The Percy Problem?

Oh my. A piece in the Mail on Sunday* today about Katrina Percy, former Sloven CEO, touting leadership expertise on LinkedIn.  During twitter exchanges across the day I was bounced back to exchanges around our referral of Percy to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for investigation under the Fit and Proper Person Regulation (FPPR) back in the day.

A right old dogs dinner that spanned more than 18 months. Littered with a remarkable number of non-responses. Demonstration of the disregard and disrespect bereaved families can expect from the NHS and wider bodies. Brutal non-responses…

2015
17 March 15 We refer Katrina Percy for investigation.
[No response.] Please reply even if only to say you’ve received the email. Families are in a terrible, brutalised position. To ignore is to simply add a size 10 Doc Marten kick in the gut to the experience.
27 May 15 I tweet about this non-response. Andrea Sutcliffe steps in to mediate. Good for Andrea but it shouldn’t take a tweet and the potential for reputational damage to generate action.
29 May 15 An apology from Mike Richards, then Head of Inspection, for the delay in response.
1 June 15 A letter from Richards with the panel decision:
Richards bollox

No words.

2016
3 Jan 16 After publication of the Mazars review we ask the CQC to reconsider their decision.
[No response.] As above. I tweet and Andrea Sutcliffe again steps in to mediate This flags up some communication type issues that really need addressing.
1 Mar 16 Email from Mike Richards’ executive PA to say our referral is tabled for the FPPR management review meeting on 11 Mar 16 and we’ll hear after that.
‘Thank you’ I reply. The differential in power laid starkly by the ‘thank you’ emails.
31 Mar 16  Hello, I email… Again.  Is there any news? As above.
1 Apr 16  Email from Paul Lelliot (Deputy Chief Inspector for Mental Health) to say the Chair, PA and Mike Richards are on annual leave. We should hear soon. A holding email takes about 1 minute to write and send. There is no excuse to piss off on leave and not reply. 
4 Apr 16 The Chair replies:

The panel concluded that any further action should be considered once CQC had concluded our most recent review and have an understanding of the position of NHS Improvement in relation to the trust.

6 Apr 16 A warning notice (and no action) from the CQC is announced.
7 Apr 16 I email to ask what the CQC are going to do about Katrina Percy.
14 May 16 I chase up my email.
15 May 16 Apologies for not updating I’m told. We will provide an update shortly.
29 July 16 I email for an update. [Note we’re leaving gaps of 5/6 weeks before recontacting. The spectre of the vexatious family/mother ever present. This consideration is not even a whiff among CQC business. Kind of reminding me of a paper we wrote about the ringside seat autistic people can have to mainstream life with little or no reciprocated thought from mainstream society.]
29 July 16 An email response: they are waiting for Tim Smart’s review of board capability and governance.
22 Aug 16 I email to ask if there is any decision about FPPR.

No reply. They didn’t bother to reply. As above. With bells on.

Katrina Percy ‘stepped down’ at the end of September 2016.

2017

There are three criminal prosecutions against the Trust in 2017. All cover Percy’s period of ‘leadership’. The Health Service Journal awarded her a ‘CEO of the Year Award’ back in the day which features on her LinkedIn profile. This was, according to a HSJ journalist, awarded by an independent (non-HSJ) panel, nothing to do with the HSJ and ‘before the issues were known‘.

We all know the issues now. Many of us recognised them before weighty (bloated, worn out and toxic seeped and steeped) senior NHS (Improvement/England/CQC/Dept of Health figures) eventually stopped slumbering. We all now know.

There is no more pretence. No more shonky little (and big) practices covering up, denying, bullying, bouncing and battering blame onto bereaved families.

The questions that whizzle around our brains/discussion relentlessly (raised by all sorts of people we meet, bump into or who even pull over to talk to us on the street)… Questions any sensible, non-NHS befuddled (at best) person asks and continues to ask remain unanswered. Not least how the hell could any of this happen? 

