Housecoats, aprons and mucky labour

Captivated by the women of Galicia along the last section of #CaminoLB.

“Can I take your photo?” I asked pointing at my camera. A few said no. Others stood tall. Looking me in the eye with quiet confidence. There was no artifice or prevarication.

Incredible, beautiful faces.

Lines. Life carvings. Contours of determination, humour, dignity. Resilience. Well earned, authentic resilience.

Glimpses of triumph and more. So many stories.

Housecoats, aprons and mucky labour.

Back to work tomorrow.  It’s been a long five years.


Smashing it

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We did it. A historic judgement by Mr Justice Stuart-Smith on Monday morning which involved a £2m fine for Sloven Health. LB and TJ Colvin were treated with the respect they deserve. Justice was served. We had been prepared that the sum of money was not as important as the Judge’s comments would carry more weight. As it was Mr Justice smashed both. He carefully read out a judgement so drenched in sense and fairness it was extraordinary to listen to. In a court again packed with JusticeforLB campaigners including several members of My Life My Choice.

The sensitivity and commitment of the Judge, Bernard, the HSE team and the media who attended (many of whom have followed the campaign over the years) were also extraordinary. Kindnesses that will stay with us.

Our statement about the prosecution can be read here.

Michael Buchanan’s news film with beautiful video clips of LB is here.

A few thoughts and outstanding questions

We were surprised (and pleased) to hear Jeremy Corbyn raise LB, TJ and the campaign in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. May also praised the efforts of the families. This is good but serious questions remain about the failure of the various regulators/bodies to act on what the Judge described as ‘the dark years‘ of Sloven. Jeremy Hunt is captured in the Commons looking slightly uncomfortable. So he should. It’s not the job of bereaved families to ‘uncover the serious systemic problems‘ in health and social care.

Mr Justice describes ‘very grave concern‘ that endemic failures were allowed to arise at all and to persist for so long. I mean why was this? Do senior people leave sense on a middle rung of the ladder to success? Are critical scrutiny and self reflection dirty words in senior circles? Is the culture so dire that no one can offer challenge to unspeakable actions?

Many of the mountains of email exchanges we have through Freedom of Information requests include abysmal statements and the complete absence of challenge to these statements by numerous people. Norman Lamb stands out as someone who stood firm, recognised how wrong it was and acted. And made sure action happened.

We have in the Justice shed a long standing plan to hold an exhibition plastering this documentation around a cavernous space to allow people to wander around and read the levels of shite and what families are forced to endure. What is said and not said. Replicated in too many other cases.

Looking back across the five years there was a wilful refusal by NHS Improvement, NHS England, the CQC and Jeremy Hunt to act. One example. Two referrals (yes two) of Katrina Percy to the CQC’s Fitness to Practice panel in 2015 and 2016.

1. Mike Richards sent  a ‘fuck off she’s fine’ letter months later (the referral had got lost). 2. After chasing we were told the fitness panel would wait for NHS Improvement’s trouble-shooting Chair Tim Smart’s exec board capability review. Smart bafflingly concluded the board were all fine. Percy again exonerated.

NHS Improvement and the rest continued to slumber.

Point 4 of the judgment states: ‘When the systemic problems were finally recognised, a welcome realism entered the Trust’s appreciation of what happened‘. This interpretation glosses over the crucial point that it was the replacement of ‘pay off Percy’ which enabled the (slow) recognition of failings. She and her turgid, complacent and arrogant board have got off scot free.

Unlike the MPTS panel which decided to include the ‘difficult field of learning disability’ as two mitigating factors in deciding to suspend Valerie Murphy, Mr Justice states ‘the fact that the Trust’s breaches were most likely to affect vulnerable patients is an aggravating factor‘. Of course it is. That he simply saw LB and TJ as human is at the heart of his narrative and judgement. And what has been largely lacking from the broader NHS related responses.

The sentence is here. The biggest Health and Safety related prosecution fine in the history of the NHS.

