranteed hourly rate. With effect from 6 April, the maximum guarantee payment will increase to £31.00 per day (subject to a maximum of 5 days or £155 in any 3 months) from £30.00 per day.

For further details relating to the law around and relating to the above payments and limits, please contact me or a member of the employment team.

NHS England Abandons Targets for ‘Normal Births’

Maternity units throughout England have been instructed to stop using targets aimed at limiting the number of caesarean sections in the bid to pursue normal births, over fears that mothers and babies have been put at risk by using total caesarean rates as a measure of performance management.

In a letter, Jaqueline Dunkley-Bent NHS England’s Chief Midwife, and Dr Matthew Jolly, the National Clinical Director for Maternity, raised concerns that ’the potential for [maternity] services to pursue targets may be clinically inappropriate and unsafe in individual cases’.

For several years, medical bodies have been calling for the targets to be scrapped, and following the announcement these bodies have now welcomed the changes. Last July, a Commons Heath and Social Care Committee Report said it was ‘deeply concerning‘ that maternity services have been penalised for having high rates of caesarean section in the past. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have welcomed the change, with Dr Jo Mountfield Vice President saying ‘the targets carry certain benefits and risks which should be discussed with women as they choose how they wish to give birth. Women and people giving birth should feel supported and their choices should be respected’.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) formally abandoned its normal birth campaign in 2017. Responding to the change of policy, the RCM’s chief executive, Gill Walton, said that decisions about clinical care should be made in the best interests of the woman and the baby ‘and not because of an arbitrary target’.

A caesarean section is when a baby is delivered through a surgical cut into the abdomen and womb. They are carried out for a number of reasons and it can be a planned or emergency procedure.

A “normal delivery” is one that refers to childbirth through the vagina.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have provided new guidance which suggest that maternity staff should treat cases on an individual basis, rather than following the aim to promote as many natural births as possible.

Currently around one in four babies are born by caesarean section in the UK but there is some variability between hospitals and trusts nationally. Our local Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) had among the highest normal delivery rates in England between 2010 and 2018.

There has been some concern that the pursuit of normal deliveries may have contributed to some instances of poor maternity care, including at SaTH where the deaths of a number of mothers and babies are being investigated by Donna Ockenden, the Chair of the Independent Maternity Review at SaTH. Publication of the second part of the Independent Maternity Review is currently scheduled to take place no later than 24 March 2022.

Listen to our podcast about the concerns at SaTH, via this link.

Here at Lanyon Bowdler our solicitors have been involved in a number of cases that concern labour and delivery method decisions in maternity care.

If you have concerns about the maternity advice and care you have received, please get in touch with our team who will be able to assist you sensitively.

Closure of SSP Rebate Scheme and Reintroduction of Waiting Days

The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will close on 17 March 2022.

Under the current scheme, employers can claim back up to 2 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay ("SSP") for each employee who received it due to Covid-19, provided that:

  • they have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 30 November 2021; and
  • they had fewer than 250 employees on 30 November 2021 across all PAYE payroll schemes.

The maximum number of employees that an employer can claim for is the number they had across their PAYE schemes on 30 November 2021.

Employers will therefore no longer be able to claim back SSP for their employees’ coronavirus-related absences, including self-isolation, that occur after 17 March 2022.

Employers have until 24 March 2022 to submit any new claims for absence periods up to 17 March 2022, or to amend claims they have already submitted.

Also, after 17 March there will be a return to the normal SSP rules, which means employers should revert to paying SSP from the fourth qualifying day that their employee is off work regardless of the reason for their sickness absence. Currently, provided an employee is absent for at least 4 days due to Covid-19 infection, household isolation or isolation at the behest of NHS Test and Trace, they will be entitled to SSP from the first day of absence.

Retired Consultant speaks out about the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust maternity scandal

Ahead of the Panorama special this evening, a BBC News article published today provides an informative and emotive overview of the origin of this inquiry and the findings released thus far.

Born out of grief of their own tragic losses at the hands of the trust, Kayleigh Griffiths and Rhiannon Davies collated 23 cases comprising of still births, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and child brain injury and approached Jeremy Hunt, the then Health Secretary. An inquiry was then launched in May 2017 with Donna Ockenden, a leading Midwife, appointed as lead.

One of the themes the inquiry has already identified following the publication of Ms Ockenden’s preliminary report in December 2020 is the failure to properly investigate after something went wrong. The trust either failed to investigate entirely or carried out their own investigation, outside of national guidance. As a consequence, fewer incidents were reported to NHS regulators, which inevitably impacted the opportunity to learn lessons and led to the same mistakes being made repeatedly.

As families were campaigning for an external review of the trust, Mr Bernie Bentick, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist was advocating for change inside the organisation. He is the first former staff member to speak openly about what was happening inside the trust.

He has revealed that he wrote to the senior management team several times voicing his concerns. During his interview with Panorama, Mr Bentick said:

"I believed that some of the ways they responded to problems were to try to preserve the reputation of the organisation rather than to do anything practical. They were prepared to make small, what they regarded as proportionate, changes to try to improve the situation. But I don't think they really understood the gravity of the cultural problems within the trust."

