The Job Interview

I recently applied for a new job. A first since LB died. Over five years of campaigning, hearings and time off. Illness. Work derailed.

The end of death investigatory processes neatly dovetailed with Tom (our youngest) going to university in September.

Unexpectedly home alone space. Time. Time to work. And a relevant job. Timing and fit.

What fit though? Troublesome sweary ranter, thorn in the side of NHS bodies/big charities, determined activist outsider. Or an informed, critical academic?

I dusted off my CV with eyes firmly clamped closed in places. LB sitting squarely at the centre of it all. I can’t ‘weigh up’ his death against the Research Exercise Framework (REF). Academic marker of apparent ‘excellence’.

One referee in discussion about my application said:

I don’t know whether to focus on your CV being robust despite what has happened. Or think about what you could have achieved…

No. I don’t know. How the fuck could any one know?

Does academia have space for activism? [Not really]. How does fit work in practice? Conventional compassionate leave doesn’t fit with our experience. It’s not a one off chunk of time to grieve. More barbaric, drawn out processes – police investigation, GMC and NMC hearings, inquest and HSE investigation – involving consistent and repeated dragging back down and compounding horror.

Six years ago I had a reasonably bouncy, bright academic future.

I was shortlisted. I prepared carefully and thoroughly. The two nights before the interview involved terrible (and unusual) nightmares and long periods of wakefulness. The night before I ‘experienced’ an earthquake on an apparent Italian island in such graphic detail I woke feeling I could write a substantive list of what to do and not to do in the event of such a catastrophe. Grimly devastating.

The interview process involved a lengthy presentation to departmental staff in the morning and interview in the afternoon. The presentation seemed to go alright. Warmth and interest from potential colleagues. Entering the same room three hours later I felt ok until the first question. The room was suddenly boiling hot and felt like it was shifting. I couldn’t think. I began to stare fixedly out of a window that was opened and then shut because it was too noisy. My answers incoherent or worse until gently coaxed by panel members to produce something resembling sense.

Then it was over.

I left making cheerful and appropriate noises. I rang Rich to say I didn’t think it had gone well and caught the train home. At Crewe out of the blue Sooty tears kicked in and continued to Oxford. I wasn’t ‘crying’. More leaking seeping fluid at a rate that was impossible to mop. I just let them roll.

That night and the next day I felt utterly shite. Traumatised. Revisiting my answers which became worse in my mind. I felt intense sadness wondering if the MPTS cross-examination was going to haunt me forever. Were the ‘investigatory’ processes going to become more devastatingly damaging than LB’s death? [Howl]

Over the weekend with visits from the kids and others I largely forgot about The Interview. The experience occasionally revisited with a mix of groaning, humiliation and laughter.

This morning I spent some time photographing plants in the beautiful late autumn light. Peaceful, reflective activity. Capturing cheeky kickass and forthright daisies and astonishing colours.

I didn’t get the job. I didn’t make a strong enough case for the fit between my research and the post.

Reputation, reputation and reputation (and a truly stunning sunset)

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A sunset to stun and silence in awe this week. Photos here are unedited other than cropping. Taken from our bedroom window. The bedroom LB and Tom once shared. A room once filled with happiness, lego creations and die cast models.

It’s been a stunning and silencing week in other, less good ways. On Tuesday, File on Four first aired Lucy Adam’s investigation of Transforming Care and the experiences of young people incarcerated in Assessment and Treatment Units. A truly chilling listen [available here] for so many reasons. Not least hearing 17 year old Bethany sing a Bob Marley song to her dad on the phone from seclusion. Bethany has been in seclusion [locked in a room and fed through a hatch] for months now under the ‘care’ of St Andrews (non) Care. At the time of recording, she had the inside of a Bic biro embedded in her arm for three months. Yep. My brain kind of juddered and shuddered on hearing this detail, unconsciously parking it in a whole new ‘must have misheard’ folder for minutes before other listeners raised it on twitter.

St Andrews were the subject of a Channel 4 Dispatches film Under Lock and Key a year ago now and continue to bludgeon the word ‘care’ with remarkable indifference and extraordinary reward. Supported by commissioners shelling out £13k a week (yep, £13k a week) for casual violence and brutality on young people.

Chris Hatton, who worked with Lucy on the background to the programme published an analysis of restraints, assaults and self-harm in in-patient units. Not an easy read.

[As an aside, we walked passed the Birmingham outpost of St Andrews last Sunday during a #CaminoLB walk… the place was a like an apocalyptic film setting with no sign of life.]

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Bethany’s dad joined twitter after the programme was aired and has been filling in details about the experiences she (and her family) have been forced to endure. Walsall local authority are Bethany’s ‘corporate parents’ and by late week they stepped up to engage with unfolding events. Not with the Bic pen or Bethany’s incarceration/hatch feeding but her dad’s new social media activity. They took out injunction against him because he included a photo of her on his profile page.

