Feeling prickly #WMHD2014

October 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Today is World Mental Health Day 2014. As ever I’m a little uncertain and sceptical about the actual impact of awareness raising days, but genuinely believe we’ve a long way to go before discussing mental health is truly easy and accepted in society, so thought I’d add my two pennies worth. Today I’m feeling prickly.


I feel fortunate that I’ve never really had a particularly bad period of mental health in my life, I have however had several prolonged episodes where life has been incredibly stressful, and as I look back at it now I was under immense pressure (self-imposed and from other factors) to perform to a certain standard.

There was a period when I was writing up my PhD when I was very stressed, but I felt it was normal, I almost expected to be so.

Then there was a significant relationship breakdown and my Dad getting sick, that was a particularly difficult six to twelve months.

Then there have been challenging periods at work where we’d undergone restructures, making people redundant, reshaping an organisational vision, merging with others with competing agendas, until eventually I decided to quit my job and go it alone as a freelancer.

If I’m honest the freelancer bit came later, I had no idea what I was going to do when I quit, I just knew if I didn’t stop the ever mounting pressure and remove one source of stress, I was most likely on a path to self-destruction. As it happened my Dad died my last week in work, so then life had no structure or shape and all of a sudden stress was replaced with grief and loss. I’ve blogged a few times about what that feels like:

Life is short and death isn’t rational or fair.

There is no rhyme or reason, we all have good days and bad days. Some of us are lucky enough to get some warning and chance to prepare for death and I’ll always be grateful that we knew Dad was dying, but you can’t really prepare for grief. It’s raw and real and visceral and painful. That pain lessens as time goes on, or maybe it doesn’t and instead our ability to live with it and accommodate it just increases, I don’t know which.

I’ve also blogged quite a bit recently about the #JusticeforLB campaign that I’m involved with. This week it became apparent that Southern Health have been surveilling Sara’s blog, which led to this post from Anne Marie Cunningham about the ethical implications and this one from Tim Turner on the data protection and FOI elements. It is somewhat ironic that after promoting heavily their new listening app, while having hundreds of stories without any changes on Patient Opinion, on World Mental Health Day they’re giving advice on mental health, while being solely responsible for the prolonged and relentless attack on Sara’s mental health.

Some days I wonder how much more stress Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust can put Sara and her family under. I really feel like it’s time that someone stepped in and stopped this. She’s endured bullying and harassment from the CEO, lies from the Chair of the Board, and all she wants is to get justice for her son and all the other young dudes. Is that so much to ask?

I’m going to finish this post with an animation made for the #107days campaign that captures what life is too often like for people with learning disabilities when they experience poor mental health. Watch this and see whether you’d be happy if it was you or someone you loved:

4 more Cs: callous, cruel, calculating and cowardly #6Cs #JusticeforLB

October 8, 2014 1 comment

I’m on holiday at the moment, enjoying being sporadically connected, but today I found myself lost for words again. A couple of weeks ago I blogged a post about challenging anything NHS and the difficulties of doing so. In it I suggested 7Cs that I think I observe in communications around the NHS: control, construction, centralisation, challenge, conformity, candour (lack of) and courage (in daring to question and challenge the NHS) – an intentional play on the #6Cs currently doing the NHS rounds. Today I’m adding four more: callous, cruel, calculating and cowardly.

Last week Sara Ryan had a phonecall with the Chair of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust Board, to discuss the awful missive sent by the CEO of the trust, to her, a grieving mother. It took me four blogs posts to deconstruct that letter, they’re all available here, here, here and here. In the call the Chair, Simon Waugh, categorically reassured Sara that there had been no surveillance of her blog – this was offered in response to Sara questioning the bizarre communications around social media.

Today Sara received an FOI/personal records request response that categorically showed this to be a lie. Either Simon Waugh is woefully incompetent or intentionally misleading. I have no idea which, but it is hard to see any other interpretation. The most agonising thing of this interaction is that if the Trust had acted on what they surveilled Connor may not have died, instead they produced a dossier/briefing about Sara’s blog, and shared it amongst staff the day after LB died a preventable death to help shape ‘a tailored media response’.