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There has been some unsurprising meithering on social media about this fine. Yesterday we found out that Sloven quietly sold the Ridgeway Centre in High Wycombe last November. This was one of the spoils they took with them having lost the Oxford contract because they were so shite. A sale that netted them a tawdry sum of £2.3m. Dosh taken from Oxfordshire provision.

It’s a shame the £2m can’t be channelled  into providing groundbreaking provision for LB’s peers some of whom continue to flounder without appropriate support in county.  ‘A TJ and Connor centre of life, love, fun and brilliance’. But that’s out of our hands.

Mr Justice was spot on with his ‘just and proportionate outcome‘.

Finally

We’re pretty much done now. We did what we set out to do and whilst none of it will bring back our beautiful boy we collectively did a bloody good job. As Mark Neary reflected yesterday we may have changed the way campaigns are run.

One of the central features of the campaign has been the extraordinary live tweeting of the various hearings by George Julian. She is now looking into a more sustainable way of doing this for other families. Making dirty practices by public sector funded and instructed counsels visible in real time is priceless. If you can spare £1 a month (or more) please fill in the form on the post and let George know.

I hope a light will be shone on the persistent cover up of the ‘dark years’, the culpability of Percy and the board and that those more widely implicated will absorb some of Mr J’s sense, fairness and integrity and now speak out. Critical scrutiny, transparency and honesty is essential for safe, effective and inclusive health and social care.

I’m off to Spain tomorrow with various #JusticeforLB campaigners to walk the LB bus the last 170 miles to Santiago de Compostela*.

After that it’s back to work. And life.

Thanks, thanks and many more thanks – so many thanks – to everyone who did and kept doing what they could and so much more. We seriously smashed it.

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*UK walks are also taking place. Rumour has it, in another magical twist, Mr Fortune, Winnie Betsva’s barrister from the inquest is doing the Devon walk.

 

 

 

A day in court and some justice sunshine

L1032452-3The sentencing hearing for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution took place this week. The #JusticeforLB bus made a surprise appearance at Oxford Crown Court thanks to Alicia Wood who brought it back from Spain where it’s rested since CaminoLB 2016. Rosie, Will, Owen and Tom joined other family members, friends and more for the final day of sentencing yesterday.

Within minutes we heard the judgement would be delayed until 10am next Monday. Disappointing but five days doesn’t register on my delay scale any more given we’ve waited 1825 days to get this far.

A backdrop to the two day hearing was that Sloven had pleaded guilty to the charges before any charges were brought by the HSE. The new CEO Nick Broughton held his hands up to say ‘fair cop’ and accepted systemic failings between 2011-2016.

[Now known as The Percy Years with an ‘HSJ CEO of the Year’ award as a logo.]

Broughton’s statement included open acknowledgement of the way in which we’d had to fight for justice and how wrong this was.

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#JusticeforLB sunshine at last penetrated the black establishment clouds. A position we didn’t anticipate back in the day.

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This welcome development took a bit of a drubbing by the end of the second day but more of that later.

Bernard Thorogood was acting counsel for the HSE. He spent Monday and yesterday morning laying out the case for prosecution.

Roger and TJ

On Monday this involved the death of TJ Colvin in 2012 at a Sloven unit in Hampshire. In 2013 the coroner found no systemic failures in TJ’s care and it was case closed. That is, until the pesky #JusticeforLB kids persuaded David Nicholson to commission a review into the unexpected deaths in Sloven’s mental health/learning disability provision between 2011-2015. This was to become the Mazars report. An extraordinary review which enabled further scrutiny of TJ’s death.

The details were harrowing. Failing after failing after failing in TJ’s care. The HSE case underpinned by one of the quiet heroes on the long road to justice; Mike Holder. Mike, a health and safety expert, had in early 2012 carefully and meticulously provided details of the ligature and other safety risks in the Trust. He resigned when the Exec Board batted these concerns away like a sleepy bluebottle caught up in a boring meeting room on a hot summer’s day.

He identified 21 long telephone wires across Sloven in-patient provision. The replacement cost for each was £55.

“£1100…” spluttered Lord Justice Stuart-Smith. Yes. £1100 to reduce the risk of serious harm to patients and prevent TJ’s death.

