A missing ‘apology’ in five parts

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Part I.

Michael Buchanan (who I suspect bereaved families across the country are developing serious love for) continues to fight the good fight of uncovering and shedding light on brutal NHS practices. He did a piece about the decision of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to prosecute Sloven for BBC News on Tuesday.

At one point, Huw Edwards, introducing the story, said:

“The Trust earlier apologised to the family…”

I nearly dropped my glass of cheeky and chilled vino.

“Eh? Did you hear from Sloven today, Rich?”
“No.”
“Neither did I. What apology?

The next morning, a local journalist rang and mentioned the apology.

We ain’t received an apology, mate.

I looked on the Sloven website. Maybe they’d issued a statement. [Putting an apology in a statement is not the way to apologise to a family, mind. I was curious about where this ‘apology’ was].

Nothing.

I continued to hear about ‘the apology’ as the day wore on. With no sign of it. Then bingo. This, on twitter:

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Ah. The apology was part of a statement the Trust were sending to journalists. A fake apology extraordinaire.

Part II.

In the same way that the Trust response to LB’s death was to write and circulate a briefing document about my blog to protect their reputation, their response (and this needs to be read within the context that three board chairs, a CEO and a complete set of non-executive directors have now been replaced)  to the HSE decision was to tell the British public, via the press, that they have, once again, offered their ‘unreserved apologies’ to us.

Now Julie Dawes, and your merry band of (shit and/or remaining) executives, here’s the rub:  this is no apology. It is nothing resembling an apology. It is so much worse.

What you have done is:

  • compound the barbaric treatment you have relentlessly dished out to us (and many other families).
  • Make visible the insincere, formulaic and performative ingredients of an NHS ‘apology’.
  • demonstrate you have learned nothing despite saying you have.
  • treat us with further contempt and disrespect I didn’t think possible.
  • show us you remain incapable, either wilfully or otherwise, of understanding basic humanity and decency.

Part III.

The statement is pure spin. A closer look at the wording:

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The HSE has “informed the Trust of its intention to prosecute in relation…” [Prosecute who?] “Connor’s death whilst in our care…” [It could have happened to anyone, we just happened to be holding the parcel when the music stopped.] “Could have been prevented…” [Introducing uncertainty into the findings of the independent investigation and the inquest.] “We would like to…” [But we ain’t going to.] “Once again…” [We have apologised to this vexatious mother relentlessly.] “Offer our unreserved apologies…” [A prize for us to take with grateful hands.]  “To his family.” [Family for PR purposes, ‘the Mother’ for every strategic opportunity to stick the boot in.] “Continues to do everything it can…” [Apart from actually say sorry].

Part IV.

You didn’t get in touch with us to say sorry. You got in touch with the press.

Minutes after finding the ‘apology’ on twitter, I received an email from your administrator. On behalf of you and the Board Chair, Alan Yates, about meeting up with the group of families you have treated like utter crap.

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You can email me about a meeting (to benefit you) but you can’t say sorry.

You didn’t get in touch with us to say sorry. You got in touch with the press.

I find this unforgivable.

Part V.

Rich and I have felt pretty low since the HSE news. People have been saying it’s remarkable that the campaign has achieved so much. It is. Bryan, from My Life My Choice, earlier reminded me of the time I sat in his office a year or so ago, dejectedly saying we didn’t have a craphole chance of achieving our aims… particularly around making sure Sloven didn’t profit from the sale of the Slade House site and a prosecution against the Trust.

The trouble is, of course, LB remains dead; our beautiful son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend, is forever absent and, within a shifting family landscape, newer family members will never meet their quirky uncle LB, brother in law, second cousin or potential godfather. We know this. Any bereaved family knows this.

What your latest ‘unreserved’ non-apology beyond shiteness this week has shown, is that you have zip all understanding of this, and that you couldn’t give a flying fuck. You have been beaten into a corner by a remarkable, and unprecedented, collective brilliance, and you’ve learned nothing.

