Jeremy ‘witch Hunt’ and the mother blame

Was reminded all week about the terrible mother blame that went on across LB’s inquest which was held a year ago. Just a few tasters:




Unspeakably awful. Again my brain weeps This is the NHS…

Sadly, blaming us has been a consistent theme since LB died. Sloven have sent extraordinary briefing reports to all and sundry blaming us for hacking into staff twitter accounts and trolling. Oxfordshire County did a corporate number with their sordid secret review of me, while one of their commissioners wrote a terrible letter tearing me to shreds (I’ve never met the woman who is apparently deeply christian).

Jeremy Hunt seems to have joined the blame brigade now. He was interviewed by David Fenton in a bizarre piece on BBC South last night. Between them, pushing a ‘witch hunt’ version of events. Fenton even described how Sloven staff are too scared to go out with their Sloven lanyards on for fear of reprisal.

Wow. A witch hunt. An unfounded persecution?

For the record.

  1. There was no ‘witch hunt’ after Percy. 
  2. She didn’t form part of our Connor Manifesto.
  3. We have consistently called for the resignation of several exec/non exec members (Gordon, Spires, Grant, Berryman, Stevens…)
  4. Percy, and the above, should have gone a long time ago.
  5. Our campaign has always focused on the executive board (and LB’s responsible clinician) and not the 9000 or so staff members, many of whom I’m sure do a brilliant job.

I wonder why we are blamed. It’s fucking outrageous. We’ve (collectively) done more to generate awareness of learning disability issues than major charities with enormous budgets. For free. #JusticeforLB has been like a second, full time job over the past 2.5 years. We’ve worked our socks off. We’ve been told we’ve encouraged other families to campaign, and fight for accountability for catastrophic events harming their loved ones. What happened to LB is taught on various undergraduate and post-graduate courses across the UK. School kids have written about him for homework. We’ve generated a shedload of brilliant resources (a justice quilt and other art, blogs, lectures, songs, short films, animations, the LBBill, the first ever inquest tweet archive and loads more… see below). We’ve been consistently reasonable in the circumstances (with liberal swears).

The families and ex-Sloven governors have shown remarkable restraint given everything they’ve endured. Peter Bell is under investigation by the trust (I know) and has declined to sign a gagging order in order to see the draft report of evidence against him (I know). (There was no investigation of Malcolm Berryman’s actions in sharing the Mazars review with his son before publication). John Green has been a model of reasoned, informed, restraint in trying to highlight failures in both Sloven and the wider organisation of the NHS [click here for the abridged version of his report]. Repeated appearances on national and local news by Richard West, Maureen Hickman, the Hartleys, Angie Mote and others have been remarkable for the consistently careful, considered and, again, restrained commentary in the face of such (continued) horror. The behind the scenes email exchanges are reflective and respectful.

It’s a very dangerous precedent if any member of the public who asks questions or seeks lines of accountability from those in power is dismissed as a witch hunter.  Cheap and lazy journalism by the likes of David Fenton, who has failed to have even analysed that which has been put in the public domain by campaigners, is simply wrong. The serial failings that we, and other campaigners and journalists have largely unearthed sit well and truly on the doorsteps of the Sloven board (and some governors), Jim Mackey and the NHS Improvement gang, and, er, Jeremy Hunt.


An antidote to the above; some #JusticeforLB magic. The middle pouch is an Arabic justice pouch, the bus ipad holder is made from material used to decorate a lorry driver’s cab and the third pouch holds the complete music for Tippett’s ‘A Child of our Time’ to celebrate the performance in memory of LB at Warwick University in June. Brilliance.

24 thoughts on “Jeremy ‘witch Hunt’ and the mother blame

  1. Interesting that you’ve been told that you are conducting a ‘witch hunt’ – when I started complaining about the abuses in the north Wales mental health services I was told that I was conducting a ‘crusade’. I was then told that my complaints were an ‘obsession’. (In other words I didn’t go away after being threatened and I continued gathering evidence.) Another memorable term used about me by a psychiatrist was ‘known troublemaker’. I am aware that exactly the same term was applied to other complainants. I have a good friend who also made complaints about the abuses of the mental health services in north Wales and like me, extracted his full medical file with the help of lawyers. When we compared notes, we found that the same staff had used the same phrases about both of us. I have since had contact with many people who made complaints about the north Wales mental health services – the same themes ran through numerous cases and the same techniques were used to discredit all of us. You will probably find the same phenomenon with Southern Health – you’ve had a particularly huge amount of mud thrown at you because you’re the most high profile complainant/campaigner and have been very effective, but abusive organisations aren’t very imaginative and tend to rely on tried and tested methods. I bet Southern have said all this before to other people and are now feeling very disorientated because it hasn’t bludgeoned you into oblivion.

    • There are at least two campaigners against Sloven, who have suffered from its vexatious and unreasonable conduct towards complainants for five years in an effort to get justice. Having said that Sara has worked miracles in getting such a high profile for her case and therefore indirectly for all Sloven’s victims. Thank you Sara.