As Bernard* spoke Broughton sitting on the Sloven bench looked devastated. This was in contrast to LB’s inquest when the Sloven team gleefully treated the process like a game of  Top Trumps.

Roger Colvin chose to read his victim statement to the court. This isn’t always allowed apparently but Lord J said yes and we heard him describe his family’s devastation at her death and the carelessness that surrounded it.

The packed public gallery was silent.

Connor

Connor’s case began on Monday afternoon and carried over to Tuesday. The same detail we know inside out but with a health and safety focus. It was heartbreaking to again hear how appallingly Connor was failed and how easily preventable his death was. The overlap between his and TJ’s deaths were grotesque.

In an unexpected move Bernard T detailed my interactions with the Trust ending with this:

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I can’t describe how – I don’t have the words here… powerful? Moving? – it was to hear this said in court. Bernard effectively produced a balm for the raw guilt I continue to drag around.  I hadn’t realised what having ‘your day in court’ could mean.

The defence and dirty dealings

The Trust accepted pretty much the whole of the HSE case. The defence won’t take long I naively thought. We’d been prepared that this section would be pretty unsavoury and it was. It was basically about dosh and reducing how much the trust would be fined.

“Every pound fined is a pound less available for future patient care…”

Of course.

There’s a one third ‘discount’ (I know) in place because it’s a public sector body. Fair enough. But given the thousands racked up by Sloven on legal fees to destroy families, paying mates £3m for shonky viral training and rewarding Percy with a £200k + pay off, the arguments presented were foul to sit through.

The defence barrister proceeded to do a ‘I’m sorry but…’ type number as he undermined Broughton’s ‘fair cop’ position with some dirty little dealings. These included the argument that the coroner had found no systemic failings at TJ’s inquest.

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We saw in the earlier link to TJ’s inquest coverage that her family were deeply disappointed with the coroner’s lacklustre engagement with what happened. The same coroner presided over numerous inquests relating to Sloven without, ironically, finding any systemic failings. A cracking example of how coroners may be ‘best placed’ but may still do a crap job.

The barrister also seemed to suggest that the observation levels for TJ were adequate and the Judge should differentiate between her case and Connor’s in his decision on fine amount. The HSE case was a careful compilation of layers of failings with pivotal chronological points at which the Trust should have acted and didn’t. Trying to pick away at what happened to TJ was unnecessary and cruel for her family to listen to. The point had earlier been made that criminal prosecutions are a very last step for the HSE.

The barrister moved onto the individual responsibility of staff members again trying to  introduce some wriggle room into the hitherto accepted systemic failings pot. Then in an unexpected move mother blame was back on the table.

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Setting aside the fact Murphy’s performance was found to be woeful rather than ‘wanting’ there was no reflection that Sloven’s failure to refer Murphy was further evidence of how shite they were. Instead he tried to weave a further vexatious mother thread taking the shine off the apparently heartfelt declarations in Broughton’s statement.

That’s where we’re at really. Evidence is now done. No more nasties for us to hear (I hope). Sentencing judgement on Monday.

Finally a few thanks…

We’re in awe of Bernard and the HSE team who were meticulous and thorough in their investigation and case building. They were also kind, humane and sensitive throughout.

Thanks to everyone who pitched up from all over (and those who followed the hearing on twitter). The judge could not have failed to be moved by such a strong collective showing on both days demonstrating that TJ, Connor and all the other people who have died preventable deaths in careless, inhumane settings count.

Finally thanks to the Witness service at Oxford Crown Court. I was a bit bowled over having a bespoke person take good care of us during the hearing.

*Apologies if first name is not appropriate here.

Light and the fatberg ingredients

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Crumbs. I’m feeling brighter. I’d anticipated a plummet to rock bottom land in the lead up to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sentencing hearing next Monday and Tuesday. A month after the MPTS sanction decision for Valerie Murphy. Two years after LB’s two week inquest. Five years to the day we took him to the STATT unit that cold, dark Tuesday evening on March 19 2013 [howl].

Other than the odd trip to London or Oxford I’ve been hanging out in the Justice shed for weeks. Crocheting.

