This has been a right old week. A week of something. Stuff. A maelstrom of emotions and some fucking shite. Tuesday involved a serious schlep to London. First stop a British Association of Social Work conference at their newly opened building in Kentish Town. A talk and run jobby. I was first on. Safeguarding and human rights: what do families need from social work? What do we need? Easy peas:
Thoughtfulness, understanding, knowledge, integrity,
action, transparency and honesty.
The questions were a joy and included “What music did LB like?” I legged it to Westminster to meet with Caroline Dinenage (Minister for State for Health and Social Care). We had a chewy discussion around learning disability/autism related issues together with the lead bod from the Department of Health. I left feeling (surprisingly) heartened that Caroline D has heart, grit and determination.
Sticking around for my next gig, I went up to the public gallery to watch some of May’s brexit debate. The last time I was up in that cosy gallery was watching Evan Harris, then Oxford Lib Dem MP, deliver something about learning disability right back in the day. I remember painting a slogan on a tired old sheet on the kitchen floor one evening and waiting with the large banner at the wrong bus stop outside the Thornhill Park and Ride. Relieved when a mini bus hesitantly pulled over and welcomed me in. The first time I hooked up with My Life My Choice members.
Funny old world.
It was grotesquely mesmerising to watch the non-debate ‘live’ in the Commons. I then headed to Committee Room 10 for the INQUEST launch of Legal Aid for Inquests: Now or Never! campaign. Despite political distractions the room was packed with over 40 bereaved families, members of both Houses, journalists and third sector representatives. Bishop James did a sensitive and exemplary job of chairing a passionate and angry meeting. Three of us – Tanya El-Keria whose daughter Amy died in the Priory and Tellicia whose brother Kevin Clarke died after being restrained by police in London – spoke before the Minister of Justice, Lucy Frazer, responded. She didn’t shine. Trying to defend the government’s baffling refusal to introduce automatic legal aid for families at inquests despite weighty evidence was never going to work.
A summary of the launch by Hardeep Matharu is here. Despite the lacklustre performance by Frazer, captured on each face below, the sincerity, determination and rage in the room was palpable. Labour shadow minister Richard Burgon pledged to reform funding for state related deaths and there was a strong feeling that this is a battle that will (so fucking rightly) be won.
Then to Thursday and the re-opening of the disciplinary hearing into Valerie Murphy’s (LB’s psychiatrist) disciplinary hearing. She had been suspended for 12 months after a marathon hearing that stretched over seven months. She wasn’t struck off partly because of the ‘mitigating circumstances’ of working in the field of learning disability [I know]. Her catastrophic failings covered pretty much every bit of clinical practice. Including the very basics of epilepsy care.
This particular ‘medical’ note haunts me. Not just because it captures her clinical ineptitude. The wording reminds me of commentary about rare or endangered animals.
Evidence of how deeply LB was failed is written into and stamped across pretty much every communication captured during the 107 days he spent in that place and in every review since. The saddest piece of ‘new’ info that emerged from the original hearing for me, was that Murphy didn’t go on holiday until the Saturday after LB was admitted on the Tuesday night (March 19 2013).
We naively assumed she was on leave when he was admitted which is why she didn’t meet him until almost mid-April. She simply didn’t bother to wander over and see a young man admitted in a state of intense crisis before her two week holiday.
This is a tormented sadness (not the right words but no appropriate words exist). She was clearly so fucking crap that it didn’t ‘matter’ when she met him. [I struggle to type these words]. It really didn’t matter.
I can’t (I refuse to) shake off the puzzlement and heartache of how a specialist learning disability (responsible) clinician could ignore a newly admitted patient knowing she was about to go on leave for two weeks. My work doesn’t affect people’s lives/health but I prepare for holiday absence and colleagues do the same. I can’t understand why or how she could do this. [And before the thankfully small portion of medic defenders start with ‘she was so busy’ shite she wasn’t. There were four other patients.]
Murphy pitched up in Manchester yesterday with her potpourri of dry and smelly bits to woo the panel. They swallowed it and decided her fitness to practice was no longer impaired. Her abysmal non care of LB was a “one off”. No questions asked about how this could possibly be or (as chillingly) if it was, why?
The panel in a fuck you statement announced that ‘a reasonable and well informed member of the public’ would agree with their decision to find Murphy not impaired.
They are wrong.
It’s impossible to articulate the intense distress and harm these hearings generate for bereaved families. I understand they are stressful and distressing for health or social care professionals. I get that. As bad as professionals may feel, they typically go home to their families though. They don’t live with an intense pain that defies articulation, loss and an absence that regularly winds, wounds, generates panic, anxiety or worse. They don’t desperately try to hold onto the smells temporarily woven into clothing, visit the earthy spaces where their children are buried or scattered, and regularly howl at the sky.
They simply don’t.
Finally, two brighter developments. As the week unfolded, I missed a call out on twitter about the naming of Eddie Stobart lorries and the brilliant and collective responses to this captured by @Karachrome in this post. I can only imagine what an Eddie Stobart lorry named after LB would mean.