If I retain some semblance of rational thinking about LB’s death I can see that Sloven’s communication professionals were doing their job. I can’t quite yet comprehend how so much focus and attention to detail can be shown after LB’s death, when so little was shown before. I also can’t quite comprehend why such a response should kick in to manage the ‘media response’ when so little attention was given to engaging with family members or those that knew LB in the run up to his death. How can it be that reputation management gets more attention than epilepsy assessment for example?

Of course cynical me would suggest that Sloven are solely interested in their reputation, that they are experts at covering up bad news and spinning a new line. Last week they ‘launched’ yet more nonsense about staff engagement, I can’t bring myself to link to it here suffice to say the video quality is dire, the messaging sloppy, the staff unconvinced and the Chair claiming it’s ‘going viral’ with less than 40 views (most of them from JusticeforLB supporters who needed a good laugh and loved the video bomber). This week we hear that there’s a new app to help them listen:

Screenshot 2014-10-08 20.08.53

All of this appears to miss the point that you need a humility and openness and culture of transparency to learn and respond to feedback. Southern Health also use Patient Opinion to ‘listen’ to feedback. Their listening appears to amount to a Complaints and PALS Officer thanking people for their feedback and promising learning. In over 3 years, there have been 146 stories shared by people using their services, 2 people have listened and 1 change has been made:

Screenshot 2014-10-08 20.34.17

This doesn’t fill me with confidence. At all. Rather than spinning more process, more procedure, more ‘ways of listening’, why not focus on actually improving things.

I’m reading a great book at the moment, really quite thought provoking, not exactly trashy holiday reading but feels a bit relevant ‘What about me? The struggle for identity in a market-based society‘. Verhaeghe discusses neoliberalism, market economies and uses the example of healthcare and a focus on procedure and measurability over quality and care:

‘a neo-liberal organisation invariably creates a non-productive top layer whose main task is to maintain its position by monitoring others, resulting in ever-proliferating rules and regulations. Performance measurement is fostered in the name of ‘transparency’, the idea being that the criteria are clear and apply equally to all. However, studies show that they only apply to those who do the actual work, not to those who do the measuring — that’s the difference between the worker ants and the manager queens…In no time, staff at all levels adapt their behaviour, ceasing to do things that ‘don’t count’. Everything is sacrificed to the juggernaut of measurability. Unfortunately, the unquantifiable nature of care can’t be demonstrated through figures, so actual care is fast vanishing.’

I’ve a dirty taste in my mouth this evening, as yet more Sloven callous, cruel, calculating and cowardly communications are unearthed by Sara. 16 months after her son died, and yet another smack in the face and another mountain of bull to climb up. How can this be allowed? At what point will someone step in and stop this? When will someone focus on what actually happened, and not how to manage/spin/claim learning from it? It’s not like Sara hasn’t done more than I’d consider humanly possible to explain her perspective.

Final gem of context, this wasn’t shared via Southern Health themselves, despite them responding to a request from Sara, this came via the same request to the CCG.

How’s that duty of candour shaping up?

Courageous challenge versus conformist control

September 20, 2014 12 comments

This morning I was up early (for a Saturday), scrolling through twitter, wondering how to kick start my weekend. Last weekend wasn’t my best one and I was hopeful for something to set a different path. Jodi Brown and friends didn’t disappoint:

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Genuinely killer question. I don’t know Jodi at all well, we’ve exchanged tweets occasionally but no more than that, Annie C had shared this and so I thought about replying and decided to jump in. The first point of reflection is that I did think about whether to join in, a couple of years ago I’d not have engaged in any thought, I’d have just jumped into the mix and saw what came from it, but these days I tend to be a bit more cautious about engaging in #NHS chat online.

A truly fantastic conversation followed, Jodi, Annie and I were joined by about ten others, including @Ermintrude2 @JaneStreetPPAD @mikechitty @RichardatKF @alisonleary1 @JennytheM @elinlowri @gleefulkaz @carollread @NHS_rants. Not surprisingly we didn’t agree with each other on everything, in fact there were some of us who probably didn’t agree with much that others were saying, but it was respectful, challenging and for me personally a reassurance that it was still possible to have a non-scheduled, chat on twitter and have your mind stretched with multiple perspectives. Here’s an excerpt from this discussion where Jodi and I were disagreeing over what/who counts as ‘radical':

Screenshot 2014-09-20 16.51.13

Our chat continued, others joined in, think we were at it for about an hour in total. Really made me think and question, what I consider radical and what it must be like to work in a system (the NHS) that was repeatedly described as, without putting too fine a point on it, toxic. Lots of talk about cultures of repression, fear and hierarchy. We all went about our ways, Jodi had to take her kids swimming, Richard was off to a food festival and I hit the gym.