A recognisable blanket of brightly coloured granny squares has emerged (will add a picture in the morning when it’s daylight). Griefcast has become my (late to the party) go to soundtrack. The (sometimes) humorous reflections of death and grief by comedians has been a gentle and soothing backdrop to the wool action.

I feel brighter.

Tom and I did a news interview this morning in advance of next weeks hearing. In our kitchen. The setting for numerous recordings over the last five years.

Doors have since fallen off cupboards and and half arsed drawer fronts carefully propped up. In preparation for the visit I did a bit of cleaning this morning.

“Mum! It smells really funny down here!” shouted Tom while I was upstairs getting out of my crochet uniform of grey tracky bottoms and a worn out old woolly red jumper.

“Ah I chucked a load of bleach down the sink. It might be that!” I replied. Visions of some right old ripe and until now undisturbed fatberg ingredients fighting back in the u-bend.

We ended up talking about five years of campaigning. Five years. Five of Tom’s seven teenage years. Pretty much the first five of Rosie, Will and Owen’s adult years. Half a decade. Half a decade of repeatedly poring over the hideous and distressing details surrounding LB’s death. Over and over and over again.

Of being blamed and vilified. Of persistent fat berg ingredients.

The interview was unexpectedly positive. There are no more nasties to come. No more bundle pages to turn over and ‘go to’.  No more oaths to swear. No more vicious counsels to face. We’re part of the audience for the hearing next week. And Sloven have pleaded guilty.

Tom made a comment at the end of the interview about the style of the campaign; the humour, creativity and fun. He was spot on.We’ve collectively written, blogged, spoken, tweeted, live-tweeted, presented, met, challenged, shouted, scrutinised, counted, drawn, produced, filmed, sung, shared, kayaked, run, walked, danced, travelled, stitched, photographed, baked, drunk, laughed, cried, wept, hugged, raged and laughed more.

Whatever happens next week we’ve done LB and all the other dudes proud.

Light.

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Power, irony and the ‘sorry’ ship…

‘Sorry’ or an absence of sorry has been a consistent feature of the last few years. We’ve collected a right old rag bag of non-apologies including ‘I’m sorry for any distress you may have felt…’ ‘Please accept my condolences for your loss‘ and ‘I’m sorry if [fill in whatever here]. Last week Valerie Murphy finally ‘found remorse’ and produced an apology for the MPTS panel.

The Murpy effect

At LB’s inquest, one of the barristers, Mr Fortune, offered Murphy the opportunity to say sorry to us when she was giving evidence. An eminently sensible and kind man, he’d obviously helped his client Winnie Betsva come to the decision to do so when she earlier gave evidence. Winnie said sorry. Clearly and unambiguously. Murphy’s non-response lead Fortune to dramatically say “I specifically did not ask we, I addressed the question to you. Dr Murphy please answer.” After further procrastination she stated “It was the right decision. I don’t believe there were failings”. On the inquest recording you can hear the courtroom door slam as I walked out. [I didn’t slam it, it closes loudly.]

Fast forward to yesterday and an email from the GMC. Murphy’s solicitor said she wants to write to us and are we willing to allow the GMC to pass on our home address.

When the ‘sorry’ ship has sailed…

There comes a time when the space to say sorry expires. How long that window remains open will vary but given we went into the MPTS tribunal last August fully expecting and prepared to accept an apology from Murphy four years after LB died it lasts some time.

That ship has sailed now. It sailed for me when instead of saying sorry she allowed her barrister to unnecessarily cross-examine me for nearly two hours.

I had to leave that room too when he told me she was upset. For a brief break before returning to more of the same. While Murphy sat next to him. Feet away.

I’d hazard a guess that Murphy wants to apologise to us now because this absence is repeatedly referred to in the sanction decision. The focus of the MPTS process is on finding demonstrations of insight and remorse by the doctor and the panel helpfully suggest what she might produce before the hearing next year. Including

A reflective account addressing what you have learned and done in respect of the Tribunal’s findings of facts, impairment and sanction demonstrating your level of insight;

[As a bit of an aside, in my thoughts about this I had a sad chuckle earlier remembering LB’s approach to unwanted stuff like hex bugs, broken watches, the egg of trust. He just binned em. Without hesitation.]

