‘Did anything strange or startling happen today?’

I’ve been in awe over the last couple of days watching the depth of support for the idea of a lorry named after LB unfold in response to a tweet by Eddie Stobart asking for ideas for names. Some background can be found here. If you search for Connor Sparrowhawk on Twitter there are literally hundreds of tweets ‘voting’ for him. It’s truly extraordinary. Particularly the spread of tweeters; learning disabled people, self advocates, parents, siblings and other family members, medics, social workers, the police, tv producers, film makers, social care directors, academics, activists, MPs, a shadow Minister, human rights experts, senior execs from NHS Trusts, regulators and third sector organisations.

My dad used to come home from work just after 5pm every day when we were pups and always ask my mum ‘Did anything strange or startling happen today?’ before giving her a kiss. I’m not sure it ever did to be honest.

This has been strange and startling. With an equally brilliant background. LB was a huge Eddie Stobart fan. We’ve a trunk of memorabilia and bits scattered around the house still. He enjoyed nothing more than a trip on a motorway to silently and beautifully enjoy Eddie spotting in solitude. When Edward Stobart died, he wanted to express his sadness online.

LB’s auntie Sam contacted Eddie Stobart in August 2013, a month after he died, to ask for a truck to be named after him. This was the information she sent:

The company again responded sensitively:

Dear Sam,
Thanks for your email.  Due to the Stobart tradition of naming trucks after females we are unable to name a vehicle after Connor however we have wracked our brains and if you felt it was appropriate we could include a tribute piece in the next edition of Spot On the members magazine. If this was interest please could you send me a photo of Connor. I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards, Bonnie
Sam sent this photo of Connor and Rosie flagging up that the sweatshirt might be a pirate version.

[I don’t know if this was an authentic Eddie sweatshirt but it features in the top photo almost unrecognisably. The unit excelled in boiling and shrinking clothes.]

Some of the tweets in support of naming a cab after Connor have referred to social justice and what such a decision would signify for a typically marginalised group of people who are too often denied an opportunity to lead anything approaching a flourishing life. Wendy Greenberg captured this:


It’s within the gift of the Eddie Stobart company to balance the justice scales a little bit and generate warmth, delight and priceless joy to have a ‘Connor Sparrowhawk’ cab beetling around the motorways of the UK and abroad. I can’t even begin to imagine making sense of what this would mean for us amidst the horror of the last six years. Connor never stopped reaching for the stars [his family tree produced by the unit psychologist included Dappy and Tulisa from his beloved NDubz on the sibling line]. The idea of a lorry named after him is the stuff of dreams. It would further be a cracking reminder for health and social care staff (and others) of the importance, value and brilliance of people like Connor.

I hope you can do this. Looking at the hundreds of replies to your request for names Connor is belting it out of the park with little or no competition.

“A one off” and a week that was…

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.

Kark and Percy

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) have a Fit and Proper Person Test (FPPR) process to review whether senior NHS bods are fit to practice. [Sorry about the acronyms and jargon here… Just typing ‘fit and proper person test’ makes my finger tips weep.]

I referred Katrina Percy, then Sloven CEO, to this process in 2015. Mike Richards, CQC Head of Hospital Inspections, ‘missed’ my email. After some chasing he said there was no doubt about her fitness to practice. Case closed.

Jan 2016 and unfitness evidence was stacking up. I referred her again. No reply from Richards. At the end of Feb I tweeted about the lack of response. He emailed saying:

Dear Sara, I apologise profusely for the fact that I must have missed this email. I know that this is not the first time this has happened, but I have absolutely no recollection of having seen it.

No? Mmm. That’s interesting. Percy is a prolific ‘absolutely’ user in communications.

Then nothing. I chased up the referral in March, May and at the end of July. Tim Smart, interim Sloven board chair, decided Percy had done nothing wrong around that time and the referral disappeared. Absolutely nothing to see here.

Why am I raking over this old billy bullshite?

