HEALTH chiefs have been urged to “learn lessons” after a body lay undetected in a flat for more than three years to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.
Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm made the comments after the badly decomposed remains of Henry Summers were found in a top-floor flat on Easter Road.
It is very sad he was so isolated, but I think there are also questions for the health serviceMalcolm Chisholm
Police made the grim find when they broke down the man’s door on Wednesday morning in response to concerns raised by his GP surgery.
But local authorities, including NHS Lothian and the city council, have so far been unable to explain how his disappearance went unnoticed for so long.
It is understood that Mr Summers, thought to be in his mid-60s to early-70s, had been discharged from hospital more than three years ago.
A neighbour in the same tenement block claimed he hadn’t seen the pensioner since February 2012, when it is understood he was taken to hospital.
Mr Chisholm said: “It is very sad he was so isolated, but I think there are also questions for the health service.
“He appears to have been in hospital with something rather serious but then disappeared from the system thereafter. This is an issue the new integrated health and social care authority should have a look at because it may well happen to other people as well.
“People need to learn lessons.”
He said it seemed that Mr Summers had no family or friends in regular contact with him. “That’s extremely sad, but clearly the health and social care authorities must be prepared for that kind of situation and have systems in place to prevent this from happening.
“Hopefully there are not a lot of people without relatives or friends, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. If someone is in hospital with something relatively serious you would think there would be some kind of follow-up from someone.”
NHS Lothian was unable to answer questions about why the GP surgery had felt the need to raise the alarm on Wednesday.
The city council confirmed that Mr Summers was not one of its tenants but declined to say whether his council tax payments had continued after his death. It is thought that some of his bills, including utility payments, may have continued to have been paid by direct debit after his death.
Age Scotland called on people to do more to support one another and look out for their neighbours.
A charity spokesman said: “This is clearly a tragedy, and it’s deeply upsetting that this can happen to an older person today. It is incredibly important that all of us, regardless of age, take the time to reach out to our neighbours to build community and support one another.”
Police said they would not be making an appeal to trace Mr Summers’ next of kin.