The panel should have drawn a dotted line under a potential apology at this stage. It really doesn’t take much insight or reflection to realise that it is probably too late. There’s heavy irony here that the panel are prepared to drag an apology out of Murphy in pursuit of evidence of insight without themselves showing any insight or reflection of the continuing brutality of the process for us. Murphy, likewise, is demonstrating no insight into her actions if she’s prepared to suddenly fashion an apology after everything she’s done and hasn’t done.

Final thoughts

Power is, as always, at the heart of this sorry business. The power to withhold a genuine sorry or to give a half baked non-apology. The power to choose to send ‘the sorry’ a circuitous route to the recipient or simply to others. The power to give a medic – who catastrophically failed a patient by not providing the most basic of basic medical care – chance after chance to buck her ideas up. The erasure of any consideration of the impact of the whole process – including actions taken and decisions made – on the family and wider.

This is an extract from one of the responses sent to the Professional Standards Association expressing concerns about the panel sanction decision.

The Equality Act requires public sector agencies to make reasonable adjustments such that the service offers a similar standard to groups such as disabled people to that experienced by other people. Using learning difficulties as a mitigating factor points in a direction contrary to the Equality Act, seeming to accept that standards are lower for medical professionals working with people with learning disabilities.

I can’t help thinking the MPTS process has descended into some kind of farce. Underpinned by an inability to see LB as a person, demonstrated by using ‘learning difficulties as a mitigating factor’.  It’s the only way I can make any (non)sense of it.

[As a postscript, as I’m struggling to make sense of this, if anyone has any different thoughts please chip in below.]

Under giant trees…

I don’t blog much any more. I’m off work. I don’t have the concentration to do much more than play candycrush, sort through stuff and graze social media. I’ve become a half arsed, flakey version of a Stepford Wife. Rich gritting his teeth when I brightly suggest that if we wipe the top of the cooker daily it will remain clean.

My days are strangely unfilled with little and so much. 

I listen to this, over and over again.

Haunting and magical particularly from 3.16.

Richard Handley’s inquest has been live tweeted this week (@Handleyinquest). A cheeky chappy surrounded by love and a family effectively excluded from the work sadly needed to keep him alive. A tale of barbaric and inhumane failings.

The overlap with Connor’s inquest is harrowing. Blame shifting, lies and an absence of remorse. Richard’s mother brutally and unnecessarily questioned at length.

I bought a bag of wool and crochet hooks. I need to learn to hold, hook, turn and gently pull through wool though woollen hoops and loops. I’m watching a ‘crochet for beginners (left handed)’ youtube film. It takes practice apparently but the basics are clear:

“Move your crochet hook under and over the yarn, and then pull it through.”

I do this. Listening to Under giant trees.

‘Always make sure patients with epilepsy are within sight or sound when bathing.’

‘Make sure Richard has a healthy diet (plenty of fibre) and monitor bowel movements…’

Under, over and through.

Clear and simple instructions.

Giant trees. 3.16 is the best bit.

Long lines…

I’ve been off work since November with ‘mixed depression and anxiety complicated by grief and trauma’. The thoughtful and consistent support I’ve received has involved focusing on doing very little in order to regroup and recover before the General Medical Council (GMC) decision on the fitness to practice of LB’s responsible clinician (Feb) and the judgement in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (March). 

Doing very little has been a revelation. After early days of intense agitation and wondering ‘What the actual fuck…?’ I’m getting good at it. I can wash a pan or sort out a small pile of crap (untouched since 2013) with unprecedented attention and a (non) speed that would beat the slowest of slow lorises. Disrupted/nightmare-filled sleep is more manageable when you can decant from bed to settee with a blanket during the daytime. Reducing panic attacks to moments of breathlessness/fear is something else.

I’m shocked now that Rich and I returned to work so soon after LB’s death in 2013 (with no pressure from either of our employers). But of course back in the day we had no idea of what lay ahead. 