I left the gym an hour or so later, grabbed my phone and was bouncing home to the weekend and was hit with this tweet:

Screenshot 2014-09-20 17.13.30

Booooooooom, smack, bang. Sorry, what just happened? I looked around for further discussion, NHS_Rants had questioned this but there had been no response. I checked the sender’s stream, they hadn’t joined in on any of the rest of our hour of conversation, just singled in on my one comment about NHS Change Day and decided that I was wrong. Not just wrong, but obviously wrong *and* stupid or deaf – I need to be told that BOTH of the previous change days had been groundbreaking.

I lost my cool, didn’t ignore this (which I probably should have) and questioned how they could be so rude. Thing is I think social media is a conversation, and when there are ten people talking, I imagine in my head it’s a bit like we’re all sat around in a room trying to understand each other, the reality could be far from that, some were travelling, others juggling family commitments, no doubt there were PJs and gym gear worn alike – so, unconventional, but still we’d had a great conversation. How I experienced this tweet was that the sender listened into our conversation, picked one bit that they had an issue (or pride about), walked into our room, shouted their opinion (literally in those capitals), in no uncertain terms and then walked out again.

This was the exact sort of conversation I’d been nervous about getting involved with first thing. You see there are loads more NHS people on social media these days, and that’s a great thing. It also means it’s much harder to hear balance, and to truly discuss things without being shouted down by the party line. In the context of our conversation about cultures of control and challenge this was a perfect example. The sender’s biog is clearly claiming expertise in this area, they’re a ‘Social Media Innovator – NHS Change Day 2014 Social Media Lead. NHS Leadership Academy SoMe tutor. Passionate SoMe practitioner’. Their response perfectly embodied what I’d been querying in the first place. Whether all of these NHS initiatives are now seeking to use #socmed and indeed the initiatives themselves to control and centralise the messages. Ironic that the very strength of social media could be lost in so many ways. As ever I wasn’t claiming this to be an absolute truth, or even a truth at all, hence my delight at the genuinely open conversation earlier in the morning.

When I got this tweet though, it’s safe to say I didn’t feel I’d been listened to. The sender hadn’t engaged in our conversation and didn’t seek to understand where I was coming from. They just let me know that I was wrong. I don’t want to make this about the tweet though, and the lovely Anne Marie pulled me up on ‘public shaming’, which wasn’t my intention at all, hence no identifying features on this blog post. I could have exercised more tact, but I also (strongly) feel that the tweeter was incredibly selective in what they picked on, and incredibly blinkered in their engagement. This was exactly the type of conversation that is all too familiar on social media these days, and precisely what I wanted to avoid.

The NHS seems obsessed with Cs at the moment, but rather than the #6Cs that are admirable yet seemingly a distant ambition in these cultures of ‘repression, fear and hierarchy’, I’d like to reflect on a few Cs of my own – I’m not offering an opinion, just a few (deliberately loaded) questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts:

Control: Are leadership programmes/away days/initiatives provided to help sustain and support weary folk in (toxic) cultures to really bring about change, or are they used to control and pacify?

Construction: Social movements are by their nature fluid, open and dynamic, has the new obsession with initiatives killed the very essence of these strengths through overly constructing them with approved hashtags, conversation times, and self-appointed experts?

Centralisation: Is it possible to develop and improve practice in one area, then try to roll it out centrally, without losing why it worked in the first place?

Challenge: When was the last time someone challenged you? Outwardly, openly and in public? Are the social media conversations of today vanilla in colour, weak in strength and just affirming our own biases?

Conformity: How many dissenting voices feed back into your viewpoint each day? How many patients or citizens are involved and attending the many leadership courses, initiatives and awards ceremonies that you frequent?

Candour: I’ve been elbow deep in redacted documents of late through JusticeforLB, I’ve seen the inner workings of the NHS Spin Machine at its worst, I honestly think there is a long way to go before candour becomes meaningful within the NHS; that said I’ll be eternally grateful to those medical professionals (especially our GP) who showed an extraordinary level of candour (and compassion) when Dad was ill. I’ve spent years praising the NHS and all it stands for, but if we can’t criticise openly we’re never going to improve anything.