Still.

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Branch, burial or crematorium…

“Darling, I’m sorry but the undertaker wants to know if we want a burial or the crematorium…”

“I’m just filling in a HSIB Patient Safety Awareness form.”

“A what? What’s HSIB?”

“The Health Safety Investigation Branch… Some government thing.”

“We need to make  a decision. Apparently  the cemeteries are pretty full around here.”

“Sorry, I’m stuck on this question: Why do you think HSIB should investigate your incident?”

“What incident?”

“Jimmy’s death.”

“Christalmighty. He died for fucks sake.”

HSIB was launched this week. Led by Keith Conradi, an air safety expert and pilot, with over 40 years of experience. The new branch is allegedly independent despite being called a branch, based within NHS Improvement and funded by the Department of Health.

I’m sure Conradi is an ace guy. I’m sure he knows his air safety stuff. Patient deaths and bereaved families?  Not so sure. The ‘its’ and ”relatives of incidents’ on the HSIB website suggest not.

The gig is that HSIB will investigate 30 deaths a year using a Human Factors approach. There is a set of criteria for selecting these deaths; outcome impact, systemic risk and learning potential. Your daughter, father, brother, sister, mother has become a learning tool and the bigger the potential learning from their death, the more chance they have of making the cut.

If you understand the various hoops on the website and get through them, you eventually (after two pages with an identical ‘get started’ button)  reach a link to the Patient Safety Awareness Form. The potential gold ticket. This kicks off by asking:

When did the problem you want to share with us happen?
I kid you not. The problem... The incident. Relatives of the incident. Human Factors bods take the non-pursuit of blame to a level that doesn’t translate well into health care. Reducing death to ‘a problem’ will probably send most bereaved families who have got this far into further pieces. If they limp through to the final page of the form, they are expected to produce a coherent justification as to why the death of their loved one reaches the criteria for investigation.
I don’t know. There is something different about approaches to safety in the airline industry and safety in the NHS. Dragging Human Factors from the former to the latter (without some reflection, understanding, empathy and commitment to adapt the process to the very different context) clearly necessitates an erasure of the human and focus on nothing but systems. But health care is necessarily messy, interactive and drenched in human. It involves patients who die in a many different ways, at different times. In the airline industry I assume (please tell me if I’m wrong) that a plane crash generates an instant grouping of deceased passengers, and their relatives, who have some shared experience of this catastrophic event or happening.
On twitter tonight I was introduced to the concept of “second harm”. This is:
Blimey. Second harm. This is so important (and makes me want to scrowl given the battering we, and so many other families, have experienced because our beyond loved children, parents, sisters or brothers died in the ‘care’ of the NHS).
The information on the new HSIB site is offensively phrased, not accessible and the process of ‘referring incidents’ is exclusionary; it assumes particular levels of understanding, articulation and engagement. And, as importantly, ignores grief and humanity.
It has, in short, considerable potential generate more second harm. Classy stuff.
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Five tribunals and a dress code

Coming up this summer; a two-week General Medical Council (GMC) tribunal for the consultant psychiatrist to be held in Manchester in August, and four Nursing and Midwifery (NMC) tribunals.

  • Four years after LB drowned, alone, in an NHS bath.
  • Over three years after an independent report found he died a preventable death through neglect.
  • Nearly two years after an inquest jury determined he died through neglect and serious failings.

It’s all going on this summer. The pipers are suddenly calling the tunes.

The NMC sent me (Rich has dropped off these communications without explanation) four identical letters last week which open with a cheery:

On behalf of the NMC, thank you for your time and commitment in helping us to investigate this case; your help is greatly appreciated. Without the evidence provided by witnesses we would not be able to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public. We recognise the valuable contribution you have made to this investigation.

‘This case’? ‘My help’? ‘The valuable contribution…‘ Really?

Is humanity bypass a criteria for a job at the NMC?  I’m all for change but spare me the vacuous Dambuster shite. LB died.