  2. It really is a reflex response by some NHS orgs to attack the “complainant”. I waited over six months for major surgery to remove a growing tumour. The independent expert (employed by the PHSO) opined that the wait was life threatening and noted an entry in my medical records stating that: “…he’s giving us the run around” because I did not attend one OP appt. The fact that I had been admitted as an emergency to another hospital and was an inpatient as a consequence of a wholly unnecessary surgical intervention on their part, a fact of which they were aware, seemed to them to be an inconvenient detail.

    Unmoved by the scathing report from the PHSO which fully upheld my complaints, they had a second go. A few years earlier I had had occasion to see a cardiologist who had, quite routinely asked inter alia about my alcohol consumption. I told him that I drank moderately, unlike at University (40 years ago) when we used to try and drink the union bar dry. The Cardiologist wrote to my GP and said my heart was fine and, amongst other things, he thought I used to drink heavily. This irritated me slightly but I just ignored it and put it down to him being a bit doddery.
    Surprise surprise, the Root Cause Analysis that the Trust had been ordered to undertake seized on this old and irrelevant error by the cardiologist.

    Such petty and spiteful stuff I’ve come to expect. Its enough to drive you to drink. Doubles all round!

  3. My experience (and many others) is that as soon as one opposes the LA in any way, they will seek to annihilate you. It is entirely personal, and no holds are barred. In 2006 in the Court of Protection the LA presented a bundle of 480 pages listing what I had done wrong, in their minds. We are all aware of the seriousness of this situation, but also the fact that the LA is never accountable.

    • Time spent unwisely arguing with or blaming parents, wastes public money as well as precious time.
      There will be less money to recruit social workers, or keep them in their jobs.
      Some senior social care directors I contacted years ago, quickly got to the point, asked me what would help, and supported me.
      I wrote directly to them once or twice, as middle managers were holding progress back.
      I had 3 good social workers then, but then 2 bad ones created much paperwork.
      It should never get to 480 pages of going round in circles.

      • 480 pages was only the beginning – I have been accused of causing the breakdown of all my son’s placements, having mental health problems, influencing my son to reject placements, failing to give him his full DLA allowances,abusing or neglecting him, and so on. The 480 pages didn’t go round in circles, as I wrote they were personally aimed at me. There is something very sick in their attitude to parents.

      • Wasting public money has never been an issue where trying to silence complaining mental health patients in north Wales is concerned – I was prosecuted (all the way to the High Court on some occasions) again and again by the north Wales mental health services/Gwynedd Social Services over a period of years. The result? I was convicted once of ‘staring at a social worker’ (counts as Public Order Offence no less!) and once of calling a manager a fat idiot (another Public Order Offence). These cases must have cost the public purse many, many thousands of pounds. I know of other mental health patients too who were relentlessly pursued through the courts by the same authorities – we’ve all being trying to work out just what the sum total of our cases must have cost and have concluded that its got to have hit well over a million. And no questions have ever been asked as to why people were being taken to Court by these authorities for ludicrous ‘offences’ – or why they were sometimes being accused of very serious offences but cases collapsed when staff were demonstrated to have lied.

  4. besides being dismissed as a witch hunter you are probably thought of as a cracking example of grief and mourning gone awry. Meanwhile ,regardless of the shit thrown at you , the scandal will continue to unravel through comprehensive investigation. LB’s Justice campaign is inspiring . Any one person or a group of people seeking accountability for harm done/wholly preventable death from duty holders is exactly that , people seeking accountability

  5. That’s why it’s best never to give up.
    There’s nothing to live for if we fail those we brought into the world. We know we don’t demand the Earth, just common decency.

  6. Just wanted to say that it was the publicity around the tragic loss of your son that inspired me to seek justice for my own son, who was under the ‘care’ of this Trust and had failed to get the support he needed following his release from Section some 7 years before.

    He was steadily going downhill, and my letters to his CMHT were all ignored and not replied to. Finally I put in an official complaint in January this year, and in response the Trust did acknowledge their shortcomings, and apologised (signed by KP actually….), and as a result he was assessed re Adult Social Care and now has 28 hours of support via Direct Payments, when he had nothing before. I feel sure that if the Trust had not been under the glare of publicity at the time, then the response would not have been as helpful.

    I am someone who knew nothing of the ‘system’ and had to do my best to find out what he was entitled to. My gut feeling is that he is in the minority with regard to his DP help, and I suspect that most of the rest of them get nothing and minimal support from a CPN.

  7. Once again – thank you Sara and all in the Justice Shed. I remember being gripped by the live tweeting of the inquest last year as it gave a real feel of events as they unfolded. The mother-blaming was particularly poignant for me as I experienced it with a Mental Health team for a family member. My abiding memory was that not only was the blaming insidious and hurtful, it also got in the way of treatment and wellbeing for the patient. At the time, a colleague introduced me to the concept of iatrogenic effects . After that I realised that research in mental health can be quite selective – the light is often shone on the patient and their family and the positive impacts of treatment but seems to shy away from the possible negative effects of treatment or lack of it.