Courage: It’s hard to be a lone voice, it’s even harder to be a lone voice when your voice can be taken out of context or one thing you say can be pounced on for someone else’s agenda. I’ve learnt so much in the last 9 months about courage from Sara Ryan. I’ve also experienced first hand how utterly exhausting (and pointless) it is to be a lone voice in the face of the NHS spin machine.

I understand why people are proud of the NHS, it’s care and it’s staff. I am too. That said, if people like me need to psych themselves up to engage in conversations, something is very, very wrong. I think it’s time we had some courageous challenge, I think it’s the only way the NHS will survive and people will retain their confidence in it. I remain grateful for the chat first thing this morning, and would love people’s views on my deliberately loaded questions, because I’m genuinely open to challenge and want to learn. Thank you.

PS Thought it was worth adding a note on here that I should have included when it was first published. I know it may take courage to disagree with me (not sure why but guess we’re programmed to avoid conflict or challenge), and I know sometimes adding a blog comment feels more finite than a tweet or an email or a DM, but I really *really* would like to develop this conversation further. Since I’ve been involved with JusticeforLB I’ve had more DM/email traffic of support, and less public agreement although not necessarily less challenge. Given the actions of the Trust where Connor was ‘cared for’ before his preventable death, I feel I have had to criticise the NHS, and I’ve been exposed to the worst of spin and poor manipulative communications; but I am not for a minute ‘tarring everyone with the same brush’, nor do I doubt the good intentions of most people (even some of those who seemingly lack competence or skill or support), so please, please do disagree or agree or comment or whatever, or don’t if you’d rather not, but please don’t feel afraid to do what’s right for you.

Life after Bobby: time passing

September 16, 2014 3 comments

This weekend was/would have been Dad’s 67th birthday. I mentioned it to a few people on twitter and got a couple messages from people asking how I was and mentioning I’d not blogged lately, when I checked back this post is long overdue. What to share really, well at the risk of stating the obvious, time is a funny thing, it’s strange to think that seven years ago we were so oblivious to what was to come. It feels like the longest and shortest period of my life, especially since Dad died, feels like yesterday in some ways, and so long ago that sometimes I worry I’m forgetting Dad and he’s turning into one of those people remembered through constructed stories and not actual memories.

This weekend was a bit emotional for me, and I’ve no idea why really. I was over tired thanks to an amazing week away with JusticeforLB the week before, and that played its part, but I found myself unable to shake a deep sadness.

There is something incredibly freeing about losing a parent, I’ve blogged about it before. Paul Clarke sums it up beautifully in this talk here:

To steal Paul’s words, in case you didn’t watch it (but you really should):

I wonder if perhaps the last gift a parent gives you when they leave you, is a real message that nothing is permanent. The thing you thought was most permanent, your Mum, your Dad, they go. So nothing is permanent, so nothing has to be cast the same for the rest of your life, for the rest of your career.

The ying to that yang of course is the emptiness of life after a parent. This sadness or gloom was precisely because nothing is permanent.

I guess I felt intensely sad that I’d never have the chance to talk to Dad again, sad that I could never get his advice, or receive a hug, or reassurance. Given it was his birthday I stopped to recap all that had happened in the twelve months previously, the places I’d been, people I’d met, work and social and campaigning I’d been a part of. It’s not just me either, it’s the rest of my family, Gran still with us at 94 but growing increasingly frail, my amazing Mum and how much she has thrown herself into giving more and doing more with the hospice, my bruv and sister and their lives and families. Most of all I guess my gorgeous nieces who Dad was so proud of, all he really wanted when he was diagnosed with bile duct cancer was to become a Grandad and I’ll be eternally grateful that my little sis and her husband delivered on that dream.

Dad, LIbbie and pram

The other day Libbie said to her Mum that she’d had enough now and when was Grandad coming back? Some days I know how she feels, there aren’t many people who love you unconditionally in life, and some days the loss of them just sits like a thick, heavy cloak all around.

The last week has made me question how I’m spending my life and how I’m approaching my own impermanence…. more on that in due course I’m sure. So I guess that’s how I’m feeling right now, coming up to two years since Dad died and I miss him terribly.

Life moves on though, and Dad was very realistic about that. He wouldn’t want us moping around, I feel sure (most of the time) he’d be proud of me, of us all, and I guess that’s what matters.