The letter continues by ‘asking me’ to provide my unavoidable (in bold) commitments in June, July and August. There is no reflection of the enormity of demanding these dates (after years of crap all action) so breezily, four times over, with a response deadline of ten days. No. The reverse. If those pesky bereaved parents don’t get their act together to respond, there is a simple fallback position:

If we do not hear from you we will assume you are available and proceed to schedule the hearings.

I’m then directed to a lengthy weblink which I have to retype from the letter to find out more (there is so much so wrong here but seriously, if you ain’t sending a letter electronically, a URL is as good as fucking useless).

It gets worse.

At each of these tribunals, the staff member is represented by a barrister who can ‘cross-examine’ the witness.

Giving your evidence in person also allows the opposing side, if present at the hearing, to ask you questions and test your evidence. This is vital to ensure a fair and thorough hearing.

The opposing side? I don’t think that the staff who should have been looking after LB are on an ‘opposing side’. What a terrible way to frame the process. But if there are opposing sides, surely both (or none) have recourse to legal representation? (Witnesses are not allowed representation). How can this possibly be a fair or thorough process?

The concerns and focus of these regulatory bodies should be on the integrity, professionalism and abilities of the people they register, not putting (bereaved) members of the public through trial and examination. There’s a shedload of evidence to draw upon to do this, including two weeks of inquest recordings, staff and other witness statements.

James Titcombe described his and his partner’s experiences earlier:

I have spent days giving evidence to both regulatory bodies, checking this evidence, finding supporting documentation and waiting for action. In the next few months, I’m expected to travel to Manchester and wherever in the UK the four NMC tribunals are held (using annual leave and making sure I’m available at all times), to be cross examined by five different barristers.

You can fuck your denim, sportswear and trainers ban.

Four deaths, heads and a medical director

Between Oct 2010 and May 2011, four men died unexpectedly in St Andrews, Northampton. All patients in the Grafton Ward; a 20 bed, low secure ward. Bill, one of the four, featured in Under Lock and Key a few weeks ago. You’d imagine that four patients dying unexpectedly within a six month period in the same ward would send shockwaves around St Andrews and wider.

A copy of the investigation into these deaths landed in the Justice Shed yesterday evening. The terms of reference suggest that there was some switched on thinking around these patients’ human rights:

No. The Charity clearly didn’t understand the word ‘independent’ or their obligations arising under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The investigation was led by the St Andrew’s Medical Director supported by the Head of Research and Development, Head of Physical Healthcare, Head of Health and Safety Investigations and Head of Pharmacy. About as far from independent as you can get.

Unsurprisingly, there was zero consideration of the four lives that ended, prematurely. The remaining terms of reference were:

The executive summary states:

It was the patients themselves what done it. With their long standing medical problems (clearly untouched by the long term leading specialist care provided by St Andrews at enormous cost to the NHS and other commissioners). One patient had lived there for 18 years. The day before he died, he refused to have his vital signs checked on two occasions.

Whatever way you cut it, this strikes me as a catastrophic fail on the part of St Andrews. “The UK’s leading charity providing specialist NHS care.”

They couldn’t even be bothered to proof read the final report.

A tale of two releases

A Bermudian journalist, the only independent journalist on the island, popped up on twitter this week, tracking down details of the recent announcement that St Andrews Care (who were the subject of the documentary, Under Lock and Key) are going to ship patients from Bermuda to their ‘care’. He published this story.

Here is the original news release published by St Andrew’s. Tiny type, sorry.

St A bermuda news

And the revised one after the press started to get interested.

St A bermuda news 2

To save you squinting too hard at them both, the main differences are:

St Andrew’s has achieved a ‘new first’, not by winning ‘an [sic] contract to provide care to forensic patients’, as originally stated, but by ‘by being selected as a preferred provider to support the Bermuda Health Hospitals board in providing care…

Bit of a difference, raising questions about what is actually going on between St Andrews and the Bermuda Health Hospitals Board. And whether there is there any scrutiny of these negotiations.

