A cull and a shedload of ‘shoulds’

So, the Sloven non-executive directors are no more. The interim Board Chair, Alan Yates, published the news earlier. He had the decency to let us know in advance which we appreciate. He’s also clearly got some sense getting shot of them. Though really you couldn’t get much more of a “fuck me, this bunch of muppets are utterly clueless” situ. Just look at the very potted timeline, the BBC pulled together:

The failings drag back to 2011 when the Trust gained Foundation Trust status, and have been well documented since then. A shedload of public dosh has also been spent on repeatedly reviewing the Trust governance. Simply shameful. Here’s hoping some of the remaining execs follow suit sharpish.

In other news, the National Quality Board guidance, an outcome of the CQC Deaths Review, was published yesterday. More guidance. Drenched in typical ‘guidance’ statements like; To ensure objectivity, case record reviews should wherever possible be conducted by clinicians other than those directly involved in the care of the deceased. 

I should start walking more again and give up booze and chocolate. We should keep the house cleaner. Of course case record reviews shouldn’t include the involved clinician. Seriously. Is this how far we’ve come?

New principles for engaging with bereaved families are included in the review, handily provided in a box on p15. Eight bullet points and 7 ‘shoulds‘. I remain so blinking relieved and delighted that #JusticeforLB has been an explosion of colour, fun, joy, beauty and brilliance. A tonic to offset the utter banality and mediocrity of official responses to scandalous practices… 

As part of the CQC Deaths Review spillage, there’s a swanky ‘Learning from Deaths Day’ arranged next week. In a move that both exemplifies a) the complete lack of understanding (still) of what needs to change by those who should know so much better, and b) the disconnect that exists between the different silos of NHS England, CQC, NHS Improvement and the like, this day was originally closed to families. I know. (Almost) cue the old, eye leaking emoji…

Eh? What was that Jezza? Sorry, stumbling on bullet point One right now. Here’s a reminder in case you’ve forgotten (or not been told): ‘Bereaved families and carers should be treated as equal partners following a bereavement..’ Oh and bullet 8: ‘Bereaved families and carers who have experienced the investigation process should be supported to work in partnership with Trusts‘…” 

You couldn’t make it up really. Just words. Put together in a report like shape. Same old words, same old order. Like browning blossom falling onto the damp ground below. Soon to disappear and be forgotten about until the following spring when new versions of the same appear.

With some agitation by various people, including George Julian and Neil Churchill of NHS England, families were eventually allowed to attend this day which is organised as a typical NHS exercise in heartsink pomp and ceremony. Swerving the opportunity for a humane, passionate, critical, efficient, collective and effective response to a scandal that obviously demands alternative and innovative responses, the same old turgid suspects are lined up to talk the same old, same old talk. Durkin, Richards, Mackey, Hunt and more Durkin. The 7.5 hour gig includes 10 minutes of a family member, an hour of scheduled discussion and 20 mins of Q&A.

 

We could probably write the script of the day now and save £££s. Not only in the laying on of the event but the time taken out of attendees’ everyday lives. I feel so sad that the brilliant and groundbreaking work of the Mazars team is being dragged down into this well trodden, hierarchical, tedious and mediocre NHS furrow. There was a moment, back at the end of 2015, early 2016, when actual change seemed possible.

Instead, it’s business as usual and a shedload more shoulds.

Postscript: Had a timely reminder via Twitter as I pressed publish that we have held the Sloven board to account (a CEO, 3 Board Chairs and 5 NEDs so far.) Yep. We bloody well did. Cracking work #JusticeforLB and continued drops of brilliance.

My son is not a teaching tool…

Been a bit quiet on here as I concentrate on bashing out my book evenings and weekends. I’m trying not to get too angry as I’m determined to produce a good read (the intense rage is in temporary abeyance).  Sadly, the 5.30ish-9pm space I plotted tonight, as I lit the fire and made sure there were some cans of Heineken in the fridge, was blown out of the water by the latest in the (almost farcical but sadly not funny) shit stream blown out of the backside of a Jeremy Hunt, NHS Improvement and CQC combo.