The Kark Review

Tom Kark QC was asked to review the FPPT earlier last year on the back of a review by Bill Kirkup [keep up]. The review which has allegedly had a bit of a tasty journey to publication was published yesterday. A refreshing read in terms of sense and straightforwardness. And so, so chilling. I shudder to think what, if anything, might have been stripped from it. He presented a picture of what can only be called corruption. Three short extracts:

Agreed ‘vanilla’ references? Eh? Really? Is this common practice in the NHS (or wider public sector)? Deceit and incompetence wedged into senior layers while candour and transparency are bandied about like a [fuck you] hope carrot for the rest of us herbs.

Breathtaking hypocrisy.

Two of the seven report recommendations were accepted by the government before the shutters shut. Kiosk Keith styley.

Meanwhile, Percy’s new role emerged on twitter.

And I learned that ‘vanilla’ biographies are also a thing.

Global CEO, Ryalto

Global CEO, Ryalto.

Grotesque spin and reinvention.

Delivering operational turnaround of services… leading organisations through transformational change. In March 2018 Judge Stuart-Smith, sentencing the Trust, referred to the ‘dark years’ of Sloven and issued the largest fine in the history of the NHS.

Designing a comprehensive leadership development and culture change programme. ‘Going Viral’ was an almost comedic (although of course it wasn’t) ‘thing’ which cost about £5million in public dosh. The proof of (this ‘leadership’ programme is) in the pudding as they say. Earlier today Sloven were in the news again for failing services.

The pudding was shite. It simply didn’t work.

She now heads up the global team at Ryalto. A quick google reveals a tiny UK based company with a website light on detail.

Global team my arse.

HSJ awards are not shining here. A money spinner for the Health Service Journal. Self nominated nominees and Trusts shelling out big bucks for the black tie drenched reveal gig. At the same time producing dirty little numbers for the vanilla biog and reference filing cabinet. Glittery tat for bolstering failure drenched narratives.

Not a good look @HSJEditor. For so many reasons.

Percy has taken monstrous to a new level here. Providing a contemporaneous example of the grimness laid out in the Kark review. A failing exec covering up her history without compunction or check.

She’s not alone of course. All those who protected her, bolstered her or looked the other way over the years have a right old stench on their hands too.

Maybe one day these people will have the guts to properly reflect on their actions and non actions. I blooming hope so.

‘Second victims’, the aftermath and incoherence

[2.2.19]

I was surprised and enraged a few years back when I heard health professionals are considered to be ‘second victims’ when a patient is seriously harmed or dies a preventable death. Second victim? Really?

Families are ‘second’ I thought, raged and tweeted. Repeatedly. Our loved ones died or experienced serious harm. We’re left (typically unsupported) to deal with devastating grief. Seeking accountability from a national health service that has an apparently Pavlovian response of shut up, shut down, fuck right off and we will throw every resource we can grubbily wring from the public purse to defeat you.

[I don’t like the word ‘victim’. It’s passive and pathological. It stamps out individuality and erases the ways in which people negotiate and pick their way across tricky or brutal terrain. The ways in which they draw on sophisticated understandings, experience and strategies in grotesque settings. Erasing vibrancy, life and love.]

On a dark, cold, wet evening last December I bumped into the support worker who was on duty the day LB died. The person who found him in the bath.

Meeting staff

After LB died we didn’t want to see or speak to anyone involved in his ‘care’. [The staff were a mixed bag of good, mediocre and foul.] That morning the A&E consultant told us that some staff members were there and wanted to meet us. Sitting, in a state of (what?) I still don’t have the words to describe what it’s like to be in the family room you rarely (if ever) notice during the odd visit to A&E over the years with minor injuries and knocks. I can’t remember the sign on the door now but I remember the horror seeping through my veins, the prickling pain, incomprehension and fear, reinforced by gaining access to this tiny, claustrophobic space. A hair’s breadth from A&E cacophony. Metres from the bus route to town. A ten minute walk from home.

He told them it wasn’t appropriate.