The sentence about Bermuda being a small island with limited resources and people with mental illness being held in the island prison system has been removed.

Mmm. Probably best not bite the hand that feeds you. The original statement suggests that, possibly, there may not have been much consideration of the tender process, context and history on the part of St Andrew’s.

Instead of the the ‘contract being awarded at the end of February’, the story has changed to ‘contract negotiations are now being started’.  Puzzling. How these dance steps are being played out between the Bermudian system and St Andrew’s, outside of any apparent transparency,  engagement or public consultation is chilling.

The second press release drops any mention of three patients ‘set to travel to Northampton as part of St Andrew’s Men’s mental health pathway, with up to nine patients due to join St Andrew’s in the coming months’. I’m relieved this is currently disappeared. The way it was written sounded like the first three patients and the subsequent 9, were coming to join some sort of corporate team building exercise. Not wrenched thousands of miles from homes and families they will, more than likely, never see again. I’m sure it won’t stop this happening but any reflection on and consideration of what is being plotted can only be a good thing.

Finally, the statement from the Executive Director of Nursing and Quality has been revised. The opening sentence about ‘bringing the charity income from new sources’ is deleted. 

Income from new sources… Before the health and well being of these patients. Extraordinary. Since when did a massive charity need new income? Given the gargantuan salaries of the exec board and this latest money spinner, the Charity Commission should be having a bit of a snifty around this bunch. I can smell em from here.

The CQC, Ford escorts and failings

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Oh dear. Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, has written a blog that makes my eyes repeatedly blink. And my brain slowly and repeatedly turn and churn. Chucking me back to days of car sickness and towel caught vomit on the back seat of a Ford escort. Here’s a walk through…

Writing about the Panorama programme shown this week documenting abuse at a residential home run by the Morleigh Group. [I’ve not watched the programme. I need to develop guts of steel to do so.] Sutcliffe is both defensive and distancing in her ramblings. 

She kicks off in the first paragraph with the statement “We warned [in a report] that adult social care is approaching a tipping point…” Mmm. A better start, given the content of the Panorama programme, might have been something along the lines of “I’m horrified that such abuse continues to happen in care provision in the UK, despite our continued efforts… We clearly need to do better.”

And continues: “The Panorama footage was not shared with the CQC in advance so I watched like everyone else.”

Blimey. Not sure what the point of this statement is but it doesn’t half ring some serious ‘queen of the land’ bells. A moment or two of self reflection (or a good mate to pull you up on these developing tendencies) might be in order… 

Sutcliffe found that “two moments in particular made me despair”.

Phew. It wasn’t that bad. Only two moments. Allowing reference to the mum test.

“That could have been your mum or mine…”

This was followed by a remarkably weak defence of CQC actions around the Morleigh Group:

“these are services we have been worried about for some time; we had kept them under close scrutiny, inspected regularly and set out what they needed to do to improve through our reports and enforcement action”.

‘Worrying about’ services you know to be failing really ain’t a robust defence. And, clearly, close scrutiny and regular inspections aren’t working. These are people’s lives. A fact that an entire gamut of senior NHS bods apparently still do not get. I ‘worry’ about getting to a meeting on time. About meeting funding deadlines. Not about people (residents) being brutalised.

There’s a muddled and confusing tale of inspections before and after receiving info from Panorama and the (necessary) identifying of “a serious decline in quality”. The CQC never at fault. Failing services brought to public attention by the actions of public and/or journalists have typically ‘just declined’ between news breaking and the previous inspection. Removing any need for scrutiny of the inspection process and what might be missing in terms of identifying failing practice the first time round. Before people are brutalised. Or worse. 

The CQC role section is a cracker. Beginning with unqualified condemnation of the Morleigh Group. Of course. The responsibility lies with them. 

cqc-roleThen the bizarre statement ‘But it is not unnatural when dreadful things happen in the sector’. ‘Unnatural’?  Eh? How far have senior CQC staff become detached from reality?