I don’t know if I want to ever know the answer/s to this. I just hope that those senior bods who were, and continue to be implicated, take a long hard look at themselves. That they start to polish their murky and corrupt stained goggles. Set aside the lure of the rewards for not seeing, not listening and denying and breath in some fresh air.

You’ve been arsewipes of fuckwhattery proportions. There’s no doubt about this. There is also time to change.

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*Our experience of sensitive and thoughtful exchanges with journalists continued with Jonathan Bucks. Thank you.

When Pittsburgh turned yellow…

L1031481Last day in the US. Teaching on a short course for researchers within the Veterans Administration at the Grand Wyndham Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. In a conference room cut off from the outside world with air-con set to ‘artic’.

Lunch break was 1 hour 15 mins. I step out of the hotel into a beautiful sunny, beyond baking hot day. Slightly disorientating. Everywhere I look people are wearing yellow and black. Walking across the park in front of the hotel. It’s Sunday. The Steelers are playing. I walk in the same direction. Across the yellow bridge. Towards the stadium.

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L1031507I’m told/observe a few things.

American football is a family event. People head over to the stadium hours before the game for the atmosphere, pre-drinking and eating. Very, very few people do not wear the kit in some shape or form. You can take alcohol into the stadium but no bags (other than clear/plastic bags).

I saw one policeman on a bike. Looking totally out of place. As if he was passing by on his lunch hour.

A retired player posed for photos with fans. The queue was enormous.

 

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“Get your phones out and ready” people were told. No charge. A snap or two. A ‘terrible towel’.  More cheer.

I wandered back towards the yellow bridge. To the beige hotel (in the photo below) for the final sessions in this marathon trip.

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What a backdrop. What a city. What an extraordinary journey…

I cannot wait to be home.

Pittsburgh and the speakeasy

L1031307 (1)Pittsburgh. A city where everything seems big.

After meandering my way here overland via Montreal with some freedom, I’ve been full on working.

Tonight a free evening and some wandering.  I stumble across an extraordinary old building positioned in what looks like a stage set in the shadow of sun soaking tower blocks. Beckert Seed and Bulb Co. A Disney film in the wings.

L1031416Nate happened to be sorting the rubbish. He ran with my fascination with this ‘out of/more than in’ place building.

“There’s the old speakeasy down there… You know. The illegal liquor sales… The door to the speakeasy is still there.”

The speakeasy.

L1031422We went and looked at the door down the alley way.

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“So long ago now…” said Nate. Shaking his head. He went back to work.

L1031424I went back to my big hotel.

 

Finally, New York to Pittsburgh

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L1031190 (1)So I’m inviting the nerdier among you to join me on my last long distance journey on this mammoth North American trip. New York to Pittsburgh on an Amtrak train. Leaving New York Penn Station at 10.52am. Get some nosh in advance I’ve been advised. The train fare can be a bit limited.

Tim is the ticket inspector. With more than a hint of banter and humour.

“You think this is the first time my picture has been taken by someone from England?!” he asks, posing for a few pics like an old pro as the train bounces around the track a bit and he keeps blurring.

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The train is well worn, comfy, spacious with a range of around the seat gadgets. A distant table, a foot rest attached to the seat in front moved with a foot pedal. Under each seat is a pull out chair extension so you can recline your chair and almost lay down with your legs stretched out. A shiny round black knob on the arm of the chair pings the extension back under the seat.

There’s plenty of room.

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A dining car and free (speedy and largely consistent) wifi.

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And wonderful views.
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From the edges of New York city through villages of colourful wooden houses dotted around tree filled Pennsylvanian hills, the 400 or so mile journey takes nine hours. Its a relaxed pace, slow to middling. Allowing time to soak up the changing scenery. Read, work. Think.

A bit of excitement mid afternoon. Tim’s replacement, a similarly comedic, big voiced, kindly woman, marches into our nearly empty carriage.

Now listen up everyone. I have an announcement to make! Are you listening? I have something important to say!”