My mum, with the support of family and friends stepped up to communicate with the Trust. Email exchanges archived in a tear stained folder.

We’ve since met or spoken to some staff and seen others give evidence (on paper and in person) at LB’s inquest.

Rich spoke with the senior nurse at LB’s inquest and I’ve talked with him on the phone a few times. We met with one of LB’s key nurses at the inquest (the one who said sorry to us while giving evidence.) A mate (the indomitable Fran) was in touch with a support worker a few years back. He came round one Saturday morning.

In the meantime, Katrina Percy, Sloven CEO, made repeated attempts to try and get us to meet with her. A blunt hammer approach. She never made the purpose of this meeting clear or made any effort to answer the questions we had. Other influential people also ‘encouraged’ us to meet with her. We declined.

Answers and more questions

December 2018. I saw MH before she saw me.

I dunno. I’ve struggled to try and make sense of this encounter. To organise it into letters, words, sentences, sense. Sense. Type. I know it wasn’t her fault. Being on that shift, that morning. I just want to know.

What?

I said her name and she turned round.

She cried.

She cried like I cry.

She cried. And her tears didn’t stop.

Writing this I’m kind of recoiling from the keyboard, I can’t stop crying. Fucking crying… [How is he dead? What the fuck?]

Those tears.

I’m so sorry.

[3.2.19]

I’m trying to generate some coherence by patching together previous, contemporary, retrospective stuff. Knowledge. It’s impossible. So many layers. So much pain, so much sadness.

Two of the things MH told me that evening:

  1. The day after LB died she contacted a dating agency for learning disabled people because he’d always wanted a girlfriend. That night last December was her last night working with them. After five years. She was about to return to education.
  2. LB’s second key nurse KD wrote us a letter after LB died but wasn’t allowed to send it to us.

In the boxes of paperwork, records, subject access and Freedom of Information documents, I remember coming across an email trail just before LB’s inquest 2015. It ended with KD asking the unit manager to tell us how sorry he was. Dated the day LB died or the day after.

Back in the day, we said we’d like the other four patients from the unit to attend LB’s funeral if they wanted to but we didn’t want any of the staff involved in his care there. The response was something along the lines of ‘these patients need to be supported by staff who know them well and understand to care for them’. [I know.]

I’m chucking the coherence towel in now to finish this post. Maybe I’ll rewrite it at some point in the future.

Here’s an interim set of thoughts which I hope are of use to someone working to improve the experiences of bereaved families when someone dies a preventable death in the NHS.

  • I’m sorry our blanket refusal to engage with staff immediately after LB died caused further harm.
  • We know so much more now (in terms of the ‘dark years’ of Sloven) it’s difficult to disentangle what we (others) should have done, or thought, at that time.
  • The person who dies (or experiences serious harm) and their family should be the central concern. Staff (and other patients) should also be given appropriate support.
  • The Trust should immediately say sorry and not prevent any individual staff member from doing so.
  • It was clear in October 2015 that the Trust were cutting adrift numerous staff members as we ended up with 8 different legal counsels at LB’s inquest. This should be the focus of scrutiny by [who? NHS Improvement?] A well led Trust should not be in this position.
  • The involvement of in house Trust legal teams further scrapes away humanity which should be the core ingredient of every interaction with bereaved families.
  • Trusts are able to draw on seemingly unlimited resources from the public purse to defend themselves when something goes wrong. This fact may generate further disregard for families (and frontline staff) in poorly led Trusts.
  • There is a gaping hole here around support, communication and humanity. And something almost ironic about the terrible harm our national health service can repeatedly wreak.

“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.

Crocodile tears and the ‘do nothing’ advice

Early morning, a column by Clare Gerada appeared in my twitter timeline. Gerada is an ex-chair of the Royal College of GPs so no fly by night. She campaigns (as part of a heavily, heavily NHS England funded gig ‘Practitioner Health’) about doctors’ mental health. This week there has been coverage of doctor suicides with some loose reporting of figures (there were 81 suicides not 430*). Gerada is trying to extend the Practitioner Health service beyond London.