The following paragraph is also deeply concerning.

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Setting clear expectations? They were kept under close scrutiny? Sigh. The Morleigh Group failed. The CQC failed. There is no wriggle room. Bleating about working hard while failings continue is deeply offensive (and makes utter mockery of the mum test).

Sutcliffe continues to dig a deeper hole. Including an extract from a ‘fairy tale’ letter from a punter which rings even louder alarm bells about CQC processes.

cqc3‘I think I should give you a resident’s viewpoint…’ ‘Recovering from the shock’? ‘Right the wrongs here… ‘ Eh? Really? I’m trying and failing to imagine the concerned ‘resident’, sitting in her bedroom, pen poised, reflecting on how much better life is now staff no longer do ‘wrongs’ to her and other ‘residents’. Nah. I can’t.

The overall message of this ill judged post: it wasn’t the Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care or her CQC kingdom what done it. The failings lie firmly with the provider. [And we all know, sadly, they ain’t an outlier.]

Writing what’s happened…

I’m writing a book. I know. A book. Lofty aspirations. I can barely read one these days. I’m determined to write a book. I’ve never written a book. I write all the time. I vomit out blog posts. I now struggle to write academic papers.

The process of writing this book is generating rage beyond rage. So much so fucking wrong. I’m beginning to reflect more clearly, three and a half years later, on the broader acceptance of the circulating shite. My initial rage at reading the brutal content of briefings, email exchanges and reports is shifting to those who read rather than those who write this content. And say nothing.

Those who received the Background Briefing of Mother’s Blog in their inbox on July 5 2013. A day after LB drowned. Can you imagine? And sucked it up. Those who received the ‘internal’ review‘ by Oxfordshire County Council two weeks before we’d seen sight or smell of the stench of this secret and tawdry investigation. A report chucked into my inbox without warning one Monday morning by an Oxfordshire County Council Social Care Director, strangely off sick for the rest of that day.

Could you try to step outside the smug, judgemental, self serving space you typically enjoy. And challenge this shit? Keep your eye on the human.

It may make you feel better about yourselves. And what you do.

Or maybe not.

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Conflict negotiation and Trump stickers

I’m in a space of Trump denial. In a 4.5 star hotel booked for €120 for four nights in Santa Cruz for a work gig. An outside lift reminiscent of The Towering Inferno. Loo roll with a dark blue sticker (figure with upraised arms) on the end sheet. This figure appears variously on a cocktail stirring stick (I think) and other stuff in the room.

fullsizerender-3A Trump like figure. Directing me to the start of a loo roll/tug ritual I’ve mastered since I was a tot. There are no cocktails.

On the plane I had an aisle seat. The woman by the window was a conflict negotiator. With no one between us we bonded over her well worn walking boots and my dusty trail shoes. She trumped the #CaminoLB with 15 or so years of walking different trails/adventures.

We totally owned that middle seat as she quietly reassured me about the robustness, independence and power of the Health and Safety Executive. Apparently, being formally interviewed by the HSE is a deeply, serious step. I was reminded of the clear and sensible info given by the police back in the day.

“This isn’t your conflict any longer…” she said.

Just imagine.

Flight of the Camino

Not long to go now before we set off on the CaminoLB. The route is here (it’s a bit anarchic organic and loosely formed). What we know so far: George Julian, John Williams, Dave Griffiths and I (me?) are setting off on Tuesday evening on the 24 hour ferry from Portsmouth to Santander. With the #JusticeforLB quilt and bus. Postcards of Awesome, the #JusticeforLB flag and anything else we can tuck in our pockets and socks.

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We hand the booty (other than the bus and the flag if I can find it) over to Alicia Wood in Santander in advance of the #JusticeforLB exhibition planned for 2 Dec. We start walking with the bus first thing Oct 27 with a cheeky 37 miles to cover in the first two days. Luckily John and Dave are doing those two days. Two comedians who are planning to train by doing a few laps of the deck on the ferry. John has Body Glide anti-chafe cream and Compeed. Dave will be wearing his crown.