“Who supported you after LB’s death?” asked the mental health team a few weeks ago.

Supported us? In the wake of LB’s sudden, brutal, unexpected and utterly preventable death? Like a police liaison officer? Ah. No. LB died in the NHS. There’s none of that stuff. Respond offered us telephone counselling via social media. 

We didn’t know…

I think we probably thought at the time that work would be a distraction from intense pain while the wheels of justice and accountability turned in the background. With the odd nudge from our newly appointed legal representatives.

We returned to work in the early days of the dirty tricks game the Trust and local authority were playing. All we knew at the time was that the Trust pegged LB’s death a ‘natural cause’ death in online board papers in late August. We didn’t know about the behind scenes activity; the briefings and secret reviews; the twists and turns, lies and obstruction. We didn’t know these processes would drag on for years or how much of an enormous collective effort would be necessary to gain accountability.  

This was and is our ordinary. In the extraordinary space of public sector related preventable death.

As it is for so many other families. Many of whom have endured more than the 4.5 years we have, while others regularly join this liminal space. There’s little change. There’s little support for young people who struggle and teeter on the brink of admission to inappropriate settings while their loved ones do everything they humanly can to pick their way through the paucity of appropriate care. It simply ain’t good enough.

A new National Director…

Ray James, the newly appointed NHS England National Director for Learning Disability tweeted earlier today.

James is, of course, one in a long line of people charged with the task of reducing the scandalous number of people incarcerated in assessment and treatment units. We’ve witnessed a series of awkward and sometimes embarrassing failures in trying to do this, not least the Winterbourne View Joint Improvement Programme/Concordat and Stephen Bubb’s big breakfast. I don’t doubt James’ determination and commitment to the task he faces. What is concerning is the disappearing of everything that came before. A snapping of lines.

Another day, another face, another resolution. While people continue to live heartrendingly miserable existences.

No #Learningfromdeaths

Rich was appointed as one of two family representatives on NHS England’s Programme Board last summer for the Learning from Deaths programme (work commissioned as an outcome of the Mazars review). He received an email from a family advocate who said that families would be reassured by his involvement in the work. The first event he attended was a two day gig at the Oval in November. He walked out after two hours. The meeting opened with two apologies from NHS England – not for the fact that 75 bereaved families had to be in the room in the first place – but that no work had been done for last ten months and for the shoddy organisation of the original meeting. As the meeting unfolded, Rich felt he could not validate the process.

In December a further event was held in London with Jeremy Hunt and the great and the good. The unofficial erasure of any focus on the premature mortality of learning disabled people was completed during this meeting. Two years pretty much to the day from publication of the Mazars review. Hunt ploughing ahead with his misplaced belief that improving the process of investigation for patients more generally would improve the investigation of the deaths of marginalised patients. 

What about the work relating to learning disability related deaths? I and one other family member tweeted during this event.

“Ask NHS Improvement or NHS England” replied the Care Quality Commission. “They’re tasked with taking forward the recommendation relating to learning disabled people.”

We did. Neither responded. 

Certain people don’t count. Or worse.

They never have.

A full circle…

We woke this new year morning to the news that Toby Young has been appointed to ‘help lead’ the Office for Students (OfS). 

There is so much so wrong with his appointment… a quick search on twitter will reveal his appalling views, ill-informed commentary and actions while he tries to (ironically and pointlessly) disinfect his own timeline through a heavy handed programme of deletion. Relevant here is his apparent distaste for disabled children and associated flag waving for ‘progressive eugenics’.  (Improving the ‘genetic stock of the least well off’ in an attempt to improve the overall national stock…) 

Eugenics is, of course, eugenics as @Education720 points out: 

Woolf’s diary entry was written in 1915:

… we met & had to pass a long line of imbeciles. The first was a very tall young man, just queer enough to look at twice, but no more; the second shuffled, & looked aside; and then one realised that everyone in that long line was a miserable ineffective shuffling idiotic creature, with no forehead, or no chin, & an imbecile grin, or a wild suspicious stare.  It was perfectly horrible.  They should certainly be killed.