I dunno. You can sit on either side of the fence, or on it. As is too often the case with the NHS following the dosh is an instructive exercise.

‘Sensible advice’ say some replies to Gerada’s column. ‘Best advice I’ve ever seen…’

The heading kind of made my eyes water. Those blooming tears. Still.

Do nothing… immediately.’ I can only now imagine this ‘luxury’ over the past five years. There is no space to ‘Do nothing… immediately‘ for families. We face years of unrelenting, unremitting fighting, policing, and uncovering. Pretty much every NHS related scandal is the outcome of persistent, committed and astonishing actions by families and their allies. Activity that allows no downtime in a grief drenched space.

‘Do nothing… immediately’

‘When a complaint lands on your desk…’ says Gerada. Deliberately disembodying the ‘complaint’ from the person making it. And the space in which it materialises.

The person (human) who probably never dreamed of making a ‘complaint’ to the NHS. I mean why would you? Why would any of us**? It’s a national institution. A treasure. Free healthcare at the point of delivery and all that…

How often do we actually make a complaint about stuff? About trains, airlines, education, retail outlets, telecoms, restaurants? Why would any of us want to make an official complaint against the NHS? What would make us feel driven do this? Complaints in any setting are important for improving service. Complaints in the NHS are crucial because they involve lives.

For Gerada the complaint isn’t delivered or received. It ‘lands’ on the workspace. Disconnected from action and intent. Allowing her to (brutally) focus solely on the practitioner.

‘Do nothing’, she advises. ‘If you can, take the rest of the day off.’ Take the rest of the day off…

‘Do not rant and rave…’ I still can’t understand why the assumed position of a medic would be to rant and ‘rave’ about a complaint. Getting a 3/5 mark on student evaluations is enough to cause some right old soul searching/scrutiny of our learning and teaching practice at work (even after 10 years). The idea we would leap straight to defence of our practice – to ranting and raving – is baffling.

‘Wait for the first waves of shock to pass…’ Still no consideration of the person or family who made the complaint. Of what they may be experiencing; their pain, distress, grief. The piece descends into a google translate type extract. Clunky. Missing meaning. Swerving on substance. With the odd hand grenade planted between platitudes: ‘At the earliest opportunity contact your medical defence organisation (even if the complaint is trivial)’.

In short, Gerada’s advice seems to be ignore the substance of the complaint, buggar off for the rest of day and get your legal defence ducks in line. She ends with ‘don’t suffer in silence and don’t take it personally’.

Wow. Just extraordinary ‘advice’.

She has previous on complaining.

And clearly remains obdurate on the subject. A road traffic accident… From last night.

What I don’t understand is why there remains little critical (in a good way) and open questioning of what is clearly shite and offensive advice by medics. It’s as if once harm has happened or been done, the drawbridge is raised and the profession becomes a pack.

Where is the thought, the reflection. Humility. Or challenge?

*This is in no way to dismiss, belittle or otherwise every health professional who has died.

** For the sake of transparency, I made a complaint to Southern Health NHS Trust when LB was in the unit. I said they didn’t listen to my concerns about his care. About 5 days before he drowned in the bath I was told it was not upheld.

What actually happens when your child dies a preventable death in an NHS hospital?

[Written 21.6.15]

After listening to Scott Morrish describe his experiences of what happened after his young son, Sam, died a preventable death in hospital (a depressingly, depressingly familiar account), I thought it might be useful to try to capture and summarise the process. What actually happens:

