Of course you can cry…

Tim Smart, interim Sloven board chair, met with My Life My Choice (MLMC) champs yesterday. The meeting is described in detail by Kate here [recommend reading this because I muse in a piecemeal way below]. Peculiarly, it was difficult to know what to make of it all.


Smart began by giving a heartfelt apology to our family and said there was no doubt we had been failed completely by Sloven. After nearly three years [howl] of non, fake or mealy mouthed apologies prised out of the Sloven directorate this was the real deal. Deeply moving and very much appreciated. He made it very clear how important it was to him to make sure there were improvements at Sloven. He’d been deeply upset when he saw the tv coverage of the extraordinary board meeting in January and couldn’t imagine if it had been his son who had died.

Sloven have, till now, repeatedly failed to say sorry. They have said sorry for our loss, for the upset we feel. They have let us know they will take the opportunity to apologise to us at a particular meeting (can you imagine?) They have bypassed us altogether and bunged the ‘apology’ on their website. Smart nailed it with openness, honesty and compassion.

Shaun and Jackie then asked a series of questions.

Slade House was a bit of a slippery topic. An assurance that the future of the site would be discussed in public with an acknowledgement that he probably/possibly wouldn’t be chair then. Allowing similar wriggle room to previous chair Petter;  if we sell it the money stays in Oxon but if someone else flogs it type stuff.

The final question (“It’s a nasty one I’m afraid Tim”) was about why the CEO is still in post. Smart’s response was around gathering an evidence base to make a judgement around the potential removal of any board members. Fair enough. He then said none of the reports about Sloven laid the blame at Katrina Percy’s door. Bit odd. The Mazars review explicitly identifies board level failings. And failings schmailings are ultimately the responsibility of the chief exec. Mmm…

Shaun asked if Smart could continue to attend these meetings even if he was no longer board chair as he didn’t ‘BS’ them. Smart was visibly moved by this question. He said it was one of the nicest things things that had ever been said to him and he was at the risk of becoming emotional.

“You can be emotional Tim” said Shaun, cheerfully. “Of course you can cry. I’m always crying… ”

Another one of those moments when I’m just in awe of the brilliance of the My Life My Choice team. Keeping it real. Human. With an extraordinary ability to ask tough questions, offer challenge and remain encouraging and supportive.

Then, into this emotional space, and I can’t  remember how it came up, Smart said very brusquely he hadn’t read the Mazars review and wouldn’t “because it was wrong”.

Blimey. One of those cartoon screechy brakes moments. A quick photo and Smart and I left for a brief chat. Outside, he said he had read the Mazars review but was dismissive of talk of thousands of deaths in the media [and clearly still dismissive of the review itself]. He told me a story which I didn’t get then went off to get a cab.

So. Where are we at? What does any of this mean? I’ve no idea really.

Vague, half formed, thoughts:

  • Tim Smart is genuinely sorry and shocked about what happened to LB and the treatment we have experienced.
  • He recognises (some) obvious and sustained failings in Sloven provision.
  • He prides himself on his integrity, honesty and straightforwardness while remaining closed to actually listening or engaging with some of the evidence.


I went back to work feeling upset and pretty low.

9 thoughts on “Of course you can cry…

  1. You are right to keep your guard up. I am hearing a slightly more empathetic variant of ‘all about me’: *He* was upset about you and Tom; did he offer his services because he thought he had the right skillset, or to relieve his personal discomfort? He is unfazed in promptly laying claim to his alleged personal qualities of straightforwardness and give-a-shitness. While false modesty would be obviously inauthentic, there are genuinely humble yet gracious ways of receiving a compliment: thanks and a promise to do everything possible to continue in the same way would have sufficed. And when it came to Mazars, an empathy fail: unable or unwilling to think that behind those numbers are more Saras, more Toms, and, above all, more Connors.

    We know that not all the deaths found by Mazars were preventable, but some were. One has only to look at the coroners’ reports to see that. How many are too many? Why are not all unexpected deaths SIRIs/never events?

    If he doesn’t do social media, maybe My Life My Choice can do him some more conventional media. I’m thinking a DVD or CD-ROM with a compilation of clips: You, Tom, Rich, Rosi’s film, Richard West and the other under-the-carpet, dust-in-the-corner families. In a folder with copies of conventional-media articles: The Guardian pieces on LB, the local paper reports on the various inquests and family reactions. Maybe then he would get the personal understanding that he seems to need, of the breadth of systemic failings at Sloven.

