A levels, love and waiting for the tribunal

A ‘day off’ from the GMC tribunal which continued in private today. Day three of deliberations to determine the facts.

A level day.  Early morning jitters (and humour) from Tom:
Tom
He stormed it. We could not be prouder.

Funnily enough, a photo of Tom and Owen from 2012 popped up on Facebook. A day out in London months before Tom’s childhood was to change irrevocably. Owen, then 17, turned turned 18 the day before LB died. [I know].

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A friend messaged earlier saying congratulations and Tom has ‘done his part in saying ‘fuck you’ to the system and not allowing it to control’. Rosie, Will and Owen have also done their part in doing this. They have, in addition to the death of their beyond loved brother, endured home becoming a site of activism, anger, rage, despair, distraction, tears and more tears.

About a year ago now, at some particularly low point, Rich and I decided during an unusual weekend home alone that we would chuck in the towel on the fighting front. It was too much. It wasn’t fair on the kids. We were trying to climb a super smooth glass NHS mountain coated with a combo of pig grease, melted butter and olive oil.

We told Tom on his return expecting relief. A levels looming and all. He was shocked we’d even consider it. The love, concern, steadfast and unquestioning support and humour they have demonstrated over the last four years, mirrored in the actions and support of their partners and friends, is something we treasure beyond words.

These last few weeks have been particularly unpleasant. We’ve been shoehorned into even more extreme spaces by the careless fuckwaddery actions of the Nursing and Midwifery Council sharing our personal details and Mr P’s brutal and unnecessary cross-examination last Tuesday.

Wilful attempts to discredit without any relevance to the allegations under examination.

paramedic

On Wednesday we waited for the tribunal to begin again in public. A inhumane waiting even without the unchecked, salacious and unnecessary savaging. I lay on the settee, under my Routemaster blanket, refreshing twitter repeatedly. Bess dozed on the chair opposite. I took a pic of her on my ipad and tweeted it.

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#Waitingforthetribunal

This generated an unexpected and hilariously heartwarming set of photos; the pets of twitter. Waiting in solidarity for the tribunal. Including a plant (a groot?) which I can’t find now (sorry).

Names, spaces, commentary and love.

I’ve written about pets and health, we’re currently putting together a funding proposal with vet colleagues to further explore this area and yet I didn’t expect to find such solace in the sharing of photos of much loved animals on twitter. It made me chuckle. It was grounding. It was kind of reassuring.

Yep, I thought. These non humans could teach us a lesson or ten. If we would only start listening.

Late morning tomorrow (Friday) the panel are due to announce their determination on the facts (whether the doctor is guilty of the remaining charges she has not admitted to). The tribunal will then be rescheduled to continue at some point in the future.

We will continue waiting. Four years and six weeks on.

Being (in)sane in insane places… in four parts

Part I

Waiting for the GMC tribunal to come back from ‘in camera’ (secret) discussion today. It’s impossible to do anything constructive. Wait. Mope about in bed. Play Candycrush. Clean the floor badly. Answer a few work emails. Pace around the house. Play Candycrush. Poke at weeds for a bit. Mope. Back to bed. Wait.

Agitate.

Part II

We’ve waited four years. But the events of last week make it impossible to concentrate. The cross-examination brutality, the revelation that this blog was causing anxiety among consultants before LB was admitted to the unit and other outlandish arguments by the doctor’s barrister, RP.

Including his bizarre claim he had no computer access to produce submissions for the Friday morning. In central Manchester… sitting next to a colleague with a laptop.

There was incredulity and practical info on twitter.

The next morning RP circulated a set of handwritten bullet points ‘not in narrative form’:

He later argued:

Not all of us are au fait with narrative… You have to find a computer first and then go into free text…

Oh my. Did he handwrite a set of bullet points (a day or so after deftly destroying me as a reliable witness) to demonstrate the point that computers aren’t necessary to do a good job as a consultant?

The day ended with this comment:

Part III

The GMC are keeping us informed about the timetable and process of this hideous process with thoughtfulness and sensitivity.

This is where we are at:

The panel are currently reviewing and considering the evidence given last week and need to agree the position on each charge that has not already been admitted and draft a full decision referring to the evidence, setting out their reasoning for each of the charges.  
 
The hearing will reconvene in public and the determination will be read out. Parties may need time to fully consider the determination then the hearing will move to the second stage. Further evidence can be called and submissions will be made on behalf of the GMC and the doctor in relation to whether the doctor is impaired. At this stage, the Tribunal meet alone again and need to make a decision on two matters: 1. whether the facts found proved are serious misconduct (the meaning of which is set out in various case law) and 2. if so, whether the doctor is impaired by reason of her misconduct.  It is not known how long it will take for the Tribunal to make this decision.
 