  1. Your child dies. Unexpectedly. Horrifically. Sometimes brutally.
  2. You are traumatised. Pitched into an unimaginable space of deeply intense pain, shock, horror, disbelief and agony.
  3. Your body expels anything it can physically; vomit, tears, shit, noise.
  4. And, from this point, for a potentially infinite period, you live a life that is, at best grey.
  5. The Trust responsible for the ‘care’ of your child will speedily present a ‘Shame but nothing to see here’ type line. 
  6. There may or may not be talk of an investigation or ‘root cause analysis’.
  7. You will probably start to ask more focused questions.
  8. The response to such questioning can be anything (or shift) from faux assurance that everything possible is being done to get find out what happened, to hostility or simply silence.
  9. The process seems to be continually delayed by the actions of the Trust. They fail to disclose documents or complete versions of documents. You become more concerned and continue to question.
  10. A narrative soon surfaces. You’re the problem. You, with your persistent questioning, your inability to ‘move on’. Your unreasonable actions are causing problems for others, including the staff involved. 
  11. There may be attempts to smear/discredit you through nuanced reframing or positioning of events or explicit blaming.
  12. If the investigation finds that your child’s death was preventable the Trust may apologise (probably publicly if the report is made public). The superficiality of this apology may become apparent when the Trust pitches up to the inquest with barristers and coached staff in an attempt to refute any real responsibility.
  13. The NHS, that cuddly British institution that you’ve grown up with warm fuzzy feelings and respect for, is not your friend when something goes catastrophically wrong.

Wow. Just bleakly bleak. With a load of bleak on top. Despite detailed NHS policy spelling out what to do. At the Clinical Human Factors Group conference that Scott was speaking at, one man told us about his experience after his wife died. The Trust were completely open, took responsibility for what happened and worked with him in investigating her death thoroughly and transparently. He emailed me after and said “I know that my journey was made easier by the commitment and personal philosophy of some staff in the hospital trust.”

So it can be done.

The big question is why does it tend not too?

[Three years on and no answers…]

Garden state

DSCF4483 1

On holiday for two, possibly three, weeks now. Almost on cue after a weekend of NMC agitation, the panel delivered their decision around the impairment of the four nurses still in the ‘game’ at 10am this morning. Day one of annual leave. Week 13 of NMC hearings. Year 6 for the whole shebang.

None of the nurses should have faced serious disciplinary action. More a good old disinfect and reinvigorate with kick ass refresher training to blast away the sour notes of being embroiled in a languishing ‘service’ kicked into the long grass by a greedy and hopelessly inadequate new mistress/trust.

What this process has achieved is to make howlingly visible how unfit for purpose the NMC is. And generate dread, horror and anxiety.

LB’s key nurse (the one the panel inappropriately gushed over) was found ‘not impaired’ and released while the final three were found impaired in some ways. They will be told of their sanctions on Thursday at 10am. Funny how these panels can pinpoint how long something will take in advance. At least they finally discovered the Health and Safety Executive ruling over the weekend [cough cough].

Tom went to work. Rich and I wandered up to Headington Homewares to get something to oil the kitchen table. It’s been battered with over five years of non attention now. We came back and left the new ointment in the tin on the table. I read in the garden. Distracted by the recently shifting (small) terrain. There’s a raised slope in the grass with a 10 inch or so ‘dry stoneish’ type wall thing down the left hand side joining the slope to ground level.

A dip in the grass appeared a few days ago.

DSCF4415

‘Come and have a look, Rich,’ I called when I first noticed it.

He appeared, peered from the back door and said ‘Yep, it’s sunk a bit’.

Today I studied this dip every so often over the top of my book. It’s as if someone has pressed a space hopper down firmly on the slope and caused the low bank to spill out.

I ditched my book and started poking about the spillage with a trowel. Pieces of easily broken, thin, deeply rusted metal appeared just below grass level. I took some in to show Rich and Tom. Nope. No interest. They didn’t even touch them.

After another half arsed attempt at reading, I downloaded a metal detector app. Genius idea. I slowly waved my phone across the parched grass like I’ve seen people do on beaches. Red. Green, red, red.

Tom appeared in the kitchen. I told him about the app.

‘Mum, that’s never going to work’.

It does. Well it does if you get really close to metal. We used a fork to test it. Doubting Tom removed the fork hanging off the back of my phone and I went back to dig a bit more. It was hot work.