Yesterday, the Expert Reference Group (ERG) for the CQC Deaths Review (published in December) met to look at how the recommendations of the report are being implemented. Rich and I had concerns about this review (reinforced by the final report) but there’s always space for action. Except for when there ain’t, as it transpired.  For some reason, a new set of Department of Health bods (clearly in Jeremy Hunt’s human factor crusader back pocket) are now taking the lead and acting on recommendations. Family involvement? You might as well whistle down the wind.

Today, we were sent a cheeky copy of a letter sent to trusts from the CQC and NHS Improvement, detailing changes to be implemented as an outcome of the death review. A letter not shared  with the ERG yesterday or any of the families who wasted valuable time and emotion contributing to the review.

The full letter can be read here: 17022204-learning-from-deaths.

There is so much wrong with it, I can’t be arsed to identify the Eddie Stobart lorry size holes throughout. There are patches of ‘if only…’ or ‘almost hitting the mark’ but the unnecessarily tentative, non-mandatory, half arsed and convoluted statements obliterate them. The letter is almost unreadable in ‘sense’ terms because of the contortions the authors have gone through to remove any hint of wrong doing, failure, negligence, from it.

Just one early paragraph:

jezErasing the humanity of patients and presenting their deaths as teaching tools is about as offensive as you can get in my book, particularly when it’s dressed up in such benign terms as ‘the care provided’.  Sloven, ironically, excelled at the teaching tool shite three years ago with a training powerpoint that, as far as we know, is still available on their intranet. Our request for confirmation that it has been removed, ignored.

When I think about Sloven’s attempts to not disclose records or publish reports which they dressed up as protecting LB’s ‘confidentiality’ after his death, and look at this powerpoint, another part of me dies. That no one, who should, has done anything about this, makes that rage bounce right back from the abeyance pen… Could you please do something about this?

Someone must be responsible???

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Meanwhile, the national Learning from Deaths conference mentioned a couple of times in the letter is arranged for March 21. Leaving ‘open, transparent and collaborative’ at the invite only door:

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Nearly four years on, we’re left with:

  • Dead patients treated as teaching fodder in a human/Hunt factor health world.
  • Families ignored, other than in particular, staged and performative (that is, fake) spaces.
  • No change in the lives (or premature deaths) of learning disabled people.

 

It was my dad’s 80th birthday this week and we had a big old lunch on Sunday with family and my parents’ friends of 60 or so years. The swearing and the anger I often express on this blog cropped up chatting with one of his mates. I’m sorry Sid, it wasn’t clear whether (or how much) you disapprove of the swearing (and I completely appreciate and love this ambiguity) but this bunch of fuckingcuntstainwankdrops are clearly incapable of implementing effective change. It couldn’t be clearer.

 

 

 

A whistle stop catch up…

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Been writing like a batshit from hell since Christmas. Weekends and evenings, just thundering away on the keyboard in the back room. Bess often keeping me company on a cushion by my feet. Sometimes not. The book contract is being thrashed out. I’ve pretty much reached the proposed word count; it’s a question of trying to make a tale that doesn’t typically float many boats, into a page turner that grabs attention and makes the likes of LB (Danny Tozer, Nico Reed, Thomas Rawnsley, and many more) human.

I’m on it, with remarkable support.

Other stuff that has been happening (in random/(reverse) order…)

  • The NMC only communicate gibberish so fuck knows.
  • The GMC tribunal date for Dr M has been set for two weeks in August.
  • The HSE are hoping to share further information in the next few weeks.
  • We’re getting an update from the police on Friday evening.
  • David Harling is in the final stages of his fourth animation… this one will include voices… [howl].
  • Caiolfhionn Gallagher was sworn in as a QC this week. Something so unusually right, something so deserved, and so blooming reassuring in terms of the ways in which she will, undoubtedly, continue to use her ferocious intellect, human rights expertise and extraordinary empathy to fight/right as many wrongs as she can in her waking hours.