Various people will join us along the route. With a build up across the final three days when five people from My Life My Choice (including Dawn Wiltshire, Paul Scarrott and Shaun Picken), Rosie Tozer, who is walking in memory of her son, Danny, and Ruth Glynn Owen join us. Paul points out that it may be the first time learning disabled people have done anything like it. I think it probably is. Demonstrating the limitations of the big charity guns – Mencap, Scope, National Autistic Society – who typically manage, orchestrate and erase the talk, enjoyment and involvement of people in a relentless drive for self promotion and self serving nothingness.

We’ll be meeting with Spanish school kids who are making gingerbread figures and local dignitaries during those last three days. Finishing the walk on Nov 3 in Aviles. Dropping the bus off where the exhibition will be held in December.

This afternoon my sis, Agent T (pitching up at Poo next Saturday to walk the remaining walk) and I caught up with packing plans. The weather forecast is spectacular. Coats/waterproofs ditched. Ipads/laptops still up for grabs (well, for me anyway). Various devices for having an unobtrusive piss en route to be tested. I’m running with some £4.99 jobby from Go Outdoors…

With the help of behind the scenes organisation magically sorted by Alicia, Mariana Ortiz and Henry Iles [thank you] we may well have the experience of a lifetime. Laughter, tears and, hopefully, more laughter.

Here’s hoping a few laps of the Brittany Ferry deck on Wednesday will reap rewards.

LB would bloody love it.

[And there’s always time for anyone (er, cough cough, Mencap, Scope, NAS… or whoever) to join us. Why not smash the boundaries and just do summat?]

An exemplar in absurdity (and conkers)

A sort of follow on from the (updated) The Talented Mr Martin and viral impact post. Underpinned by continuing incredulity at the removal of the Talentworks website. A ‘leadership’ consultancy with the tagline:

Meet the Talentworks team… hired for our large brains, love of psychology and impeccable dress sense.

Yes. Really. Well, and at least £5m of public money.

In the continued absence of any apparent scrutiny from NHS Improvement and others who should, we’re left digging deeper into shit we should never have to go near.

Talentworks. A virtual collective of people with large brains… etc have not only been getting obscene amounts of dosh from Sloven. They’ve also been working closely with Thames Valley and Wessex Leadership Academy (TVWLA). An academy led until last year by Katrina Percy.

I’m rubbish with figures but the Talentworks ‘blah blah’ work with the Thames Valley bunch (Financial Summaries available here) seems to involve a shedload of dosh for the two years Percy led the academy (around £500k and £370k)  dropping to around £20k after she stepped down. [As an aside, how could Percy dismiss Mike Holder’s safety concerns while championing Chris Martin and his jibber jabber? [howl]]

A brief browse of the Talent Management pages on the Thames Valley Leadership Academy pages:

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A teeth achingly meaningless statement. Just noise. How the Wessex leadership gang allowed this to be published on their website makes me want to weep. I’m left wondering (again) is this about stupidity, incompetence, fear, corruption, bullying, greed, narcissism or simple slumbering?  The focus on this hocus pocus crap, while staff were left without leadership, untrained and unsupported to provide the most basic care to keep LB and so many other patients alive [alive], is haunting.

More bollocks…

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Greater pipeline intelligence? A driver of culture change? It’s like the Stepford Wives meet NHS England.

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I’ve not read this blinky blonky table yet. The headings alone suggest nonsense. I just want to know who authorised payments for this ‘work’? Where were the internal (and external) audit processes? Did no one ask what is this about and is it effective?

Did Talentworks really have a blank cheque to do whatever?

What are the links between Chris Martin, Katrina/Iain Percy and others?

What does it mean that Talentworks have withdrawn their website?

What the actual fuck?

Here’s a photo of conkers we collected in the park earlier. I bloody love this photo. These are conkers. As simple and uncomplicated as.

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