Crumbs. What’s happened? The six or seven of us left after the mass exodus at Philadelphia station a few hours earlier poke our heads out from our by now, personalised spaces. Footrests up or at ease. Seats reclined. Full body sleepage on the go.

“A couple of people have reported the smell of smoke in this carriage. Yes. Smoke. Now if I catch anyone smoking I will toss them off the train at the next station. Got it?”

We nod. Feeling guilty. She marches out of the carriage with a flourish and a cheeky smirk.

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Early evening, more excitement. An unexpected announcement over the tannoy. We’re about to approach the ‘world famous horseshoe curve’. Time to look out of the left hand side of the train. Wow. One for the serious train buff maybe but it’s pretty cool. It takes me back to the days of wooden toy train track building with the obligatory figure of eight curves. We never had enough pieces for a horseshoe.L1031276

We settle back in our various spaces. The sun slowly sets and by Johnstown it’s dark. The industrial approach to Pittsburgh reduced to chaotic lights in blackness.

Time for a cheeky bottle of the local brew, Yeungling, from the dining car. And to reflect on the humanity both generated by and captured on public transport.

Walk on the High Line

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I entered New York three times for the first time over the last four days. Train from Boston Friday, car on Saturday evening, Coach USA today. Arrival into Penn Station, via the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln tunnel.

Friday involved an in and out, without stepping out, of stations. Cloaked in a humid, frantic and harsh Friday evening space. New York a promise of familiar names, signs and lifelong memories.

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Saturday evening I walked a chunk of Manhattan Island with the friend/colleague I was staying with in Nyack. Promise more than realised as we grazed Central Park, Times Square, 5th Avenue and the Empire State Building.

Today I caught the bus from Nyack and checked into the New York Yotel. Mid afternoon, I went to walk the High Line. The park that almost wasn’t.

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Built on a historic, elevated freight line destined for demolition… run by the non-profit conservancy Friends of the High Line which relies on individual donations.

A disused elevated freight line made into a park. An extraordinary, joyful space with original tracks, plants, walkways, seating, artwork and views.

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And then I came across the choir.

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L1031150Truly wondrous.

Eh? Sorry, what was that? A park on a bridge across the River Thames? 

Final day in Old Orchard Beach

Staying at the Pine View Motel. Motel life. A glimpse of a pool here through the window and beyond, Saco Avenue, the main road between Old Orchard and Saco. I worked, Skyped, went to the laundrette [exceptional] at lunchtime and late afternoon walked the beach.

I walked the other way under the pier this evening towards Brunswick. Sea gulls stood almost to attention with a haughtiness along the beach while tiny (groups/gaggles/ chatters?) of sand pipers (I think with a quick google) added a joyous layer of fun and playfulness. Tripping over themselves without touching, chasing and ducking the waves.

I met Pretzer (or Prezzer) and his owner. A dog who loves the beach.

At JJs Eatery, where I ate, Halloween preparation was underway with serious attention.

On the way back to the motel I passed Lisa’s Pizza. Squaring, or circling the Old Orchard Beach experience. A place where you can order a pizza and someone will deliver it and wait. No stops necessary.

Rib beef buffet and Eric Spoonton

Quiet day in Old Orchard Beach. Skype calls, work in my motel room and a walk along the beach late afternoon where some nifty painters were busy at work in the sky.

L1030709I had dinner in Strike Zone, sitting next to Peter who was carving an enormous piece of meat for an ‘all you can eat’ buffet. Another deadpan legend.

“The pumpkin mash is amazing. Did you make it?”
“Nah. None of it”.

Custom was steady with a few rules in operation.

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“You need a clean plate.”
“This one’s fine.”
“No you need a clean plate. It’s the rules.”
“Ah. I’m all for rules.”

I started to take some pictures.