Instead of working with Bethany, her dad and others who know her, in order to provide effective and supportive ‘support’ to enable her to live an independent and meaningful life, St Andrews are choosing to trouser around £600k a year to generate and sustain a battle which Bethany is guaranteed to lose and continue to lose.

[I can’t even begin to imagine what this experience must be like. Experiencing sustained state sanctioned power and brutality, with no recourse to comfort, loving or any sniff of rescue… Aged 17.

Sticking a Bic pen in your arm makes a kind of sense that sickens me to the core.]

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Staying with local authority monstrousness albeit at a lesser level, an academic colleague tweeted earlier today asking if it was common practice for local authorities to ask to run research findings relating to the social care they provide through their comms department. Wow. Really? A public sector body thinking they somehow have the right to ‘check’ independent research findings funded by another public sector body. This was around the same time as Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the US Supreme Court. Grimmer than grim.

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Finally, the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust failings, documented by the brilliant and committed journalistic work of another BBC social affairs correspondent, Michael Buchanan, continue to grow as families come forward. Buchanan, who has been following this story for 18 months yesterday tweeted:

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Once again, a government body grimly and blatantly ignoring human pain, prioritising reputation over failings and any whiff of improvement or change.

What a week.

[Postscript: I’ve somehow missed approving a wedge of comments on this blog over the last few weeks. Sorry and thank you, as always, for contributing sense and thoughtfulness to these pages.]

“Ensure the toilet door in the section 136 suite at Antelope house is replaced quickly”

Earlier this week, Rich was out and I was home alone. The growing condiment pile felt right and a deep late Autumn sunset beckoned. I grabbed my camera and headed to South Park. I bumped into a few people I knew walking down there. Brief, warm and casual catch ups. Heading off between each with an eye on the sun. Despite knowing from a newly discovered nerdy site sunset was at 6.52pm.

Across the park there were smatterings of students/freshers, young people and others. Being or pounding across the park in serious running strides, sitting, walking, talking, laughing and playing games. Loosely shared eye and phone action on the slowly setting sun.

I dipped down to dandelion level while waiting.

It was quiet and spectacularly beautiful.

Walking home [after the reported 6.52 sunset and 30 minute twilight window] I felt peaceful.

The next day my phone rang. The latest Care Quality Commission inspection of Southern Health (Sloven) was embargoed until Friday. Ah. Ok… Sloven. A Trust with an astonishingly grim back drawer full of failing CQC inspections. A Health Services Journal award winning CEO (2011 from memory) who doshed a mate millions before disappearing with a £250k pay off back in 2016.

Yep.

All that still trips off my ‘you effectively killed my beautiful, beyond loved son’ tongue. And it will continue to do so until I really understand why.

Back in March we naively thought the outcome of the Health and Safety Executive criminal prosecution and £2m fine was a seminal moment in NHS history. A shot across the bow of all Trusts. A judge pulling no punches in his ruling. Generating critical scrutiny across the health and social care provision of this crapshite trust and wider. Good care, ligature points, care plans, medication storage, staff supervision and so much more sorted. These are basics after all.

Reading this latest report generated yet more tears and distress. How low can you continue to go in providing ‘health’ and ‘social care’.

The inspection in June 18 generated a warning notice around the safety of young people in a Southampton based unit. A warning notice around safety.

Five years after our son drowned. [He drowned]

And so many others have died.

The Sloven exec board are still stretching out their entitled legs. Apparently kicking any whiff of a negative inspection report into the long grass. No determination, commitment or even interest in trying to own these continued failings.

Reminding me of those early, baking hot July days. Almost five years to the day swatting away the CQC inspection like they did with LB’s death. [He died]

There were 20 breaches of legal requirements that the trust must put right. We found 74 things that the trust should improve to comply with a minor breach that did not justify regulatory action, to prevent breaching a legal requirement, or to improve service quality

We issued seven requirement notices to the trust. Our action related to breaches of 21 regulations in seven core services.

I dunno. Reading it I jotted so many notes. Bashing on the keyboard. Scratching furious fucking pen to paper. So much so wrong. Still. Beyond wrong.

The trust had not completed the anti-ligature work at Leigh House (identified as needed in previous CQC inspections) which posed a significant risk to young people and was not being adequately mitigated against.

Governance systems did not always provide robust assurance to the trust board about issues within services. For example, we found the board were not cited on staffing issues in some services, low levels of staff supervision, poor compliance with care planning and an inability to provide accurate restraint data. 

And more:

Poorly written and stored care plans; no patient involvement in or knowledge of care plans; poor note keeping; not following the MHA; lack of staff supervision; inappropriate medication management and storage; risks to young people in MH services; lack of hygiene and broken equipment; issues around privacy and gender; safeguarding issues; ward temperature issues; lack of competence in syringe driver training.

The same old and more. Five years on.

Lives tossed out like rubbish. With no consideration. Reputation ruling the roost still..

This sentence strangely leapt out, from the 54 page report.

Ensure the toilet door in the section 136 suite at Antelope house is replaced quickly.

Sort the toilet door. It only takes a few fucking hours.