Trivialising trauma

I revisited the letter from the Oxfordshire County Council commissioner this week. Christallbloodymighty. The 9 page letter sent to a disability rights activist a year or so after LB died and passed on to us just before his inquest in October 2015.

With increased incredulity, rage and distress, I googled her. Blimey. A more recent local news story. Mrs Cross of Oxford. Sent a free lesson at a now closed leisure centre. She seems more outraged by this than what happened to LB.

The first part of section 10 of the letter begins:


So much so fucking wrong.

  • The erasure of LB.
  • The diminishing of what happened to one ‘frustration’ (of many?)
  • The removal of agency; I’m out of control, irrational, hysterical.
  • Blaming the blog
  • Checking people are still alive [howl]
  • Blaming admin
  • Prioritising the absence of a particular colleague
  • Erasing LB.

Sending a letter to a patient who died a preventable death on your watch is more than ‘crass’, ‘upsetting’ or ‘unfortunate’.

Writing this letter and bleating about a random promotional freebie exercise class to a local paper screams so much so wrong with values.

Has (the audacity of) publicly documenting poor provision on ‘the blog’ and the light shone by #JusticeforLB turned senior public officials into monsters?

Or just exposed reams of rubbish wrapped up in ‘No one will ever know about or expose our inadequacies’ complacency parcels?


I’m struck by the use of the word ‘upsetting’. In Josh Halliday’s Guardian piece about the tribunal, the MPTS responded

We are sorry to hear how upsetting Dr Ryan found the process of giving evidence to the tribunal.

An extraordinary trivialising of trauma.

‘Upsetting’. They heard how upsetting I found it? How? Through Josh’s questions? From MPTS staff present? From jibber jabber by the coffee machine?

From the clearly upset clerk who led me into that vicious den, removed me from it for a few minutes and then returned me to it?

Upsetting. What is ‘upsetting’?

LB missing his beloved Olympia Horse of the Year Show because of whooping cough. [We both had whooping cough, as did Fran’s son, James. I have a tear inducing fondness/nostalgia remembering those whooping cough weeks]. I was upset that LB missed the horse show.

Upset seems to relate to missing things. An event, a job, an exam pass, a promotion, a ticket, an opening, a closing, a dying plant, a building, a pub, a writer, an actor.

But it ain’t receiving a letter addressed to your dead son telling him how well the hospital he died in is going to care for him in the coming year.

Or being forced to answer a battery of nasty, credibility shredding non-questions for two hours in front of a tribunal panel and the clinician responsible for your child’s care.

As time drags on, space emerges to reflect more clearly on what happened. To make reflections, sense or no sense. There are clear similarities between the responses of the commissioner, Murphy, Percy and others.

Cut from the same cloth. Cloth woven with a thread that obliterates humanity, reflection and recognition of people and their families. No remorse, no genuine sorry, no regret, no nothing. Just blame. The mother, the blog, the frontline staff.  [Dip into the Katrina Percy reply for an extraordinary letter with 40 or so mentions of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ in just over two two pages.]

I’m wondering how far the stain of this model of ‘leadership’/senior NHS staff spreads. Are commissioners, learning disability psychiatrists, Trust CEO’s typically petty minded, self obsessed and ignorant of the lives and love of the families they are supposed to be serving? Is this unchecked or even encouraged by their peers/the culture of the senior tier?

And to those of you still monitoring this blog with a defamation lens. In case you still ain’t got it. Our beautiful boy died. He died.


10 thoughts on “Trivialising trauma

  1. Awful..
    terrible, and all is true.

    Words have been made up to diminish us and our children – we are not seen – we are considered. We are viewed casually as they lean over the edge of their cloud – at best are seen as alien curiosities – animus but sans humanity – less of feeling, less of being and grieving. Permitted – generously allocated a right to a less of … existence – generously gifted more of less.

    Less of feeling – less of capable. They gift us ‘upset’ – when we are keening over our broken by them child.

    And then when we show less than gratitude..they hire bullies – to lash us and break our back.

    While we weep they blame us – in their ‘we do it because we can ‘ – way.

    Then protect their own no matter the damage done.

    If the perpetrator, is of organisational serf status….then they go away.for a while…sick.

    No matter the illegality or incompetence, all can be wrapped up; tied up, in a neat and aggressive bow.. Accountability allocated and filed….elsewhere.