“Where are you from?” He asked.
“Oxford, England.”
“We had someone from Manchester the other week. He really loved the pickles. ‘I love the pickles so much!’ he said.”
“That’s cool. Is that beef?”
“Yep. Prime rib beef. All you can eat. On Fridays it’s all you can eat haddock.”
“Wow.”
“Make sure you take a photo of Eric Spoonton.”
“Who?”
“Eric Spoonton. Like Eric Clapton.”
“Ok.”

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Riding the bus to Old Orchard Beach

L1030589 (2)A pitstop in Boston and then the Downeaster Amtrak to Soca for three nights in Old Orchard Beach. Old Orchard Beach on the Maine coast. A place name that oozes nostalgia, honey, nuts and vanilla, quaintness and a slow pace of life.

IMG_3140Outside Soca station (it turned out the train doesn’t stop at Orchard out of season) a frazzled woman with three cute tinies was on the phone to the taxi company.

‘An hour?! I phoned from the train an hour ago and booked it for 3.15pm. Why will it take another hour!”

“There’s only one taxi left in town,” said a woman with a deep voice, sitting on a nearby bench.

This interjection was ignored.

“Well what am I supposed to do? I mean I don’t even know where we are. I phoned an hour ago!”

“Soca,” said the woman on the bench. Delivering deadpan worthy of Greyhound Dave.

I was hoping to get a cab given the unexpected journey  but a) my phone wasn’t charged and b) it wasn’t looking likely given the one cab in town scenario.  At that moment, a jumpity old bus oozing with character pulled up bearing an  ‘Old Orchard Beach’ header. Mmmm.

$1.50 stuffed into a metal box and entry into the world of the Soca/Old Orchard Beach shuttle bus. A bus that has no stops while stopping any where.

I was reminded of Rachel Simon’s book ‘Riding the bus with my sister‘ as I asked the driver about my motel destination. This became the collective concern of pretty much everyone on the bus. Where was my motel and how would I get there? From a bus which seemed to wander around Old Orchard Beach picking up anyone who nodded.

At one point, a passenger got off the bus to pick up a pizza he’d ordered which was being held by someone on a park bench. The driver took the opportunity to get off too. And try and get a bit more local intel about my puzzling destination.

By this stage my iPad was being passed around the bus as people zoomed in on the red flag that identified my motel and the blue dot that marked where we were. Kind of near really. Close enough to walk.

The passenger reappeared with an enormous pizza box. Followed by the driver.

“I think what you need to do is to get off the bus when the blue circle gets close to or at the red flag.”

Everyone nodded or murmured in agreement. Conversation turned to the unexpected closing of Dunkin Donuts.

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Greyhound days, Dave and the red pear

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When I got to the Montreal Greyhound station this morning the queue had woven untidily through available space and back almost out to the pavement. I thought about the Oxford to Newcastle Megabus (a nifty six hour journey) I pass on the way to work. Seeing the odd, pale, typically beaten passenger having a quick puff on the pavement.

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I parked these reflections. This was going to be a bus journey and a half. I had music, books, wifi, kip potential and the Vermont autumn scenery to soak up. By the time I reached the front of the queue other stragglers had joined and we were directed to another bus. A new bus. An express bus. Driven by Dave.

Dave.

I would want to employ Dave, or a someone like Dave, if I ran my own organisation. A exemplar in minimal interaction, keeping passengers informed/in line, and doing what matters.

I settled into a seat next to a woman wearing a round straw hat with her nose very firmly in a book. ‘Don’t talk to me’ she said without words. Comfy seat, space and big windows to beak through. A greyhound on the right side of shiny.

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There was chatter at first. People exchanging peculiar transient life fragments; where they were going, where they’d been. Why we were on that bus. The demographic was mixed with a hefty dose of young, scrubbed student types.  An older Greyhound-pro on his way to give an engineering lecture sat in front of me. He had a striking comfortableness with the process. Leafing through his newspaper he could have been sitting on a hotel balcony with a cup of coffee.

An hour or so into the journey the bus was largely quiet. People hooked into books, phones, tablets or dozing. There was weighty traffic as we approached the border and we inched forward slowly.

