There we were. Dreading (beyond dread) meeting Southern Health bods with the external investigators on Thursday morning. An email exchange this afternoon with the investigators was reassuring. They confirmed we’d simply discuss factual inaccuracies and any interpretations/conclusions we didn’t agree with. This wouldn’t necessarily lead to changes.
Then an email from our solicitor. Southern Health have instructed external solicitors.
All change. And a few smacks around the head with a baseball bat.
The external investigators have been ditched from Thursday’s meeting. Instead we’re to discuss our concerns with Southern Health and they’ll relay them back to the investigators (my arse). These concerns should be set out in writing in advance so they can be responded to in full at the meeting.
Oh and, the report will defo remain anonymous and confidential. Because, allegedly:
- it’s the property of the Trust; we only saw it with the caveat it was confidential
- it isn’t appropriate to disseminate it wider, the purpose of the report is to learn lessons
- if published, it would prejudice further investigations in the NHS and prevent staff being open and honest
- staff were interviewed on the basis the report wouldn’t be disseminated
- the Trust has a duty of confidentiality to LB and he’d be identifiable if the report was public.
I had that freezing cold feeling when I read this email. The same feeling I had when we took LB to the unit that Tuesday evening, nearly a year ago now. This morning I caught the bus to the cemetery before work. To visit LB’s grave while there was some sunshine. I thought about how the investigation had pretty much pinned down how what happened, happened. And how it should never have happened. And cried.
There aren’t really that many health related ‘lessons’ to learn from what happened if we’re honest. These are ‘lessons’ most health professionals know before they start their training. And a lesson ain’t really a lesson if it’s common knowledge. It’s a bit like a supermarket selling a load of rancid meat because a freezer breaks down and the investigation into the death of a customer concludes; ‘Er, make sure the freezer works’.
There are broader issues around the complete disregard and indifference with which learning disabled people are treated of course. But I don’t think Southern Health need to get too hung up on “learning lessons” in this instance. They should really know ’em already or ship out. And stop pretending they can provide learning disability healthcare.
It’s also absurd to say that future investigations will be prejudiced if the report is made public because staff won’t be open and honest in the future. If Southern Health think that all the interview extracts included in the report reflect openness and honesty they are more stupid than I imagined. We’re talking ‘dog ate my homework’/’nothing to do with me guv’ type crap. Perhaps staff would be more open and honest if the content of reports were made public.
And how can staff be assured in advance that the report won’t be disseminated? You can’t possibly make that a condition in advance of knowing what might come to light.
“In the course of the investigation we discovered some heinous crimes dating back fifty or so years, involving hundreds of patients, and but we told staff the report won’t be made public, so we’re keeping keeping it all confidential…”
The last point, that Southern Health has a duty of confidentiality to LB (not a duty to keep him safe from harm, a duty to keep him alive or even ‘care’ for him) is scandalous. Reputation is clearly the only thing on the agenda of this bunch. A state funded organisation. An organisation, allegedly, built around ‘care’.
The meeting on Thursday is off. Not surprisingly. And we’re here. Waiting for the legal missiles to be launched.