Depending on the Tribunal’s determination on impairment, the panel will consider the position of sanction. This would involve further submissions by both parties and another determination by the Tribunal.
Apparently the panel are unlikely to give a determination on the facts tomorrow.  The determination (the next step before the next stage) will likely now happen on Thursday. Coinciding with Tom’s A level results.
Part IV
This hearing has dominated the last few months for us. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) data sharing breach-too-far is bubbling on in the background. We’re less than four weeks from the Health and Safety Executive prosecution. We managed to polish off the personal impact statement yesterday, thank fuck. In less than a page.

You should include the fact you haven’t had a bath since LB died.” said Rosie. “And you loved them. I remember when we were little and we used to come in and chat to you. Sitting on the toilet…”

My definition of crap has taken such a battering I no longer have words for what we’re enduring.

We’ve been pushed into such an extreme space now that daily interaction with people is becoming difficult. Throwaway conversations in the street about the weather, summer holidays, dogs are hard to engage with. You can’t lay the shit storm we’ve been subjected to on any passerby or acquaintance. At the same time, saying, vacuously “Yeah, fine” is harder to say.

This led me to think about another layer to the campaign and social media activity; the sharing of rage, distress, incredulity and bafflement. The discussion and commentary. We know we wouldn’t have got ‘this far’ without social media. I hadn’t thought about how we would have personally been derailed months or years ago if we were experiencing this in isolation.

An hour into Mr P’s interrogation last Tuesday I was doubting myself.

It’s harder to doubt when so many others express sense, offer expertise (in any shape or form) and solidarity. And genuinely care.

 

The bleat action continuum

Over two years ago now I was writing about ground elder and the #LBBill. I’ve moved into the front garden recently, leaving the elder battle in kind of easy truce [I failed]. The front garden has tall ‘weeds’ with yellow tops which grow to middling head height every summer, leaving columns of snappable woody stems in the autumn.

Turns out these fuckers are worse than the ground elder. They have incredibly dense interconnected knotted lumps of a main root with shaggy swathes of stringy roots. Each one involves a hefty dig, more digging and almost full body wrestle to remove it from the ground. I can almost hear the earth breathing as they are lobbed into the brown bin.

Today we were due to hear the outcome of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) investigation into how they could possibly have shared personal details to the six nurses under investigation and their counsel.

Given the General Medical Council (GMC)* tribunal into Dr M’s fitness to practice starts on Monday in Manchester for two weeks and Rich and I are on extreme stress settings, I naively hoped that the NMC would be in touch early on in the day to limit the stress. We’ve had way too many 5-5.30pm Friday disclosures over the last four years.

The day dragged on. I punctuated work tasks with patches of root wrestling. Still nothing from the NMC. By 4pm I drifted onto twitter. It was impossible to concentrate. There was some discussion around what time we might expect to hear from the NMC and recognition that the Friday afternoon ‘disclosure dump’ is clearly modus operandi for public sector organisations with no heart or feeling. I resorted to tweeting the CEO about the cruelty of this delay.

The email pinged into my inbox. At the very outer edges of the allocated time.

Tip: Because you say an investigation is going to take x amount of days doesn’t mean the investigation has to take x amount of days. Focusing more attention on a complete balls-up to reduce the time the investigation takes and the accompanying stress for the family is the least you can do in a situation like this. Particularly if

  1. you had an additional 15 days between discovering the data breach and bothering to contact one of the four people affected.
  2. you have previously and publicly spent £250k redacting documents requested by another bereaved family in a breathtaking self protective act.

One of the numerous shite practices we’ve noticed over the past four years is the tendency for senior public sector staff to bleat ‘It was not our intention to do x, y or z’ despite doing it. Or ‘On reflection we should have done…’ when they didn’t.

What this really means is senior staff act with intent (and speed) when it involves their (organisational or own) reputation/skin and don’t when it doesn’t. The briefing on my blog circulated the day after LB died is an exemplar of this bleat action continuum.

The NMC letter outlined how sorting out the return of our personal data (first shared in November 2016) is shambolic. A mix of returned data, alleged destruction of data and outstanding information about copies made.

About as unreassuring as you could get.

And then, in a move not worthy of being written into a cheesy, made for tv movie, it turns out that after discovering the data breach in July 2017, they re- shared my personal details with three of the nurses. Yes, you read that correctly. Re-shared. Nine months after first carelessly tossing them around. But only [bleat] the same information (minus my bank details) to the same people…

There is nothing like heavy handed, dosh drenched redaction when it ain’t your reputation under threat. Nope. Nothing like it.

Fuckers.

*The GMC have been exemplary in the approach to this: clear, detailed information, communication and organisation.

The victim statement, party and pond re-activity

 

In May, the Health and Safety Executive asked if we wanted to write a Victim Personal Statement that would be shared with the judge in the prosecution against Sloven. They offered support to write it while acknowledging we probably wouldn’t need it. At the time I thought it would be a ‘minor task’. I mean I write, howl and rage on an almost daily basis.

