Solicitors have been accused of visiting vulnerable patients in hospital wards in Leeds and “coercing” them into signing legal documents.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) – which controls seven hospitals, including Leeds Genera Infirmary – did not say where the events occurred.
But an email to staff from its safeguarding team said: “LTHT Adult Safeguarding have been alerted about incidents whereby solicitors are attending wards (with persons alleging to be patient relatives) and coercing patients who do not have the capacity to consent to signing documents.
“All staff have a duty to challenge anyone attending a ward who does not have a valid reason to be there, or who staff feel are not acting in patients’ best interests.”
In a statement, Deputy Chief Nurse Helen Christodoulides added: “We have robust and well-embedded safeguarding processes within the trust.
“Through these we were alerted to two unrelated incidents where ward staff were concerned that legal paperwork was being discussed with patients in our care deemed not to have capacity to take part in these discussions.
“We’ve contacted the families of those affected and raised the issue with relevant staff. We have also raised this concern with appropriate external authorities and our partners.”
A spokesman for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was unable to say whether it had received complaints from the trust.
He added: “Solicitors have an obligation not to take advantage of clients or others, and should not make approaches to potential clients without being invited. If the hospital trust or anyone else has evidence of solicitors doing this, we would urge them to report it to us.”
It was only at the end of June that the SRA issued a guidance note on accepting instructions from vulnerable clients or third parties acting on their behalf, a few days after a report from the Legal Services Board found that vulnerable clients were being disadvantaged by the “cold, clinical and chaotic manner” in which they were treated by some lawyers.