The senior coroner of Greater Manchester, Alison Mutch, has demanded an apology from a housing association following the death of one of their residents from hypothermia.

Sylvia Pollitt, a resident of L&Q, was found dead at her property on Seamons Walk, Altrincham in December 2022 having previously reported to the housing association that her boiler was not working.

L&Q had contracted out the gas services maintenance work to Liberty, however when the contractor was unable to initially make contact with Mrs Pollitt, they closed the call down. Mrs Pollitt died less than two weeks later.

Protocol between L&Q and Liberty states that in cases of non-contact, the contractor should escalate back to the housing association, at which time they would be able to conduct a welfare check.

In a rare move, the coroner for the area of Greater Manchester South has published a ‘prevention of future deaths’ report that demands answers from L&Q. The report legally obliges the housing association to reply with the actions they have and will undertake to ensure this does not happen again.

In the report, the coroner said: “During the course of the inquest the evidence revealed matters giving rise to concern. In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken. Carrying out of welfare checks for vulnerable adults ensures that they are safe and well. That did not happen in Mrs Pollitt’s case.”

David Lewis, executive group director of property services at L&Q, said: “We were extremely saddened by the death of Sylvia Pollitt, and our thoughts remain with her family, friends and neighbours. A tragic death like this must never happen again, and important changes have been made to ensure this is the case.

“After Mrs Pollitt reported a concern about her boiler, the job was passed to gas maintenance contractor Liberty. At this time, Liberty was under contract to Trafford Housing Trust (THT), a subsidiary of L&Q, and subject to THT processes.

“As the coroner’s report sets out, Liberty were unable to make contact with Mrs Pollitt, but rather than follow the agreed processes in place, they made no further efforts to access the property or let THT know about the situation.

“Prior to the inquest, L&Q undertook a thorough review of all call-outs put through to Liberty and did not find previous incidents where a similar incident had occurred. We did, however, immediately implement a stringent new process where we track the progress of each job every step of the way.

“We are able to audit every open, completed and aborted job, with reports produced on a weekly basis and reviewed between L&Q and Liberty managers. Any concerns are immediately escalated to our neighbourhood teams to undertake welfare checks. This is consistent with the recommendations made by the coroner in this case, which we are committed to learn from.

“More widely, following THT’s alignment with L&Q in April 2023, we are now replicating L&Q processes across all of our North West operations. Crucially, the L&Q process for repairs contractors does not permit them to cancel jobs without formal approval from L&Q. This will prevent such an incident from happening again.”

In a statement, Liberty said: “Everybody at Liberty is deeply saddened by the death of Sylvia Pollitt.

“On 18 November last year, a job was raised for a repair to a small leak on Mrs Pollitt’s boiler. We confirmed that the leak was not affecting the heating and hot water at Mrs. Pollitt’s home and informed her we would make contact to schedule a repair.

“Unfortunately, in this case, we were unable to contact Mrs Pollitt to arrange to visit her home.

“We are committed to working with L&Q to learn important lessons and implement changes to how services are delivered.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with Mrs. Pollitt’s family and friends.”