A Brum based step towards accountability

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many connections and oddities.

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

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

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

I bloody hope so.

A breach too far

I’ve spent the day since talking to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) at lunchtime shaking uncontrollably, swearing and raging, laying on the settee in silent tears and, for the last two hours, drinking beer and now wine. ‘Luckily’ we are on annual leave so I can do all these things.

I think it’s fair to say that since Connor died we have been treated in a remarkably consistent and appalling way. We’ve had no equivalent of a police liaison officer to help us pick our way through the wreckage of his death and our shattered lives. We’ve had no support, kindness or understanding from any of the organisations implicated in his death (the Trust, the county council, the clinical commissioning group, NHS England or NHS Improvement).

Instead we’ve been smeared, pissed and shat on in extraordinary ways.

In addition, we’ve been expected to attend numerous meetings with the ‘great’, good and mediocre to try to improve practice. All at our own expense, all in our own time and not one single meeting held in Oxford where we live. We have been chewed over, sucked dry and spat out.

I think we’ve behaved pretty well in the circumstances. I’ve only started using the word cunt regularly in the last few months or so. It trips off my tongue now. Rich has stormed out of the odd meeting or raged down the phone to the odd Chief Inspector or two, but in the circumstances small fry really.

We’re a family, like so many others, who have experienced the worst possible happening; the preventable and brutal death of a beyond beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend within the hallowed walls of the NHS. A young man with his whole life ahead of him, discounted as human because he was labelled as learning disabled.

We’ve sucked up delay after delay, obstruction, deceit, denial and mother-blame on a scale that is more than enough to generate long term mental ill health. We’ve battled on with remarkable support from many people. Dealing with the death of a child is horrific. Dealing with the accompanying shite and recriminations that come with the bullying, defensive and self obsessed practices of public sector organisations (and individuals therein) which have failed, is simply brutal.

Today I was told, after an opening filler of no substance whatsoever, that the NMC had ‘accidentally’ shared our personal details with the six nurses under investigation back in November 2016.

There was no whiff of an apology until I asked for it.

A couple of hours later, when I was able to speak, I found out that this data breach involves:

Our home address, my mobile number, email and bank details, my mum’s name and phone number, Connor’s date of birth, NHS number and his dad’s name and phone number.

 

The redaction policy of redacting personal information had been ignored when it came to our personal information. There were other redactions. From this, we can only infer that we, like Connor, were discounted as human. How else can you redact some personal information and not others?

This apparently came to light on June 26 2017. Over two weeks ago. Five out of the six nursing staff (or their counsel) were contacted by email on Monday with a request to destroy or return the disc containing this information. Four out of the five have apparently acknowledged receipt of the email with no accompanying action. The sixth staff member who only has a postal address hasn’t been contacted yet. The NMC haven’t bothered sending a letter.

Our personal information is still out there live and kicking.

The senior member of the fitness to practice team I spoke to after the first call spouted root cause analysis and learning shite after a delay of an hour between calls while she bothered to get the relevant information to hand to answer my questions.

I can’t articulate this violation other than in tears. A flood. The level of contempt and disrespect is generating weeping in a way I thought we’d kind of crawled beyond. A return to the Sooty tears. Almost worse in some ways because it is so fucking wanton.

The basics here – like don’t leave a patient with epilepsy to bath alone in a locked room and redact the personal details of the dead patient and their family when sharing information –  don’t need investigation or root cause analysis.

And the tears kick in again.

 

 

A phone call from the NMC

“Hello Dr Ryan,

I just wanted to update you with where we are at with the tribunals. Since we last spoke we’ve held case conferences with the HSE and GMC and established a good working relationship.

One other thing that’s come to light is that back in November 2016 we sent out your personal details to all six registrants [nurses] and their counsel. We’ve asked them to send the hard disks with the details on it and to destroy any copies they may have made.”

No words.

Update:


Tribunal torture

This post builds on Five tribunals and a dress code. Sadly.  A few weeks ago I had a three hour (yes, three hour) interview with General Medical Council lawyers. This grilling (they warned me in advance it would be) involved a barrage of questions in tortuous, micro detail.

It was grim. Documentation (and this blog) had been mined for any inconsistencies.

As I’ve banged on before, staff have legal representation at these tribunals and these barristers can ask anything they want of witnesses. Witnesses (including bereaved families) are not allowed representation. During the interrogation, in a hotel meeting room in North Oxford, I scrawled this:

IMG_2704

I went home afterwards, instead of to the work meeting I was supposed to attend.

This morning the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) called to update me on the six nursing tribunals due to be held this summer/autumn. A preliminary meeting was held last week apparently and the independent chair agreed to:

  1. Lump the tribunals together to make one long one hearing.
  2. Postpone this until May 2018.

Apparently the NMC opposed this delay but staff representatives disagreed with a possible January 2018 date.

So, another year and another tribunal to dread. The brutality of forcing us to revisit what happened for at least another 12 months.

We had no one at the meeting to draw to the chair’s attention the utter inhumanity intricately woven into this process.

We simply don’t count.

 

A missing ‘apology’ in five parts

L1028123-2

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:

carding

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:

carding2

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.

dawes

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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The pigeon in the chimney

Nearly two weeks ago now, we had a pigeon in our chimney, in the bedroom. It took ages to come down, bringing years worth of chimney shite with it. The fireplace has one of LB’s bus pictures in front of it and once it landed, the pigeon just calmly poked it’s head round the side of it. Rich was ready with a cloth to catch it and release it out of the window. It did a massive loop around the houses then flew away.