There are long, long lines that can be traced here. Plentiful dot joining between the desire for the ‘improvement of the British breed’ (Churchill, 1899) and the eugenics movement. The continuously poor treatment, neglect, bullying or abuse of learning disabled people in whatever setting – long stay institutions, the community, inpatient hospitals, home – by a range of individuals and professionals over the last century. And Young’s support for ‘progressive eugenics’.

Complex and complicated strands are interwoven into and between these lines; ignorance, maliciousness, systemic and structural processes, cronyism, fear, power, gender, economics, culture, power, politics, stupidity, greed, elitism, narcissism… the list goes on and on.

‘Progressive eugenics’ is a deeply flawed and harmful ideology that denies any recognition of the humanity, creativity, compassion, love, diversity, joy and brilliance people bring to society. I miss LB with an ache that hasn’t diminished in over four years. My heart contracts and eyes well up in a split second whenever I think about his gentleness, humour, generosity, curiosity and straightforwardness. Contrasting his obvious qualities with the bile that Young (and others like him) spew, with nonsensical reward and little censure, is unspeakably grotesque.

How is it possible that not one person, in a long, long line of influential people who can and should speak up and call this for what it is, ever does?

 

Crown Court

When we were kids, off school with a bug, flu or other illness, we’d snooze in front of the big old (tiny) TV. ‘School programmes’ (shudder) in the morning followed by a less dull but still dull drama (was it a drama? I dunno… maybe it was based on actual cases) called Crown Court at lunchtime.

Crown Court. A kind of ritual endurance, marking the mid point to the crawl to the end of school time and delights like Little House on the Prairie. Time for lunch if not already scoffed. A soft, non medical drug to easily bring on slumber if you felt like shite.

I dug out the theme tune on Youtube earlier. Rich, in another room, unexpectedly shouted “Is that Coronation Street?”

Off sick to the same tune/drama. Capturing the ennui, traffic free streets, all male advocates, a dose of beige and a baby Zoe Wanamaker.

 

On 18 September Sloven pleaded guilty to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution of LB’s death at Banbury Magistrates court. The magistrate referred the ‘case’ to the Crown Court. The next hearing was held in Oxford Crown court on October 13*. The judge then set a date – 27 November – to decide a sentencing date. [I know.]

A second HSE prosecution for the death of Teresa Colvin was raised during this hearing. Teresa died a year before LB. Months after Mike Holder, a health and safety expert, meticulously documented patient safety risks which Katrina Percy and the Sloven board ignored.

[Edward Hartley, in turn, died months after LB’s death flagged up issues around epilepsy training and understanding, risk assessment and observation levels. Edward’s death, like so many others, has yet to edge or inch towards proper scrutiny and answers.]

On 20 November the HSE prosecution relating to Teresa Colvin’s death was held at the Oxford Magistrates court. [Sorry. It’s complicated].

Tomorrow (Monday) a hearing at Oxford Crown Court will pin down the timetable for the sentencing date.

The judge will be asked to sentence both HSE prosecutions together. Or formally agree to do so.

This is for various reasons, not least the importance of joining the dots between what happened to Teresa and LB and for the judge to understand the extent of (repeated) failings. Other considerations are the importance of consistent sentencing and costs.

Breathe.

Crown Court. Childhood memories. The never ever. The never colliding.

LB. Teresa Colvin. Shades of Edward Hartley. And so many others.

The sentencing hearing

The sentencing hearing is, we’ve been warned, likely to last for up to two days and will probably happen between next February and June. Time has lost any meaning as next year becomes dusted with various dates or anticipated dates. I can’t imagine what life without the stench and stain of NHS related processes looks or feels like.

The HSE barrister will present the two ‘cases’ in turn and the Sloven barrister will present a set of mitigating circumstances to try to reduce or contain the punishment (fine). They have a statutory duty apparently, as a public sector body to do this.

There is no such statutory duty to prevent a failing Chief Executive disappearing with a year off and around a £200k pay off. There is no statutory duty to stop a public sector body from recording a preventable death as one of natural causes. From openly and publicly withholding information that is in the public interest. From wasting public money on dubious training programmes. And the rest.