Rosie rang. ‘What’s this about you digging up the garden, mum?’

I told her about the app. We laughed and chewed the fat.

I went back to dig.

It’s hard work digging when no one digs with you.

I don’t mind. The mysteries of the past are soothing. And earthy.

The NMC and the fact free determination

This is going to be a detailed post as it’s important to highlight just how shite the NMC panel ‘fact determination’ about the STATT nurses is. This is about the hearing process rather than what the nurses did and didn’t do.

As background context feast your eyes on this:

Maintaining public confidence and proper professional standards is a bit of a stretch given the almost fact free determination. Instead, the 66 page document contains unsubstantiated assertions, conjecture and an erasing of evidence from previous hearings. I’ll present a few examples here to give a mcwhiffy flavour of the whole thing. The six nurses are referred to as Colleagues A-F.

Batting for the nurses

The bias throughout the document is quite simply breathtaking. Here’s the description of one nurse. The same nurse who refused to answer a question at LB’s inquest on the basis of self-incrimination (evoking Rule 22).

The panel fall over themselves in a smorgasbord of judgement and conjecture which makes ‘the dog ate my homework’ seem a reasonable excuse. The extent of this bias is beautifully captured in the following extract.

The expert witness clearly states a risk assessment should have been done and patients with epilepsy should be within physical reach at all times. This reiterates the expert witness evidence from LB’s inquest and the GMC hearing. The panel attempt to bury this unassailable evidence in a set of absurd and discrediting sentences. Under some pressure… declined to express a view… She could not say…

How can she say what the outcome of an assessment might have been when it wasn’t done? Putting her ‘under some pressure’ is also a chilling comment.

A very partial engagement with ‘evidence’

The pesky facts that get in the way of the chosen panel narrative are ignored or buried as we saw above. They argue at length that the nurses could not have known LB was having seizures in the unit. That I told them LB had a seizure in May is erased. The fact [this is a fact] that I emailed the unit three days before LB died to say I was concerned he had been drowsy at the weekend is dismissed using evidence from the CTM notes.

This handily ignores the RIO notes where staff reported LB was subdued and red-eyed over that weekend [more facts]. A few paragraphs later the RIO notes are used as (quote) ‘positive evidence’ to show that a nurse made a verruca care plan for LB. The determination (see what I did there) of the panel to rule out any whiff that the nurses should have done anything differently because LB’s epilepsy was ‘well controlled’ is undermined by the fact [yep, another one] that they all knew he had had a seizure in January. Just a few months earlier. This document is more about annihilating actual facts than determining them.

The old language giveaway

There is a littering of language which demonstrates the lack of panel objectivity. I don’t know if this is typical of an NMC panel determination but sweet baby cheesus I hope not. Tom has been an employee at Yellow Submarine for 8 months now and his work involves writing reports. He knows you have to be objective with the language you use. A quick google shows the panel chair has been doing the job for way more than eight months (and I suspect is considerably older than 19) so I can only assume using words like ‘unsurprisingly’ must be commonplace among NMC panel determinations.

A further example can be seen in the following two paragraphs.

The first sentence is again absurd. How could there be evidence of something that didn’t happen? Then there is an emphatic ‘precisely’ underlining apparent good nursing practice. This is followed with a mealy mouthed ‘may have been incorrect’ in the second paragraph which makes me want to gouge my eyes out it’s so deeply offensive. It was incorrect. That’s why LB is fucking dead. [Howl]

Blame, blame and more blame

Blame rears its ugly head again. Particularly hideous given the judgement in the HSE criminal prosecution stated there.was.nothing.more.we.could.have.done. Blaming us again is astonishingly cruel.