Mr Bentick advised that a gap developed between the management of the trust and the clinicians caused by the lack of good quality, trained managers who had as much professional accountability as the clinicians. He said:

"If the resources had been made available to employ adequate numbers, then the situation may have been profoundly different. I feel intense sorry and sadness for the families and I would hope that the NHS responds in a way that ensures that quality of care is at the forefront of what we provide in the NHS."

The full interview will feature as part of the Panorama special this evening, alongside an interview with our Head of Clinical Negligence and partner, Beth Heath. As we represent a large number of families involved in Ms Ockenden’s inquiry and beyond it is important to focus on implementing change and supporting the trust in doing this to avoid further unnecessary tragedy.

Podcast

You can also listen to Beth and Katherine Jones talk about the three regular themes, presented to them by families involved in the inquiry, via our podcast here.

If you have concerns regarding your maternity care, our experts are always here to listen. Please contact us by phone on 01743 280280 or email info@lblaw.co.uk.

What Happens to Our Digital Assets When We Die?

What we do with our digital assets when we die, has become an interesting topic of conversation in recent years. The vast majority of us hold digital assets; whether that be our PayPal account, online bank accounts, cryptocurrency or indeed online photos and email accounts.

In a survey, conducted by the Law Society in 2021, it was found that nearly three quarters of those surveyed did not know what would happen to their digital assets when they died. Other research has also shown families feel that there is a lack of clarity regarding what happens to digital assets when dealing with a loved one’s estate.

It is not difficult to see how people are confused, as different asset providers have different rules and procedures, and the development of technology has surpassed that of law and policy. However, when someone dies their Personal Representative needs access to such assets in order to properly administer the estate.

What are digital assets?

Generally they are assets of a sentimental or financial value that exist in electronic form only.

Assets of sentimental value include photos on Facebook, Instagram, email and so on. Facebook, for example, has the right to store and display the content of someone’s account even after they die, however, you have the ability to appoint one individual who, after your death, can make decisions about your account. Similarly, Google has an “Inactive Account Manager” feature which notifies an appointed person if you have been inactive for 18 months, and you can also indicate whether you would like Google to delete your account after the inactive period.

Digital assets of financial value include Bitcoin and digital art. To make matters more complicated, each provider has different rules regarding what will happen on the death of the account holder, and access to such platforms can be highly encrypted.

As explained above, the difficulty with digital assets is that the development of technology has surpassed current laws. In fact, a Personal Representative using a password or PIN, to access an account after death, may be guilty of a criminal offence or indeed it can be against the terms and conditions of a social media account to give a password to someone else.

What steps can you take to protect your digital assets on death?

Whilst there is no clear policy regarding what you should do to protect your digital assets on death, the following provides practical steps and matters to consider:

  • Review, and keep under review, the terms and conditions of all social media accounts.
  • If you have significant electronic assets, or indeed they account for a large portion of your estate, it is important to speak with a solicitor and include within your Will your wishes in respect of those assets. In respect of cryptocurrency, for example, it can be difficult to plan without compromising the security of the investment. However, it is important that your Personal Representatives are aware of the steps they need to undertake to gain access to them.
  • You need to consider what instructions to leave your Personal Representatives so they can access your digital assets and the Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners recommends keeping an inventory of your digital assets but details of how to access the assets must be kept separate.
  • It may also be helpful to include a provision in your Will providing specific authority for your Personal Representatives to deal with your digital assets.
  • You should also check with each digital asset provider what their processes and rules are when you die.

At Lanyon Bowdler we understand how important it is to think about what will happen to your digital assets on death, and we are happy to talk you through your options and help you plan for the future.

Investigation Reveals 999 ‘Postcode Lottery’ of Pregnancy Care

An investigation has revealed that pregnant patients, calling 999 for help whilst waiting for an ambulance, are given different instructions by call handlers depending on their location.

A report, undertaken by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (“HSIB”), was published on 17 February 2022 following an investigation to help improve patient safety, concerning advice given to pregnant patients waiting for an ambulance due to a maternal emergency.

The HSIB reviewed an incident whereby a pregnant patient telephoned 999 and was given advice by a non-clinical call handler. The mother subsequently suffered a placental abruption and lost a large amount of blood, and both she and the baby required a significant amount of care.

The HSIB investigation into that case identified aspects of the pre-arrival instructions, given by call handler, were not in line with maternity guidance. This created a risk of harm to both pregnant patients and their babies.

Sadly, the HSIB identified 15 further cases where similar concerns were identified, which prompted this national investigation.

The HSIB also discovered that there are two different triage systems being used by 999 operators in England, meaning two patients in different locations, with the same clinical emergency, would be provided with differing advice. The HSIB considered this created a ‘postcode lottery’ of care for pregnant women, which could have disastrous consequences for expectant mothers and their babies.

A number of safety recommendations were made by the HSIB, including guidance which should be developed for maternity emergencies in the non-visual, non-clinician-attended environment. A further recommendation noted that a regulatory mechanism should be identified to provide formal oversight of 999 maternity pre-arrival instructions for NHS provided care in England. It was also recommended that patient safety incident investigation standards should be developed to further support cross-boundary investigation.

If you have concerns about the maternity advice and care you have received, or any other type of treatment, please get in touch with our team who will be able to assist you sensitively.

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