One grotesque rule for the bloatedly powerful and another for the rest of us herbs.

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*I had at the time, and have had since, visions of Richard Partridge telling me to turn to page 908 in a massive legal bundle to confirm that, yes I was not present at this hearing. And then scuttle back to page 26, para 4…

I was in the US. I wasn’t supposed to be there.

 

 

Prof Ted the Gut Man and the travelling suitcase

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Exhausted. A terrible, terrible day following George Julian’s live tweeting of the General Medical Council (GMC) tribunal examining the conduct of LB’s ‘responsible’ clinician, Valerie Murphy. A tribunal that began back in August and is now spread across the next weekend or so.

Todays offering included a tangential figure – Prof Ted (a gut expert) on the phone to provide a character reference for Murphy – and an account of a travelling suitcase full of patient records. Murphy apparently asked Prof Ted to pluck records out of her suitcase, like drawing raffle numbers, to comment on her record writing skills. These are apparently top notch now. She’s learned not to keep them in her head.

Twitter commentators went into free fall. Eh? Audit? What records? With patient consent? Were they redacted? What price ethics?  Murphy was unable to attend for undisclosed health reasons. She seemed to be following the @JusticeforLBgmc twitter feed as, late afternoon when her barrister phoned to ask how this ‘audit’ was conducted, she tried to re-shape the suitcase story into something slightly more robust. Apparently she selected the first fourteen patient records (whose?) alphabetically and stuffed them in her travelling suitcase. Prof Ted randomly selected eight records from these 14.

He unwittingly generated criteria for what to look for when choosing a character witness who doesn’t really know you. Not a big demand for such a role possibly but useful to a few maybe:

  • Choose someone who barely knows you but is prepared to stick their hand into a dodgy travelling suitcase of patient records and describe this process under oath.
  • Make sure they are so tangential in your life that you spend around 14 hours a year in situations in which your paths could cross.
  • Make sure they are prepared to make outlandish statements about how good you are. For example, that you’re in the top 10% of consultants they’ve ever come across.
  • And when pushed on this claim, they’re willing to state rubbish like having a PhD and ‘being helpful and willing to offer an opinion’ is evidence of being brilliant at your job.

Around late morning the GMC presented their submission. We were suddenly thrown into a space of rare sense. Suitcases and gut stuff ditched. The GMC arguments can be read on the @JusticeforLBgmc twitter feed. The statements that made me weep were around how it was not unreasonable for us to expect LB would be looked after in the unit. Chloe Fairley, the GMC barrister, made the point that Partridge’s cross-examination of me in August was an example of Murphy’s more general blame-casting which included nurses and support workers.

Rich and I broke off to eat our weight in takeaway nosh. Returning to twitter an hour later Partridge was presenting his submission. Right back to Gut Man and the suitcase. And Murphy’s ‘brainchild’ the ‘yellow card’.  A shameless rip off of a well known government scheme on a pilot scale. The ‘yellow card’ was presented as Murphy’s contribution ‘to the profession’ to make sure no one ever died again.

Her entry back…

The fakery, sham and offensiveness of this redemption narrative, generated once the  tribunal process was put in motion and not as an outcome of LB’s death, was difficult to sit through. The dripping of ‘madam’, ‘in my respectful submission’ and ‘very painful for her’ statements by Partridge were grotesque.

Tears and more tears.

The day ended around 5pm. It starts again tomorrow at 9.30am with a private hearing.

Writing about an ongoing tribunal (or inquest) process is something we’ve thought about. We concluded today the process is so flawed and stacked in favour of the ‘professionals’ it can’t matter.

The deep sadness I feel. For LB. For the callous and continued disregard of his life (and so many other lives) – presented today as a ‘single patient episode in 2013’ – is matched by the obscene acceptance of the clearly wrong by tribunal panels. By senior NHS officials, by Jeremy Hunt and so many others.

We’ll keep writing justice. As simple as. And not be bullied by the processes seem to be designed to silence. That’s all we can do.

[Thanks to @RoseAnnieFlo for the title of this post.]

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.