[9.8.15] I’m writing this in advance of a meeting with the police tomorrow at 4pm. A meeting that will, I suspect, involve closing the investigation into LB’s death. There won’t be enough evidence to put a case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to bring a charge of corporate manslaughter against Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (Sloven). These charges rarely happen in the NHS and early findings from the second Verita review suggest that Sloven will slither away, largely untouched. Despite numerous failings documented in their Oxfordshire provision (the ‘north of their patch’). Captain fantastic spending on consultancy that should never be necessary. Pricey legal representation will reduce reputational damage to a blip. Blips will be obliterated with tedious (meaningless, utterly meaningless) ‘lessons learned’ bleats. Blips, bleats and back to business [because that’s what it’s about] as usual.
The young dude who, stuck in a now acknowledged, recognised and subsequently closed Sloven run hell hole, denied his right to life. Unsupervised in the bath. Despite a diagnosis of epilepsy and documented concerns about increasing seizure activity. A life too easily swept into the ‘we couldn’t give a flying fuck’ corner. Like so many others like him.
We first met the police the morning LB died. In the ‘relatives room’ in the John Radcliffe hospital. A space of abject, unspeakable horror. Disbelief, horror, tears, howling horror, sugary tea, organ donation talk, horror, tea, tissues, tears. An hour or so earlier, I’d been on my way to work on the number 8 from Barton to Oxford city centre. Fran and I texting about the school prom the following evening.
The care and sensitivity the A&E team demonstrated was matched by the two police officers who pitched up that morning. Their involvement seemed to be a formality at first. There didn’t appear to be anything suspicious… ‘No’ we managed to say. Among the tears, tea and tissues. LB should not be dead. Dead?
Since that morning, the police investigation started, stopped, restarted after the first Verita report findings and now, who knows. The bar for a corporate manslaughter charge is so high, it’s almost meaningless. Particularly in the NHS. You might as well chuck shedloads of documented shite practice into the nearest skip as the one email/letter/report/piece of evidence that demonstrates that the board clearly knew that practice was shite and did crap all, is so unlikely to be found. Despite the blinking obvious fact that NHS trust boards should be aware of the level of shite practice that happens on their watch. Particularly when they’ve taken over known failing or dodgy services.
The police haven’t the evidence to put a criminal case before the CPS. The bar of ‘gross’ negligence hasn’t been met. Negligent yep. Gross negligence no. Their investigation is now effectively closed. Our definition of ‘gross’ negligence a world away from that of the law. LB died. He barely gained a scratch in 18 years in our care but died in specialist NHS provision completely unnecessarily. The 2011/12 quality account flagged up the failure of Ridgeway Partnership to improve their epilepsy related practice and the necessity for this to be sorted as a priority. But hey ho. Wait till someone dies and then ban everyone from bathing on the Slade House site for six months. No one from head office way down south will know (or care).
The police, particularly the detective constable who happened to be on duty that morning, and his sergeant, were committed to thoroughly investigating what happened. The contrast between their consistent decency and humanity and the cruelness and unresponsiveness demonstrated by other public agencies is striking. They engaged with us as human beings, people who have and continue to be put through the unimaginable. The law simply seems to be a too crude tool with a measure of injustice built into the system.
I drifted a bit. Sitting in the kitchen with the three officers as they talked us through the investigation. And wondered what LB would think. He had an unwavering lifetime love of the police and the law. Of justice and human rights. He would love the attention to detail and careful process being described. It would be something he would return to endlessly. The source of a billion questions.
‘Why did they close the case mum?’