Eight weeks later the statement remains unwritten. Well that’s not strictly true. I circulated a brief draft to Rich, Rosie, Will, Owen and Tom last week. Rosie fed back it was pretty rubbish and contrived (in less brutal words than these).

“Can’t you use an old blog post…?” she asked.

We said we’d talk about it this weekend because we’d all be together for Tom’s 18th party.

The party was on Friday night. It was pretty raucous with a lot of laughter, food and drink. Late evening with the dodgy disco light doing its thing, a Bowie track came on and the room of lively, loud and exuberant 18 year olds became a bit blurry. Rosie was there with a hug. The family grief morse code working as it seems to.

On Saturday morning after a brief party debrief and some groaning about sore heads we talked about the statement and I jotted down notes about what it should contain. This was largely a checklist of Sloven crap actions. We didn’t talk about the impact of Connor’s death on us which is what the statement is supposed to be about.

Later that day, attention turned to the disappeared pond in the front garden. Owen and I dragged the second of two monstrous plants out of the pond and left it sitting upright on the grass overnight. A solid, giant mass of roots, smelly black sludge and detritus with an enormous crown of green fronds that wouldn’t look out of place on a Doctor Who episode.

Rich dug the pond with the kids about 12 years ago now. It was a major operation based on serious pond research. Considerable depth in parts, different levels, shallow shelves for inhabitants to clamber in and out of, grey blankety stuff underneath the rubber sheeting and a couple of plants from an aquatic garden centre in Wheatley. A pond was born.

Life went on. Pond life flourished. We kept the weeds at bay for several years and children from the local primary school visited to see the frog spawn and tadpoles.

The two plants grew. And grew. Life took an unexpected turn. The pond disappeared under the foliage and was largely forgotten about. Apart from a hilarious dog sitting experience a year or so ago when Ned, a husky-cross, went for an unexpected stinky black cool down.

On Sunday morning, I was outside drinking coffee and studying the beached plant which was almost as tall as me and twice as wide. A woman stopped and said primly:

Ah. You’re attacking the jungle. Good! Have you just moved in?
Er, no. We’ve lived here for sixteen years…

She wandered off.

Owen and Tom set up camp in the afternoon for a couple of hours with music, borrowed footwear and gloves, an axe, spade and pair of shears, and the plant eventually disappeared into various bins around the neighbourhood. They later threw themselves into topping up the pond with a hose too short.

It’s incredibly hard to write a ‘personal victim statement’. The impact is unimaginable for each of us in different ways, at different times, in different spaces and with different people.

The fabric of family life continues to be brightly woven with people who didn’t meet LB. Partners, a baby due in November. Life goes on. My camera continues to capture delights. And they are delights.

The moments in between, and occasionally during, remain filled with an unresolvable ache that feels like a rock at the back of my throat or my chest being crushed. I don’t know if people’s hearts actually ache but for me it’s a throat/breathing thing which seems to have a direct line to tear production.

I just miss him.

We all do.

A Brum based step towards accountability

On a plane to Tenerife last November for a conference I sat next to a woman who had a hush hush job to do with environmental failings. As we chatted, our involvement with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) cropped up. There were overlaps with whatever she did. She suggested very seriously that I should read the full Alton Towers report. I did when I got home. The key part is here in the HSE press release:

There was a meticulous unpacking of the evidence to show that the failings came from the top rather than the people working that day who were directly involved in the ride that crashed so horrifically.

Rich and I went to Birmingham today to meet the HSE and the barrister they appointed shortly after that trip. It turned out to be the same barrister who represented the HSE in the Alton Towers prosecution. Funny old world.

During the meeting we learned more about the legal process. Hopefully I’ve got this right but it sounds like there will be a hearing at the Magistrates Court in Oxford or Banbury on September 18. At this hearing, the HSE barrister will present a case summary which will distill the complexity of the evidence into a digestible document highlighting links to the wider documentation. I assume (but am a bit hazy on this) Sloven’s legal counsel produce a response to the prosecution’s case.

Then a computer randomly churns out a date for a ‘plea and trial preparation hearing’ which will be held 28-35 days later. This may be heard in a Magistrate Court, Crown Court or High Court.

If Sloven plead guilty on that day no date will be generated. Instead the judge will send the case for sentencing.

So many connections and oddities.

An extract from my book. [As an aside, I’m sure I’m taxing the patience of both the production and copy editor off the planet with my last minute revision attempts – I’m sorry. And I’ve stopped now (yesterday). Sorry.]:

Ten years later we may be back at the Oxford Magistrates Court. For real.

Who knows, it may even be the same magistrate. Unlikely I know, but I wonder if he’d remember the young boy who was bursting with excitement and enthusiasm that Saturday morning. Beyond thrilled with the tour of the court, the cells and the car park where the G4 vans park. A young boy who listened to and took the mocked up case so seriously, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the process of the British justice system.

I bloody hope so.