Love, light and hope #JusticeforLB

September 14, 2014 1 comment

I’ve lost my blogging mojo at the mo, but I couldn’t let the sun set on this week without recording what an amazing week it has been.

It started off with a trip to the big smoke on Monday to have an initial meeting about the #LBBill, a proposed private members bill instigated by the legends that are Mark Neary and Steve Broach. You can read more about what it contains in Mark’s summary of the day here or in more detail in several posts on Steve’s blog here.  The first draft will be launched in the next month or so and we’ll be looking for input from you all. The meeting was small and just involved Mark, Steve, Sara, Richard and myself. We kept it intentionally small to try and nail the process, roles and responsibilities and actions required to take it forward. In true #JusticeforLB style we’re taking an organic route (making it up as we go along with all the expertise we can gather on the way).


Sara and I have been in very close contact since February this year, but we’ve only actually met in the flesh once before, so it was a real treat to spend the next few days together, starting with the train from London to Lancaster with very precious cargo, the amazing LB Justice Quilt. 273 patches of hope stitched together into an astonishing banner that demands Justice for LB and for all dudes. A perfect reflection of all that was magnificent about the #107days campaign, crowdsourced and volunteer run, and absolutely determined to keep a spotlight on the dire ‘care’ and support that existed for LB, and for so many others.


Lancaster University was the venue of the CEDR Disability Studies Conference 2014. I can honestly say I have never been to a more welcoming, accessible, passionate or fascinating conference. Every keynote, every breakout session, every evening had my brain firing off in all directions, listening through the #JusticeforLB lens, that appears to cover my line of sight most of the time these days. Love isn’t really a word I’d associate with a conference, but I felt surrounded by love, and commitment, and support for JusticeforLB (and for many others). I had only met three people in real life before the conference, and yet there was no point when I felt out of it. It really was remarkable, and it was a real honour to meet so many people who had supported #107days and shake them by the hand/give them a hug. Sara and I are very aware that there are so many people who have supported the campaign who we’ve yet to meet, so we’re thinking about what we can do about that, perhaps a festival or unfestival in the spring!


The final act before the long journey home, was a quick ‘what next’ meeting with Sara, Damian, Chris and Hannah. We are plotting and planning and there will be more on that in due course, suffice to say that we’re not planning on becoming silent any time soon. We’re all in this for the long haul, and I for one feel overwhelmed with the love and support and shared commitment to get JusticeforLB. Thanks to each and every one of you, progress may feel slow at times, but we are getting there, there is a blazing light at the end of this dark and murky tunnel, and its shining a lot brighter after last week.



August 27, 2014 1 comment

I’ve realised this evening as I was scrabbling around for something to numb the pain in my gum (don’t ask) that I’ve incredibly strong associations with Bonjela; and sadly the most recent one has tainted it somehow.

As children my parents desperately tried to keep us healthy. There was no junk food in our house, we were the kids who had brown bread healthy sarnies with a crunchy bar and piece of fruit for lunch, years before it became trendy, it was almost exotic at primary school! I have to confess to wishing just once in a while I’d open my lunchbox to find squidgy shop plastic white bread jam sarnies, a bag of crisps and a penguin with a bottle of fizzy pop – never happened, but never gave up hoping.

That’s context to my first Bonjela association… my cousin and I sneaking upstairs in my grandparents home, trying to silently open the top drawer in the chest of drawers which was effectively my Grandad’s medicine cabinet!! We would sneak the Bonjela out and eat it!! Back in the day it was very sugary. We honestly thought we’d been so discreet and got away with this, but a few years ago my Grandad made some comment to me about how much Bonjela he got through and winked – he knew full well what we were up to! Sprung.

Sadly that happy memory has been tainted in the last six months since I read the Independent Report into Connor Sparrowhawk’s death. The report refers several times to Connor having bitten his tongue, and to his mother Sara raising this as a clear indicator of seizure activity with staff at Southern Health.

Connor had epilepsy and was being ‘assessed’ at the time of his death. Despite Sara raising this with staff, Connor was prescribed Bonjela! The staff completely ignored Connor’s parents, Connor went on to drown in the bath. The independent report concluded that Connor’s death could have been prevented if assessment had been better.

Bonjela might help with mouth ulcers but it doesn’t help with epileptic seizures; but you’d think staff in a specialist hospital would know that, wouldn’t you?