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The solicitor, the student nurse and scholar activism

On Tuesday Katherine Runswick-Cole gave her inaugural  lecture which touched upon numerous highlights of her work over the past 10 years or so. Well worth a catch up if you missed it. One of the things she talked about was #JusticeforLB and the responsibility of academics to be scholar activists.

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The disability studies assemblage certainly did, as she highlighted:

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I particularly loved this comment.

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I remain chilled by the obscene focus of Sloven and Oxfordshire County Council on reputation immediately after LB’s death. And the eight months or so it took before his death made it into national news. That ‘random’ people now know what happened can only be a good thing.

Yesterday, a second year learning disability nursing student left a message on the #JusticeforLB facebook page. He wanted us to know how much of an impact LB’s story was having on his, and other students’, education.

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He went on to say:

Nothing could ever make what happened ok. It will always be a tragedy. But LB is shaping the education nurses receive. He is changing the way people work who have been nurses for years, and most important of all, LB is making the lives of other people safer but ensuring they get the care and support they need.

[Sob]. Spot on. Nothing can make it ok. And I so agree about the impact and change. I’m not surprised in some ways. I mean, remarkable campaign magic has included walking a cardboard bus 100 miles along the Camino de Santiago in memory of LB, Danny Tozer, Thomas Rawnsley and others. In the past few years, we’ve collectively managed to prise open a [new?] space for the scrutiny of, and engagement with, preventable deaths (and, hopefully, non lives) of learning disabled people. l1025096Sadly, this focus is not replicated among relevant health and social care bods. We need no more evidence to know that it’s time to properly address and act on the barbaric and inhumane treatment of certain people in the UK. The CQC swerved from this opportunity with their recent deaths review. There seems little effective action from other parts of the NHS (or social care). Just the inevitable, systemic compromise as always. With nothing inevitable about it.

Anyway, here’s to Prof Runswick-Cole, scholar activism and a new generation of brilliantly enlightened nurses. We salute you.

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Reclaiming mother blame…

Revisiting the mother blame stuff again this weekend. For a mix of personal and academic reasons. On a fairly superficial first trawl (that is, the stuff immediately to hand) I came up with 17 statements explicitly blaming me in various ways for what happened.

I’m trying to work out some way of presenting these words creatively as the words themselves seem to lose meaning. This has involved some fairly absorbing messing around which is quite empowering. Cut and pasting, drawing pictures, stretching and recreating text. It unexpectedly allows a reclaiming of the statements and some power to subvert them. They are no longer the blunt and unthinking (at best) [cruel] things health and social care professionals have said about me (or so many other mothers/parents).

These things can’t be said about families/patients/people without us appropriating the words. And doing what we want with them. Who knows. This may make it less likely that ‘professionals’ thoughtlessly regurgitate them in future.

Revisiting these statements, the horror remains as raw. The pain and rage they cause untempered. I still cannot understand how anyone involved in LB’s death (and most of these 17 statements were made post publication of the Verita review which clearly stated LB’s death was preventable) can possibly think blaming his mum is, in anyway, acceptable. Even if you’d met me (I’ve met three of the people who made the statements so far uncovered) and I was/am the nightmare portrayed, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the health and social non care provided to LB. Even if I was/am a combo of May and Cameron, with a dose of Farage, Trump, Muntz from UP, Gove and Nasty Nick from vintage Big Brother, LB had a right to good and appropriate health and social care. Simple as…

[I can’t  believe I’m actually typing these words but given the persistence of health and social care inequalities, I just despair when I think of how many other people/families must have fallen foul of arrogant, ignorant, judgemental, incompetent, myopic, point scoring, thoughtless professionals with way too much power in their grubby paws.]

I’m left, on first reflections of this mother blame trawl, partly focusing on who said these things. Sloven and Oxfordshire County Council peeps (and I would assume private providers if relevant). But more importantly, those who didn’t say anything in response to them. These statements are not made in a vacuum. They are shared, agreed and circulated, either by email, in reports, letters and so on. The various Freedom of Information and Subject Access Requests that accompanied them revealed no countering, reflection or challenge. This bile is accepted without challenge. No whiff of this:

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Mother blame remains live and kicking. I can only think it’s up to us to start reclaiming it.