Without any apparent reflection the panel say that “the undisputed evidence before the panel is that it could be very difficult to engage with Patient 1″. Undisputed evidence. Just a quick reminder that these nurses are specialist learning disability nurses. All they could get was ‘a grunt and a nod’

‘It would appear’ appears throughout the document in defence of the nurses. In the following extract ‘it would appear there was limited additional information that could otherwise have been sought from the family’. How can they possibly make this judgement? One bit of evidence (that destroyed part of my already savaged heart) underlined how little understanding the panel (and nursing staff) had of LB:

In his oral evidence, Colleague B confirmed Patient 1’s fear of gangs of youths and his reluctance to go out alone.

He didn’t go out alone. He never had. This is a pretty substantial piece of information the nurses were missing.

We though (‘they’ ‘they’ ‘they’) could have/should have done more.

We visited too much (‘virtually every day’) and there is a juicy third hand suggestion that I was so difficult the unit had to introduce a telephone triage system to cope with me.

Venturing further into the realms of the absurd

The final example takes absurdity to a new level. Yep. It is possible.

One charge was that the nurses didn’t make a planned referral to the epilepsy nurse. It turns out the person they all thought was the epilepsy nurse (Miss 12), wasn’t. [I know]. With a palpable flourish, the panel dismiss the charge. There was no epilepsy nurse to refer to. Do you hear me? And this is a fact. A fact I tell you. The over-use of the word ‘fact’ in this paragraph kind of suggests the panel know they are on flaky ground.

I can almost sense weariness from Mr Hoskins (who I assume is the NMC barrister). Such twisted, twisted logic.

I got as far as p18/66 with this analysis. It continues in the same vein. Grim, biased, childish nonsense. I’m sickened that this could be considered to be of ‘proper professional standards’ in any way shape or form. When you add in the fact [yep] this has taken five years and during the interminable process the NMC shared our personal details with all six nurses and their counsels twice, it’s very clear this body ain’t fit for purpose.

Sharks on the rooftops

I went for a wander round Headington late afternoon earlier. In part to practice taking photos with my new camera and because I remain so blooming upset/agitated by the description of LB in the NMC hearing ‘determination of (un)facts’. How dare a fucking ‘panel’ of a nurse and two lay people who never met LB and have done nothing to try to understand anything about him be so callously disrespectful of who he was.

No doubt they will argue their determination is based on evidence but evidence is not statements like so and so ‘seems to suggest that…’

Distressing, unnecessary and cruel.

In the late afternoon sun I wandered past the Co-op where LB smashed doing the shopping back in the day. Still makes me chuckle. On to Posh Fish, a go-to chippy for 20 years though our visits have dropped to rarely as the kids have grown older. My mum and dad took Rosie, Tom and LB there for some nosh on the day of my viva at Warwick in 2006. Rich and I pitched up later to have a celebratory beer with them. Such a joyful day. Posh Fish rocked. Reach for the stars stuff it seemed at the time.

Sharks on the rooftops.

Then round to the other Headington shark. The one we used to go and look at when the kids were tots. Rosie was convinced for years it had been a fish and chip shop. I think maybe as a way of trying to make sense of an enormous shark apparently falling head first from the sky through the roof of a terraced house.

At the end of the shark road is the funeral home LB was in before his funeral. Well in and out of because of the balls up over his post mortem. Behind the side window is the ‘viewing room’ or chapel of rest. It’s just a room really but a room completely and devastatingly not like any other room.

[For geography nerds, the John Radcliffe Hospital is up the road there on the left.]

As I waited to cross the road directly opposite a coach went passed blocking my view. Oh my…

Angel Executive Travel. No.fucking.way.

This coach passed me on the day of LB’s funeral. Walking in distress and agitation in the park across the road (the same road). A different type/flavour/density? of distress and agitation.

I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or punch the air.

I’m taking air punching.

At the end of a week in which professional sharks (not our local fun and quirky ones) have once again been circling for blood and behaving like fucking spunktrumpetweeblewarblers we’re not going to let LB’s memory be sullied in a crass, ill-informed and deeply biased report.

On Friday we’re back to London to fight the fucking fight that never, ever seems to end; to try to establish the humanity of our fun, quirky and beautiful children.