Impersonal correspondence: 10-15 #nhssm

August 22, 2014 5 comments

Once I’ve started something I always try my hardest to finish it, so having deconstructed and analysed paragraphs 1-9 of a letter from Katrina Percy to Sara Ryan, this post attempts to finish the rest of it. If you’d like to catch up before reading this, you can read the analysis of paras 1-3 here, then paras 4-6 here and finally paras 7-9 here. Sara’s original letter is here and Katrina Percy’s response here. So, where were we, Sara’s son drowned in bath in hospital, an entirely preventable death. Katrina Percy is the CEO of the hospital trust responsible. Sara asked for some answers, this is Katrina avoiding giving them.

‘I also do not believe a series of bi-lateral exchanged letters and protracted written correspondence in isolation from genuine dialogue would best serve to do justice for all parties concerned. Nor would they enable all of us to fully understand, engage with and respect everyone else’s perspectives. This does not mean I am opposed to answering any of your questions. I am not. Not least because I know we have nothing to hide and am absolutely confident we have done the right thing. It is simply that I believe it to be very important that we do so in the best and most effective way possible, taking into account the views, insight and interests of all concerned. I believe this can only be done through talking face to face and sharing perspectives, not through impersonal correspondence’.

Every time I start to deconstruct a paragraph I’m surprised it can be even worse than the previous, this one is no exception. So, let’s start.

I also do not believe’ anyone else tired of this yet? Me, me, me, I, I, I. It really does appear that KP isn’t aware that the world does not pivot around her.

a series of bi-lateral exchanged letters and protracted written correspondence in isolation from genuine dialogue would best serve to do justice for all parties concerned’ Well ok, there wouldn’t be much point of letters if they weren’t exchanged would there, as for bi-lateral a letter between two people nearly always is bi-lateral, one person presents their perspective, then the other presents there. I’m not aware of a letter that it’s possible to write and share in real time, that would require an alternative method of communication, perhaps like tweets or social media. So yes, bi-lateral exchanged is pointless and can easily be disregarded if you’re struggling to understand this letter as much as I was. As for protracted written correspondence Sara’s blog post wasn’t protracted, it was quite succinct really, mostly contained just the sixteen questions, as opposed to KP’s missive on three sides of A4. So perhaps some internal editing before sending would help with that.

In ‘isolation from genuine dialogue’ ummm, is this some sort of admission of guilt that this epic missive isn’t genuine? Many of KP’s staff were in no hurry to meet Connor face to face for genuine dialogue when they were meant to be assessing him, so anyone else think it’s a bit of a case of too little and too late to be jumping on a genuine dialogue bandwagon now?

As for ‘justice for all parties’, ummm, when does this nonsense stop? This isn’t about justice for all, what is unjust about someone taking home a significant salary, who claims to Lead her tribe of 9000, being asked to be accountable for Her Trust’s failings? Surely that’s the least that can be done. Sara doesn’t owe Katrina anything. This isn’t about all parties involved. The only person who needs justice here is Sara, in the name of her beautiful son, Connor, known as LB, short for laughing boy, hence JusticeforLB.

That laugh will never be heard again thanks to the failings of Southern Health. Would someone please explain to KP that Sara has no legal or moral obligation to help improve services (paragraphs four and five), or to provide justice to all parties. I’m sure there will be time enough to debate justice, if and when the long hoped for corporate manslaughter case is brought.

Nor would they enable all of us to fully understand, engage with and respect everyone else’s perspectives‘ Again Sara has no obligation to understand, engage or respect anyone else’s perspective. So far KP has magnificently and publicly demonstrated her inability to show empathy, compassion or candour, so why on earth would Sara wish to risk engaging in this conversation?

‘This does not mean I am opposed to answering any of your questions. I am not‘ sounds promising doesn’t it, after a side and a half of KP’s diatribe, we can now look forward to the answers to the questions Sara has requested.

Not least because I know we have nothing to hide and am absolutely confident we have done the right thing’ ummm, Connor drowned, it was dismissed as natural causes, pages and pages of records have been sent to Sara redacted. Nothing to hide? Was that just a photocopier error then? As for absolutely confident, this sounds a little like KP’s absolute right to assert what she likes. Good to know she’s ‘absolutely confident we have done the right thing’ that will make things much clearer if it gets to court then, the right thing being what exactly? Allowing Connor to drown? Redacting paperwork? Being generally obstructive? Trying to stop the independent report being published? Keeping the family waiting all day and publishing it after six in the evening? KP not bothering to do media herself? Glad she has absolute confidence in her behaviour and actions.