Ten minutes later, the Health and Safety Executive rang. They said they will be prosecuting Sloven under Section 3 of the Health and Safety Act. Tears. The following day, Fran rang. She had been at a meeting with Oxford Health and commissioners where it was confirmed that, after quite a battle, the Slade House site would remain with Oxford Health. She said there were tears. More tears.

Jim Mackey, NHS Improvement, told Andrew Smith, MP:

“Southern Health will not receive a cash consideration and will record a non-operating ‘loss’ item in its accounts.”

I think that’s pretty much it now. Other than a shindig at the Oxford Magistrates court when the prosecution is held.

Thank you. I think we all did a bloody good job, as Connor would totally expect.

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.

Slade House, dude selfies and the stars

An incredibly difficult week for some Oxfordshire families who are living the lack of appropriate support at a knife edge, or so much worse. I’m going to briefly highlight some good stuff that is happening in between the shite.

Oxford Health are taking over from Sloven (in July officially). They have picked up a right old mess but the new learning disability lead seems to be a rare senior NHS professional who has human written all over her. At an extraordinarily tense and distressing meeting this week she got it, she acted and she demonstrated she was a force for good. Fran reminded me this week it was 16 years ago we did a survey of the experiences of families in Oxfordshire. This flagged up the terrible stress families were under. She messaged me; “Looking back we were so naive in our basic hopes and expectations.” [Howl].

Families are working with people like Noelle Blackman, from Respond, and Oxford Health to do their best to create something that actually works for Oxfordshire dudes. What that will be isn’t clear though the expertise families are offering, together with a Trust who listens and seems willing to run with thinking outside of the typical, constraining and soul destroying, is deeply reassuring.

Finally, the Slade House site is not being trousered by Sloven. Our relief that this particular fight has been extinguished is beyond words. Nearly four years now, of campaigning at an intensity that cannot be indefinitely sustained, the prospect of chaining ourselves to the railings filled me with despair. This is a fucking ‘victory’ [not the right word but there are no right words] against injustice.

The deal (not quite signed yet) apparently is if Oxford Health sell the site within 5 years, Sloven get 50% of the dosh. This seems fair. Here’s to some creative planning around how this site can be used. I mean, just imagine if Oxfordshire became a pioneer in actually getting it right? From rock bottom to actually reaching for the stars…?

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.

Bedshaped…

Today was not a good day (Brexit aside), with a snippet of sunshine. A good mate and her family are enduring a family life that sits outside of the outer ring of anything remotely resembling acceptable. Their biggest fear right now is that their son will be admitted to St Andrews, in Northampton.

Yesterday, Channel 4 held a round table event to discuss the recent harrowing Dispatches documentary, Under Lock and Key, featuring St Andrews. Despite their glitzy website and talking the talk, St Andrews clearly falls short of providing the world class leading mental health services they claim to do. In fact, it’s hard to imagine what the £11,600 a week buys for some patients (other than the enamel removing senior executive salaries). This doesn’t stop NHS England and other commissioners flashing the cash regularly and consistently keeping people within their increasingly prison like walls.

Just this this week, the St Andrews adolescent provision received another ‘requires improvement’ CQC inspection report. Scrolling through the ‘view all reports’ link shows that their adolescent provision has required improvement since back in the day. Wow. Requiring improvement and charging more than it costs to live at Disney World*. This is, simply extraordinary.

The latest inspection report shows that, for your buck, you get a hefty wedge of seclusion and restraint. Of the four wards of 10 patients (adolescents) in each, the prone (prone) restraint figures per shite named ward (of an overall 905 recorded restraints in the past year) are; Acorn (52%), Bracken (33%), Fern (26%) and Brook (11%). This is, simply, scandalous.

Acorn, Bracken, Fern and Brook. Elsa, Mickey, Snow White and Mowgli …

The Channel 4 gig demonstrated the passion of the filmmakers and families featured in the film, and their commitment to ending the inhumane practices so many people are subjected. I’ve a lot of love for Alison Millar and team, who clearly forged relationships with families and did a shedload of research, and Channel 4 for hosting the event with gravitas, exemplary time keeping and breakfast. The lack of public outrage after the film was shown demonstrates the mountain they, along with so many of us, including the indefatigable Norman Lamb, are facing in trying to stop the careless brutality inflicted on so many people and families.

Sadly, this brutality doesn’t seem to penetrate the web of collective myopia too many senior people implicated cosy into. [There were no representatives from NSE England or the CQC.]

I was sitting next to Laura and Burt whose son, Bill, died from constipation in St Andrews. Laura, at one point, asked the Northants MP if he had ever stepped foot inside one of the new, enclosed quads that the swanky new build incorporates. A constrained daylight with no view. He didn’t answer.

I had a three hour meeting this morning, in a local hotel meeting room, providing supplementary evidence for the GMC. This is in advance of the tribunal of LB’s psychiatrist, scheduled for two weeks in August. Over four years after LB died. It was a deeply upsetting experience, despite the sensitivity of the solicitors collecting the evidence. How could it not be?

I’m listening to Keane tonight. The tears are back. Rich said earlier; “I feel we’ve gone back three years”. I dunno. I’m kind of out of ideas.

Where are we at?

  1. Certain people are dying premature and preventable deaths without scrutiny. Trying to gain any accountability involves unspeakable efforts by families.
  2. Commissioners/NHS England don’t know what good looks like and chuck dosh at crap. This generates ‘credibility’ and licence to provide further shite, leading to the growth of large scale institutions like St Andrews.
  3. There is little, or no, good local support to either prevent admittance or enable people to come out of units.
  4. Families endure unspeakable situations to avoid inpatient admittance.

It is a pile of shite. Just as it was four years ago when LB was admitted to the unit.

*Thanks to Tim Keilty for the number crunching here.