And for those who should know better but clearly don’t, some baby steps to more humane engagement:

  1. First and foremost, remember that a person has died a preventable death. They have died and they shouldn’t have. [Howl]
  2. Try to imagine (and keep imagining) what this must feel like for those who loved them. [Imagining it happened to someone you love is a very basic step here.]
  3. When you receive any documentation about this person’s death (emails, letters, draft reports, briefings), sitting in meetings when this is discussed, or chatting over the photocopier, keep remembering this is a person. A person who shouldn’t have died [Revisit step 2].
  4. Develop a careful close reading of any health and social care missives about the unexpected or preventable deaths of people in health or social care. Learn to identify/recognise typically defensive, over the top, and cruel blameworthy statements about these deaths and call them out for what they are.
  5. Refuse to be party to the callous, inhumane and brutal annihilation of family concerns.

Basically. Just be human.

Johnny Rotten and the legitimacy of anger

Rich met me at the bus stop after work yesterday. I was feeling a bit low. We wandered home across the London Road.

“You seem a bit despondent…”
“Yeah. I am. Fed up with raging. And the continued shite that just doesn’t change. Not sure I can bear another year of being so angry... I’m weary of being constantly angry.”
“That’s what happens.”
“What?”
“People get worn out. They stop being angry. But it’s right to be angry. Anger drives a refusal to accept the low bar, the unacceptable. It drives action and critical engagement. Without it, issues are reduced to vague problems too easily dismissed.”
“Hmm…”
“Like Johnny Rotten said, anger is an energy…”

Minutes after getting in, an old mate turned unexpectedly. Her son a year or so older than LB. We had a catch up over mugs of tea and a chunk of Christmas cake. She filled me in on the horror that has been her family’s recent experiences of adult services. Not a pretty story. But it so rarely is. We reflected on the way in which 18+ years of loving and bringing up our kids (along with their sisters/brothers) can be summarily dismissed or problematised by health and social care (with the eye watering irony they offer nothing in its place). The misuse of power and erasure of love and more (the right words don’t exist) too often, just extraordinary.

Before she left, she said;

Do you remember when N and LB were young? And we were so optimistic about the future…

Blimey. I’d forgotten. We were. There was a group of us parents. A right old bunch of budding agitators/activists [just mums really…] All with kids the same sort of age. So utterly convinced we could change what we thought was an already changing world to create rightful space for our kids. To live the lives other people lived. I was shocked to remember this, and that I’d forgotten.

Later, one of LB’s school mates posted two photos on Facebook from years ago. LB was sitting among the small group of kids. He looked so chilled in one and smiling, as he saw the camera, in the other. It was clearly before the fake, fixed cheesy Wallace grin period which lasted a good year or so. Until my relentless photo taking became commonplace again.

Rich is right. Anger is necessary. Or you get sucked into the malaise that is the myriad words/excuses/bullshit/reviews and recommendations that health and social care bods endlessly come up with. Non existent change… what’s about to happen. And never does. At best, a kind of hope soup. That never leaves the kitchen. And feeds no one but the cook.

So 2017. Another year. With anger. And focus on brilliance. The remarkable. And humour. That rightful space is still there, somewhere. We just have to collectively, and persistently, nudge the crap out of the way. And never stop saying this is simply unacceptable.

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Bindman’s published their first ever annual review today.

Goggles, faeces, pricks and shoes

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Oh dear. My pre-Crimbo sunshine has gone with the advent of 2017. Waiting for accountability still. Some random thoughts and reflections here. Apologies for any repetition. We’re getting mighty weary waiting. (Actually worse than weary, but there you go.)

First, a brief recap of some very key points:

2017

 

If someone told me back in the day we’d still be waiting for accountability in 2017 I’d have refused to believe it. We’re talking about the NHS, for goodness sake. Of course it wouldn’t take years…

Such naivety.