    Families always fold…and then they die.

    These problem are always solved…. chaps.

    No need to lead anything or manage anything at all.

    Hands swiped. Job well done.

  2. Awful! I cannot believe such awful people really exist in our society and also headup the organizations which are supposed to care for people. Everything is wrong with the system! In any other decent country where humanity is still alive, these people would have been behind bars for causing death by negligence and not be so openly trivializing trauma they inflicted on a family and still are!

  3. It is absolutely necessary and just for you to respond to those who seek to protect their own fragile egos from confronting the reality of their responsibilities. Because of that lot a beautiful, young man with his life ahead of him had that life taken away. They must reflect, accept and suffer the consequences of their actions and negligence. Love to you and yours Jo

  4. I have been reading about your latest traumas with great concern. I don’t think anyone can appreciate the emotional impact on you and your family. If anyone was frightened by your blog – serves them bloody well right: they deserve it.

    If medical and other staff had done their job properly; if those who stood passively by without reporting poor care; and/or if the Teflon Twins had acted responsibly when things went wrong, the tone of your blog might have been entirely different.

    Had it not been for your robust fight for justice (including through your blog and media contacts), which inspired others to join you in campaigning for change, it is highly probable that the same slovenly Board and grossly inadequate clinical strategies would still be in place. We have at least ‘got to first base’ with a complete change of Directors and an undertaking to establish a Total Quality Management System.

    We will reach ‘second base’ when new substantive CEO and Medical Director are appointment and the second level of management is reformed and/or replaced. It is not going to be easy.

  5. I think the letter is frankly silly and valueless, a rant about being criticised, from someone in a system where voices aren’t supposed to be heard.
    Fear is a good thing.
    The person who was off sick for 6 weeks was paid, supported and has lots of life choices..

  6. Very brief comment for now. Those of us who attended Sloven’s Annual Members’ Meeting last night came away inspired by the new substantive Chair. For example, when I used the word, “We” and corrected it to “the Trust”, the Chair actually commented that I was right first time to use the word ‘we’. One small step…. Inclusion!

    However, she has to be given time: a shambles and culture created over a period of nearly seven years cannot be remedied overnight. Lynne knows she needs our assistance – and patience. It took several years and a trip to the Toyota factory in Japan (for key executives) to turn around the Virginia Mason Medical Centre. No comments please about freebies to Japan – I researched and pre-handled this – Toyota UK now runs training courses in Total Quality Management and (Midlanders please don’t take offence) the UK doesn’t have quite the same as attractions as Japan. Also, having worked for a Japanese company for 10 years – anyone who expects that a business trip will be a ‘jolly’ would be in for a very nasty shock. They will be worked ‘from noon to night’ and get no rest when even when not working. I needed a holiday when I got back!!

    Please, no expressions of cynicism: understandable but Sloven is ‘in the last chance saloon’ and without hope we have nothing. Though, for understandable reasons, Sara has not been able to attend many meetings in Hampshire, the work that many of us (including Sara) have put in has been recognised too. Without the support and that of our friends in the media, Alan Yates (immediate past-Interim Chair) could not have transformed the Board as he did in less than a year – again because he engaged with us. We even managed to influence the choice of substantive Chair.

  7. As a witness to so much of what happened in those early days, that letter was outrageous , have remained stunned by it , and who they were really concerned about I don’t think it was really the manager who needed time off due to stress,

  8. Pingback: A Death by Indifference | Campaign for Reform At Southern Health

  9. Seems to me there is one rule for us (parents of learning disabled children) and one for them (people tasked with their care). Parents must always care responsibly and have faith in the authorities they select for the long-term care of their children. But the agencies who then do the caring, whether they are front-line, administrative, managerial do not carry the same burden of humanity and rational thinking. It’s all tick-box exercising, chasing the shadows of professionalism, denials, incomplete training, lack of compassion. Yes, it’s all that and more. Thank you Sara for showing just how deficient the system is and for demonstrating how we cannot rely on it. The above letter is yet another example of the arrant lack of concern for you and your family, for your terrible suffering at the hands of those who very definitely appear incompetent and lacking an empathy. The person concerned now has some inkling of the burden you have endured. I hope they now use that experience to improve the levels of compassion so desperately needed in your tragedy.

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