And this morning Julia Unwin mentioned LB in her keynote talk at the Nuffield Trust annual Health Policy Summit. The magic, the joy, the fucking kick ass ‘we can do this’ collective action continues.
Let’s do it.
Heartbreak. Glad to see the positives too.
FACT: Murphy was Connor’s Responsible Clinician.
FACT: In fining the Trust £1,050,000, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith referred to, “Lethal harm” and went on the say (amongst other things):
“I must consider moving the offence up substantially within Harm Category 1. I consider that causing the death of Connor both justifies and requires that the offence be moved up within Harm Category 1.”
And the Panel concludes about the Responsible Clinician:
“A reasonable and well informed member of the public would agree with their decision to find Murphy not impaired.”
The Panel must live in a dream world – no well-informed members of the public I know would agree that Murphy is not impaired. Well-informed in what? Anyway, the Panel misquotes case law on reasonableness. It is NOT the test of, “A reasonable and well informed member of the public”. It is the test of “A reasonable man” or as Judge McNair said, “The test of the man on the top of the Clapham omnibus.”
I suspect that any man (or woman) on the top of the Clapham omnibus would use words, which are not fit for public consumption, to describe the Panel’s conclusion.
Bishop James Jones’s words come to mind to describe the Panel’s decision, “The patronising disposition of unaccountable power!” Read this and quotes from other inquiries here: https://999crash.wordpress.com/2018/07/15/patronising-disposition-of-unaccountable-power/
The ‘old boy’s culture’ amongst doctors is alive and well.
Oh Sara, what a week. And what a verdict. Beggars belief. Time psychiatrists were removed from the world of learning disability for ever.
My daughter was mentally unwell and on a psychiatric unit at North Devon district hospital. She was admitted for being suicidal. She hung herself in the bathroom. Noone was watching her. No accountability. Nothing. No justice for Victoria. I’m so sad and disgusted by all the cover ups and hush hush attitude of that hospital. Funny Dr and hospital had attorneys at inquest. Did my family? Nope. I just keep thinking vengeance is mine sayeth the lord. If there really is a thing called karma, then I wouldn’t want to be on Thier end. And I continue to ask HOW DID THIS HAPPEN IN A MENTAL WARD? Too many coverups. Rip victoria…until we meet again. Mommy
I share your pain about the behaviour of Dr. Murphy. How many ‘responsible clinicians’ actually ever get reprimanded for sub-standard care? They all have the ‘get out of jail card’ that they work ‘in mitigating circumstances with people with LD’ People with LD who can never complain, never criticize and can never ever tell the doctor what the drugs are doing to them. They would never be believed if they did complain either. Secondly the parents that dare to question the treatment meted out to their loved ones are vilified and slapped down as ‘bad parents’
Unfortunately, the same applies at Sloven to those who can complain, do criticize and can tell doctors what drugs are doing to them. Their relatives and supporters are vilified and slapped down too – we speak from personal experience.
So do I.
Pauline, I am sure you do. Is your experience of Sloven?
No. My experience is with another Trust. NHS Trusts are almost the same in that they all defend the indefensible. ‘Do no harm’ has gone out the window.
Re your first gigof last week..
Thing is – what is social work today ?
LA’s differ in their approach to this – according to P/pchoices and other motivations as do SW training providers.
People come out of social work training principled and full of learning.
Then .they may find themselves offered only part time work – as a locum care manager. Some find this work suits them. Many find a job that focuses on assessing people solely to cut costs is unbearable and they move on – or out of the profession. Others.stay. Some stay – determined to ‘do’ ‘real’ social work plus care management.
It is not unusual for families deep in yet another unsupported crises – to be told after weeks of trying to reach help – that – ‘ we are all care managers now – care managers no longer do social work’.
For – thing is, no matter how sound the Human Rights vows, values and principles on, – ‘real’ social work can be very thin on the ground.
Hens teeth scare…even.
There arel wonderful ‘old schoo’l workers – experienced, human and professional – who are forced to use nearly all their time assessing and reviewing costs and applying new jargon plus ‘systems’. If paper work takes precedence – they can fail people as ‘social worker’…
New workers are allocated to families deep in crises distress who will not have seen a social worker (far less ‘old school’ ) – for years.
Utopia is out there where families are instantly allocated a warm and human contact focused social worker. … with time to – see the damage already done – identify the current need – and obtain the timely cure…
But when things go dreadfully wrong – through conflicting roles – it is not the Chief Executive – Chairman, or Exec team who will carry this cost. It is the family and the social worker/care manager.. – .who have/has tried to do it all.
The process of dying too young – starts from lack of supported access to primary health care – then – from poor care, poorly monitored agencies and hospitals – and from a doctor who can without penalty – hasten this out of innate arrogance and ineptitude.
The Social Care cycle is broken.
The Social Work profession cannot own a Human Rights Banner until it knows what it is for.
Until then, – too many people will suffer – and or – die from it. .
(apologies forall typos etc etc)
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