Like many other families, we’ve been consigned to a half life (at best) since LB’s death. Forced to ferociously police and push for interminably slow, and too often reluctant, processes to grind on. Fun, the small stuff in life, largely shelved. Work a distraction rather than the focus it used to be. Our lives have been transformed/brutalised because LB was not seen as fully human in life or death. And because he died in NHS care.

I was having a twitter exchange about patient safety/bereaved families the other day with a well known and influential GP. S/he refused to listen but tweeted a cloying ‘If you prick us we bleed…‘ Gordon Bennett. I was quite proud I wandered away from that exchange with no whiff of a swear or ten.

The comment sheds a bit of light though… About senior health and social care bods who seem to be pathologically unable to put themselves anywhere near the shoes of bereaved families. People so firmly focused on their own shoes (careers, status and the like) with the coatings of arrogance (and sometimes immaturity?) that seem to come as a perk of these positions.  People with the power to both discredit and further alienate families pushed to extremes through the heady combination of grief and injustice. People who should, really, know better. And do better.

Here’s a thought for the new year. Why not ditch those goggles, park your shoes to one side for a bit and give what happened to LB, and others, proper scrutiny and attention. Read the extraordinary and repeated unwriting of scandals, the limp dicked excuses and half baked non explanations/obfuscation in statements, reports and reviews. Look at the ridiculous time that’s taken to never get anywhere. Stop worrying about pricks and try to imagine what it must be like to endure life after the preventable death of beloved family members in NHS care. A particular hell with no end in sight. It may well be a cathartic experience. You never know.

It certainly can’t hurt.

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Raising a large glass of something…

Received a lovely Crimbo email yesterday which made me – blinking back those pesky tears – think, yep. We’ve rocked this gig. All of us. Here’s an extract from the email and some ‘highlights’ of the year:

I hope you all get a chance to reflect on your achievements this year:

  • real justice for Connor – forcing the NHS to acknowledge their failings and removing the CEO who set the culture that created so many problems for your family;
  • the prospect of real, meaningful change for so many other people within the NHS, in particular the families who’ll now expect so much more from the health service;
  • a new (albeit extremely belated) conversation about the lives of people with learning disabilities, with at least a path being set for how they can get closer to being treated with equality and respect.

There are undoubtedly many battles you’ll still want to fight, and plenty of people who need you to fight for them.  But I hope that over a large glass of something, you appreciate that you really, really are achieving Justice for Laughing Boy.

Jan: Campaigners and the gingers attend the Sloven Board meeting.
Feb: Jeremy Hunt meeting with Rich, Deb Coles and Andrew Smith, MP.
Mar: 12 Angry Women, Brighton, featuring ‘A Mother’s Song’ by Edana Minghella.
Apr: Mike Petter, Sloven board chair resigns; Simon Hattenstone wrote about LB in the Guardian mag; the CQC issue another warning notice to Sloven; revelations of Sloven financial irregularities.
May: Rebel governors meeting
Jun: Performance of A Child of Our Time, Warwick University; debate about Sloven governance in the House of Commons led by Suella Fernandes.
Jul: Talentworks  ‘Going Viral’ and exec salaries scandals hit the news.
Aug: Katrina Percy steps down from CEO into a made up post on the same salary.
Sept: BBC air Broken Trust, about Sloven failings; Tim Smart, interim Board Chair, resigns; Chris Martin removes the Talentworks website and pulls out of the Sloven contract.
Oct: Katrina Percy  resigns with a £250k pay off. The made up post remains unfilled; #JusticeforLB, Deb Coles and Charlotte HaworthHird win a Liberty Human Rights award.
Oct-Nov: #CaminoLB wondrousness.
Dec: Publication of the CQC Deaths Review; #JusticeforLB exhibition and day of celebration, Aviles, Spain; the GMC refer LB’s consultant to tribunal; the Health and Safety Executive appoint counsel to get specialist legal advice on complex points of evidence.