“Can you hear me?! I’m stuck on the bus. I’m stuck on the bus at the border. I don’t know what time. I’ll ask the driver.”
“What time will we be stopping in Brunswick?”
“We’re not stopping in Brunswick. This is an express bus.”
“But my ticket says Manchester.”
“You’re on the wrong bus.”

The promised border guard eventually appeared. After a brief chat Dave told the woman caller to get her stuff and wait for the next bus. The rest of us were get off the bus with our ‘on bus’ bits. Cases could stay in the hold.

“Is this yours?” said the young woman sit across the aisle to me. “It fell into my bag when you stood up”.

My red pear. From my hotel breakfast.

“Thanks…”
“You might have a bit of trouble with that pear. You aren’t allowed to bring fresh fruit into the US.”
“Oh.”
“You might want to lose it or declare it…”
“Lose it? Like leave it on the bus?”
“Mmm. That might make things worse. You should probably declare it.”

I got off the bus with the pear and a tub of grapes humming in my bag. We were herded into a new queue.

“Does anyone want a grape?” I asked.

The grapes went down well. I was allowed to keep the pear. Back on the bus we drove through spectacular countryside, had a break in torrential rain at White River Junction and arrived in Boston around 7pm.

 

 

Dave switched the lights on.

“Are you visiting Boston or do you live here?” asked the woman sitting next to me.

So much more than a ‘bus journey’.

I was taken back to this transport related piece of wisdom from LB.

Finally, New York to Pittsburgh…

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L1031190 (1)So I’m inviting the nerdier among you to join me on my last long distance journey on this mammoth North American trip; New York to Pittsburgh on an Amtrak train. Leaving New York Penn Station at 10.52am. Get some nosh in advance I’ve been advised. The train fare can be a bit limited.

The ticket inspector is a cheerful Tim. With more than a hint of banter and humour.

“You think this is the first time my picture has been taken by someone from England?!” he asks, posing for a few pics like an old pro as the train bounces around the track a bit and he blurs.

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The train is well worn, comfy, spacious with a range of around the seat gadgets. A distant table, a foot rest attached to the seat in front moved with a foot pedal. Under each seat is a pull out chair extension so you can recline your chair and almost lay down with your legs stretched out. A shiny round black knob on the arm of the chair pings the extension back under the seat.

There’s plenty of room.

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A dining car and free (speedy and largely consistent) wifi.

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And wonderful views.
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From the edges of New York city through villages of colourful wooden houses dotted around tree filled Pennsylvanian hills, the 400 or so mile journey takes nine hours. Its a relaxed pace, slow to middling. Allowing time to soak up the changing scenery. Read, work. Think.

A bit of excitement mid afternoon. Tim’s replacement, a similarly comedic, big voiced, kindly woman, marches into our nearly empty carriage.

Now listen up everyone. I have an announcement to make! Are you listening? I have something important to say!”

Crumbs. What’s happened? The six or seven of us left after the mass exodus at Philadelphia station a few hours earlier poke our heads out from our by now, personalised spaces.

“A couple of people have reported the smell of smoke in this carriage. Yes. Smoke. Now if I catch anyone smoking I will toss them off the train at the next station. Got it?”

We nod. Feeling guilty. She marches out of the carriage with a flourish and a cheeky smirk.

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Early evening, more excitement. An unexpected announcement over the tannoy. We’re about to approach the ‘world famous horseshoe curve’. Time to look out of the left hand side of the train. Wow. One for the serious train buff maybe but it’s pretty cool. It takes me back to the days of wooden toy train track building with the obligatory figure of eight curves. We never had enough pieces for a horseshoe.L1031276

We settle back in our various spaces. The sun slowly sets and by Johnstown it’s dark. The industrial approach to Pittsburgh reduced to chaotic lights in blackness.

Time for a cheeky bottle of the local brew, Yeungling, from the dining car. And to reflect on the humanity both generated by and captured on public transport.