  8. Jeremy Hunt first mentioned ‘witch hunt’. I was surprised David Fenton confirmed it in the way he did. I asked him after if he meant the behaviour of the public appeared to make it like a witch hunt because no appropriate action was being taken by the NHS hierarchy, which I sensed he really meant – problem with editing?

    He confirmed that is essentially what he meant. He also stated Hunt never at the time mentioned the families were on a witch hunt, but that the public arguments – in the media etc – became entirely focused on one woman KP and not on the wider issues. This is true – I have for some time been criticising the press and media for exactly that – hence the request for the BBC ‘Broken Trust’ documentary. It is clear we need another documentary to show how totalitarian and dysfunctional NHS management is from top to bottom!!

    John L Green, Former Governor Southern Health

    • …..and see all the CE’s in NHS (and of LA’s?)…now being advised to ‘fess up and pay up’ after an avoidable death…….all .in a long line jostling the one in front saying………you go first ……?

  9. I may have missed it…but did Mr Hunt mention the need for speedier and more compassionate JUSTICE for families and more openness honesty and ACCOUNTABILITY from him and his NHS leaders and managers…. ?

    And…what is different in his suggestion today – around the need for more openess and honesty when things go wrong – from – ‘whistle blowing’ ? Where the response to this currently – is send said whistle blower to job centre?…

  10. Hi Sara
    Just been catching up on your tweets (and Imogen Tyler’s comments) dissecting the vacuous rubbish that constitutes ‘official’ documentation regarding learning disability provision. I have read so many such documents regarding mental health provision in north Wales. This was a ‘service’ that I knew so well, that was grossly abusive with an astronomical suicide rate – perish the thought that those sort of horrors would ever get a mention in any review or inspection report – and all that Healthcare Inspectorate Wales produced for years was the sort of nonsense that you have highlighted in your tweets. For the first time last year, there was an honest report produced about mental health provision in north Wales by Donna Ockenden, who was brought in to investigate after a national scandal that hit the wider UK media. She noted – among many other things – that on the ward that she investigated that the ‘activities’ for patients that were described by staff didn’t exist, that staff described themselves as ‘experts’ (these were staff who had been secretly recorded swearing at patients, discussing their sex lives and ‘restraining’ patients with furniture) and that staff described the ward as a ‘centre of excellence’ (this was a ward where patients were described as crawling around naked on floors coated with urine and faeces; one patient was found to have an untreated broken arm). If Donna Ockenden managed to notice all this, how exactly did it escape the attention of everyone else?

    • PS Have just seen Imogen’s wonderful tweet about mindfulness! This was such a problem in north Wales (where of course mindfulness was pioneered by Mark Williams) – patients dealing with the most dreadful neglect and abuses, being given so little meaningful help, were all being offered liberal doses of mindfulness. And Imogen has got it spot on – the people who really loved practicing mindfulness and who claimed such benefit from it were the staff.

  11. They closed down our local ATU a while ago, and turned it into a therapy suite. But they had no therapies for the patients previously in the ATU (why?)
    Not even a swing, or little jacuzzi, or cognitive activity unless I did something, no help to contact home as anyone else would, nowhere to run and let off steam.
    Some good support staff and a few of the nurses tried to create a structured day, but SLTs and OTs did nothing useful even though they were in the same building, so the quality of work was limited.
    There were so many surprises.
    CBT or mindfulness wasn’t done, and the psychologist in the ATU (who didn’t seem to want to talk or tap into my knowledge) did no work with my son in the 18 or so months he was there, saying to me right from the start that it was better not to work directly with him as he ‘didn’t know her’.
    He didn’t know anyone else either.

    But there were regular sessions on posters for individual staff needing psychology counselling – she was there for their needs.
    These staff had a lot of leave, and went home after shifts.
    The patients torn away from home, alone and vulnerable and frightened, in perfect conditions for high adrenalin – had no counselling.

  12. What evil is this?
    In the case of Jonas Stadden, a beautiful child born with Down Syndrome, the local authority took him into care for ‘some reason’ that no one can quite fathom. Not placed with foster carers with experience of disabilities, he was found to be extremely poorly by his parents during contact, father made desperate pleas for an ambulance, he was burning hot, eyes stuck together with conjunctivitis, had burns to his body, yet the local authority deemed medical attention unnecessary, anyway the fc had no time, she had a birthday party to plan for her daughter.
    So they sent him back with her to die. Rather than inform the parents of this badly failed child, the local authority spent several hours comforting the fc’s who had failed him (getting the story straight more like!)
    The parents have relentlessly campaigned for an inquest, apparently that is not necessary, the local authority say so. But considering their demands for justice for their son, those pesky parents must be punished for time wasting, so the older children were locked away in care, denied the right to their solicitors who had to ‘go through the fc’ who would decide if the child was up to seeing them (uh huh) but whatever you do, keep them away from the parents! Pesky pesky parents, keep wanting answers, punish them, teach them to shut up and go away!
    One Wonders what the local authority will do now the children are home, their weapon of choice is out of grasp … maybe the next chapter is a waiting game, to take their children if they have any …

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