‘It is simply that I believe it to be very important that we do so in the best and most effective way possible, taking into account the views, insight and interests of all concerned. I believe this can only be done through talking face to face and sharing perspectives, not through impersonal correspondence’. OK, KP is entitled to yet more of her opinions and her beliefs; my guess if that she throws the simply in to again assert herself and let anyone reading know that Sara is just not getting the very, very simple point. Umm, as for the ‘best and most effective way possible’ given the appalling treatment of this family since their son’s preventable death, I’m not sure what gives KP the right to make this judgement call.

Southern Health Board Minutes from March 2014 include the following statement:

4.3 Simon Waugh [Chair of the Board] emphasised that there was full commitment to ensuring awareness of the circumstances surrounding Connor’s death; he noted that whilst the Trust had openly indicated the desire to meet with Connor’s family, he was aware of the feelings of the family in relation to this; as such he committed that the Trust would not continue to reiterate this intention to Connor’s family

So where does that leave us, less than five months ago, the Chair of the Southern Health Board promised that the Trust would stop hassling to meet Sara and Connor’s family. Surprising then that KP still seems intent on this course of action, or indeed that she feels absolutely right to send this bullying, aggrandising letter. Sort of implies she thinks she’s above her Board, as well as Sara, the law and the NHS Constitution.

OK, I’m almost done with this now, in paragraphs eleven, twelve and thirteen KP repeats her earlier beliefs and statements, again asserts that she knows Sara will not want to hear this, really twice in one letter. Anyone else consider this bullying and an abuse of public office; a calculated and continued attack on a grieving mother.

The final paragraphs really reveal in my opinion the intention of the whole missive.

‘I am more than happy for this letter to remain private between ourselves, should you so wish. If you prefer to place its content in the public domain, including via social media, I would respectfully request that you publish it in full rather than individual extracts or public commentary on its contents without making the full context also available. I hope you will understand and accept this request. Should you prefer to choose to make it public, either in full or in part, I will also discuss with my colleagues whether or not we should do likewise through our own communications and social media channels to ensure all interested parties are aware of it’.

I’m a little confused whether this was some attempt at a threat, or what exactly. First up this letter could never remain private between Sara and Katrina, because she chose to send it to Sara’s solicitor, not directly to Sara. I don’t know why Sara should give a toss about what KP ‘respectfully requests‘ after such an appallingly, bullying letter, but Sara did post the letter in full.

It goes without saying that the slick machine that is Southern Health communications have done nothing so far, not publicly anyway, despite being great supporters of social media. They must be struggling though, given their homespun development, as detailed in their Communication and Engagement Managers blog:

Screenshot 2014-08-22 14.21.04

I really admire Nicola’s honesty, this really is transparent, and a world away from KP’s letter. That said, it doesn’t exactly sound like there is much internal skill for this, despite their big support for social media. The communications team had an apprentice for six months this year (I’m deliberately not providing a link), suffice to say it’s quite offensive to see their twitter biog reads ‘If you cant blow them away with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit‘. Sounds like the culture at Southern Health has a very deeply ingrained approach to transparency and honesty.

The final statement of Katrina’s letter is:

‘It might also be useful to confirm that my Chairman is fully aware of my views on this matter and is fully supportive of them’.

Notice the use of ‘my Chairman’ almost sounds like KP is referring to her pet dog or something. I wasn’t aware that a CEO owned the Chair of their Board, and I can’t imagine how that could be a healthy relationship if the Board are there to provide accountability and challenge. If this statement is true then the Chairman is rescinding a promise he made less than six months ago, which appears surprising. It is of course possible that Katrina is asserting her absolute right again here, and that he is not fully aware and on board. I’m not sure which is the scarier prospect.

What I do know is that in my opinion this letter is an appalling example of the sort of underhand, intimidating and bullying tactics that appear to be in place across the culture of this organisation. I feel sorry for the good staff who do their bests to provide care in what must be very difficult circumstances, and I feel a renewed determination to stand proudly as one of Sara’s supporters until we have #JusticeforLB.


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