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Here’s to LB and all the other dudes who were (and continue to be) let down so badly.

Oh dear Mike

Oh dear. Mike Durkins, National Director for Patient Safety at NHS Improvement (my arse), made this statement about the CQC deaths review;

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There is so much so wrong with this statement, not least Durkin’s apparent indifference or obliviousness, to what are, often, preventable deaths. What really makes my jaw ache though is his bizarre reference to families of learning disabled and mental health patients. Mike, all families should be properly treated and supported when a loved on has died unexpectedly. Just like all unexpected deaths should be properly investigated. Singling out these families suggests a complete misunderstanding of this latest scandalous unfolding.

As Patient Safety Director you really need to be focusing on why certain patients are dying (consistently) in the first place. [And, if you need herbs off the street to point this out to you, you should probably have a long, hard think about whether you are in the right job.]

Also, before you make a leap to global standards of excellence, you might want to see what’s going on in Spain and their response to the way in which the NHS treat certain members of society. Strikes me, you could learn a thing or two.

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The silent minority

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Awkward beginning to Tuesday. At the crack of dawn Rich and I sat on the BBC Breakfast sofa. 6am-ish. Twenty minutes (literally) after tipping out of bed. The CQC deaths review was published with failings in death investigations found across trusts. Findings of crap. The focus on learning disability and mental health lost in the review. The obvious next step to the Mazars review was to explore whether the discrimination it revealed was replicated across other trusts. The broader focus on all deaths in the CQC review obscured this focus. 

I had little to say on the sofa about the broader findings of the review. It’s shite. Of course it’s shite. And needs urgent attention. But urgent attention to the broader picture ain’t going to get anywhere near to addressing the (soft) eugenic practices happening in full view. (Another study last week reinforced the shocking premature mortality figures for learning disabled people.)

This was not the story the BBC were running with.

Luckily Rich (a political scientist) shone. And the second sofa slot/day of various news gigs became manageable with the intervention, via twitter, of a dedicated and passionate BBC fairy. And sensitive, thoughtful engagement with various people across the day.

In stark contrast to the review findings.

This stuff really ain’t rocket science.

The silent minority

Two weeks ago, during the final meeting of the CQC deaths review expert reference group, discussion was around the inclusion of mandatory investigation of the deaths of learning disabled people as a recommendation. It was clear that these deaths were simply not scrutinised. They were expected and accepted. Howl.

The final report had one recommendation relating to learning disability/mental health. Recommendation 4.

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As recommendations go (in the unrelenting carousel of NHS reports) this must feature in the top three of all time ‘what the fuckwhattery?’ recommendations. An extraordinary leap from mandatory investigations to nothing. When I asked for clarification, the CQC said it meant ‘different parts of the health services need to work together to reduce the increased risk of premature death’. A year on from the Mazars review, further evidence of deep inequalities and worse within the NHS, and a recommendation we could have drummed up, at no cost, in seconds.

The words ‘missed opportunity’ just don’t work here. 

In 1952, because of the prevalence of certain deaths, the government set up the Confidential Inquiry in Maternal Deaths focusing on the deaths of women during and up to six weeks after childbirth. Supported by a range of experts, with clear, careful and methodological scrutiny, this inquiry has reduced the annual maternal death rate from 90 deaths in 100,000 to 10. Jeremy Hunt insists that the LeDeR programme based at Bristol University is performing this function. It’s not. It’s not designed to. Nor has the funding to. There is no effective scrutiny of these deaths. (Can you imagine?)

We’re left with incontrovertible evidence that certain, marginalised people die prematurely. That they are dismissed in death as well as life. That their deaths simply don’t count as important enough for serious review/scrutiny. This, in turn, means they will continue to die early.

The CQC decided on the recommendations in the review. And carefully spread the responsibility for ensuring these actually happen around various organisations. With no single point of oversight. Not a sensible model. Whatever spills out of the half arsed, ‘learning disability’ badged non actions that will be talked about, a decision was made to bury the real scandal here. In Recommendation 4.