    Once again, it shouldn’t be your, your friends’, MLMC’s or @JusticeforLB’s job to do. But we know Sloven are not doing and will not do anything of the sort, so maybe MLMC will be prepared to leverage their personal connection to a policy/political end?

    Either way, you are wise to trust your visceral reactions and not him. Your gut has been spot-on every time. With his curiously erratic performance so far, he’s a loooong way from having earned trust or respect yet.

  2. I have a feeling that the journey for justice goes on Sara. Once extended time is spent in a particular space in the Public sector, something happens to judgement and perspective on everything and everyone inside and outside of that space.

    It is possible that Tim has been affected by this?

    It is seen very strongly in social work where the role has power to weigh everyone outside that role. And the summing of the other adds up to different or less than the ‘in common’ needs and wishes of everyone in that role and or team. A blinkered sense of certainty can come with this.

    There is no doubt from what I have read that Tim feels he is a good person. And has emotions that move him like the rest of us. He has also been in the top NHS gang/team for extended time and will have absorbed what comes with this, in terms of power, association and belief.

    The longer he associates with the top team at SHFT, the less likely it is that he will fire anyone ?

    The potential outcome, is his that sense of ‘us’ will become stronger and the allocation of ‘other’ status will include all outside that team. In particular those who challenge ‘us’, his team. He will need reassurance that it is his impartial judgement and and not his new team loyalties in control. He could get this from his own team of consultants ? Hopefully not.

    Very worrying that appears to dismisses out of hand and unread !, a document that is so securely supported by CQC and inquest; and the experience of so many bereaved families and so many many more vulnerable people, failed by his …new ‘team’.

    Hopefully not…?

  3. two shining responses for me from Mr Smart, indeed wholly preventable death is a never event within the NHS , good to hear that. Wrongful dismissal claims must be avoided, absolutely agree.

    • But, allocating a label for preventable death in an organisation where there are buckets full of evidence that it is not safe and has not been safe for patients, will not prevent ‘never events’.

      Not reading and damning a document that is supported by so much other evidence will not help prevent ‘never events’.

      Wrongful dismissal is always wrong.
      But spending this much time with the most accountable people in the organisation, may cloud judgement.

      Not the best way to prevent more ‘never events’.

      Suspend on full pay immediately, and use this time to assess the organisation and listen to people; the hard working staff, patients and their families. And read ALL the evidence ?

      Could help prevent more ‘never events’ ?

  4. allocating a label means nothing agreed, reading that Mr Smart was acknowledging Connor’s death as a wholly preventable never event that should have sparked an immediate investigation made a sound first impression. . Suspend on full pay ? I’m not sure I agree for fear of a massive pay out to the accountable officer. Of course Mr Smart has to read all the evidence , has to acknowledge everything that has emerged and everything that will from independent investigations, without doing so he loses all credibility . Whether he has read and is discrediting the Mazar’s report is something he needs to clarify, it wasn’t clear to me from what I read.

    • Nic – weary mother is right: suspend on full pay immediately pending a full disciplinary investigation. That accords with due process whereas summary dismissal (which led to the massive pay out to Shoesmith in the Baby P case) does not. I can prove breaches of Acts of Parliament and dishonesty by Sloven directors with evidence corroborated by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Department of Health and the National Audit Office.

      This is more than sufficient at least to suspend them – but to date Tim (not-so) Smart has refused to meet me. The danger if Smart does not act soon is that Ministers will lose patience and order summary dismissal as happened with Shoesmith. Incidentally, no doubt for effect, he inflated her award threefold!

      Also, had you been present at the last Board Meeting, you would have seen Smart in action – a bereaved family member (in a letter to the Secretary of State)described him as an “Arrogant bully” and his conduct towards governors, bereaved families and members of the public (who had the temerity to ask difficult questions) as dictatorial, insolent, abusive, discriminatory and dismissive.

      I agree – I was on the end of some of it. Read more at
      https://999crash.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/bovver-boy/ and

      At best, he is two-faced; at worst he put on an act to those with learning difficulties in the hope of gaining good publicity.

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