I continue, huge respect to anyone with the stamina to keep coming back to this issue, but as the conversation on twitter suggests it needs unpacking. You can read the analysis of paras 1-3 here and paras 4-6 here. Sara’s original letter is here and Katrina Percy’s response here. If you’re sitting comfortably, cuppa, chocolate, drink at the ready (whatever you fancy but you may need some sustenance), I’ll continue with paragraph seven:
‘I would like you to know that this offer will remain permanently in place should you feel able at any time in the future to accept it. If you would prefer not to meet with me personally, but deal with another member of my management team, that offer will also remain open to you’.
OK, so in case you’re starting at this point the history is Connor died a preventable death in KP’s hospital, she offered to meet Sara, who has declined that invitation ad nauseam to the point where the Chair of the Board told people to leave her alone! Earlier in this letter KP made clear she knew how Sara felt, but she was wrong.
‘I would like you to know’ this statement serves to make it personal again, it’s I, me Katrina Percy CEO who has the knowledge and the power, my opinion is what counts and I’m asserting it. To the innocent observer it could also have an inference that Sara is a little slow on the uptake, sheeesh you know what these grieving mothers are like, so I’ll just have to make it clear to her that I really would appreciate it if she’d take this on board now and fall into line like I’m used to.
‘this offer will remain permanently in place’ OK, we’ll suspend the previous paragraph where KP made it crystal clear she knew Sara didn’t want this, and we’ll take this little snippet at face value that it’s simply restating what Sara doesn’t want in an attempt to make KP look generous and open.
‘should you feel able at any time in the future to accept it’, ummmm, anyone else getting undertones of ‘pesky grieving parent too bloody broken and emotional, eventually she’ll pull herself together, move on, and become a useful pawn in my masterplan/awards crusade/service improvement strategy’?
‘deal with another member of my management team‘, there we go again, me me me, my management team, let me make it absolutely clear that they are my minions doing my bidding, so you can meet them but they’re my puppets….sorry I must have lost the plot there, of course this is a genuine offer of open communication.
‘In your Open Letter to me published via your blog and promoted via your Twitter account and those of some of your friends and supporters, you have set out a number of detailed questions to which you would like public answers’.
Short and acrid this paragraph. We didn’t actually analyse the opening paragraph, but it thanks Sara for reading Katrina’s wisdom on the NHS Leadership Academy blog and providing a link to her Open Letter there. So this is a bit confused, you’ve already acknowledged that’s where it was, but now is this suggesting Sara was only alerting KP via her blog and twitter?
‘published via your blog and promoted via your Twitter account’ this short statement reveals a lot about Southern Health’s understanding of social media. The inference that Sara’s blog is her publishing platform and she uses Twitter (note the capital T) to promote her thoughts. No, no, no KP, that is your understanding of what blogging and twitter is for, no doubt what you intended with your own blog post on the Leadership Academy website and your own corporate twitter account, since your account has lay dormant since before your maternity leave. Sara has a long history of blogging, she had shared the highs and lows of her family life for years, before your careless ‘care’ resulted in the preventable death of her son. As for twitter, Sara does not use it to simply promote herself or her views, she uses it for engagement and discussion, for learning and debate, for mind expansion and of late for crowdsourcing support, but this is the point of these platforms, the clue is in the social bit of social media…we’ll come back to this.
‘those of some of your friends and supporters’ this actually made me guffaw, friends and supporters, like what, like Sara is some minor Z list celebrity, or some bent politician, or a Miss England candidate? At what point might someone in the Percy camp be brave enough to raise the question as to why there is such support and popular opinion in favour of Sara? I know that this is a shocking thing to contemplate, but has it entered KP’s head yet that maybe Sara has the moral high ground here, and she should be putting all her energy into giving her answers and diffusing this car crash of a situation instead of making it worse?
‘a number of detailed questions to which you would like public answers‘ Nope, a number of questions, at no point did Sara request them to be provided publicly, she is simply looking for answers about how her son died a preventable death, and how on earth an NHS Foundation Trust has deemed their behaviour to be appropriate since. This missive is the latest in a long line of shots fired at Connor’s family, friends and supporters; sadly for you Ms Percy every time you fire a shot you gather more support, stamina and fuel to their Justice fire. Anyhow, answers yes, public answers no. That said in the spirit of openness and transparency, in the age of candour, why not public answers? It will all come out eventually, you can keep engaging in these school yard bullying tactics, or you can do the decent thing and face up to the responsibilities of your position. Either way, letters like this really don’t appear to be helping. Anyone.
‘I and my Trust are big supporters of social media and the opportunities it offers for engagement, co-learning and partnership between management, staff, local stakeholders, service users and their families. However I am afraid I do not consider social media to be an appropriate medium or set of channels to deal in public with these types of detailed requests on specific cases. By their very nature, Twitter, other social media channels and blogs can sometimes unintentionally over-simplify or distort facts and context, provoke misunderstanding or unnecessarily polarise views on what are often complex, multi-faceted and sensitive issues. I am sure you would not wish this to happen, even by accident’.
This is another humdinger of a paragraph, a near perfect microcosm of the whole letter, a heady mix of arrogance, ignorance and utter hypocrisy.
‘I and my Trust’ me, me, me, I, I, I and my Trust – what the whole 9000 members of staff that she’s exceedingly proud of? This statement has a touch of the gang leader making it clear they’ve got a bigger crew than Sara if you ask me (if only she knew the truth).
‘are big supporters of social media‘ what does that even mean? What is it that she’s referring to? What are they supporting? Would you write we’re big supporters of talking? Or writing? Far better they were big supporters of epilepsy care, or of mental capacity assessment, or of keeping healthy young men alive I’d have thought.
‘the opportunities it offers for engagement, co-learning and partnership‘ Wow, that’s an impressive promise. Yet Katrina’s own twitter account has lay dormant for 548 days now, how do you engage, co-learn and develop partnerships without any engagement, or is that just an indicator of the fact she knows everything there is to know already? Ironic really that Sara has been blogging throughout all this time, offering crystal clear indications of how she’d like to be engaged, more to the point KP has acknowledged she knows that, but also that she intends to disregard it (paragraph six), how’s that partnership working working out?
‘I do not consider social media to be an appropriate medium or set of channels to deal in public with these types of detailed requests on specific cases‘ Hmmm interesting, another me/I statement. Anyone care to point out to KP that just because she doesn’t consider something appropriate it doesn’t actually mean she’s right.
Also anyone else catch that whiff of hypocrisy, so social media (medium or channels, cough) is perfectly appropriate for KP to proffer her wisdom to the leadership world about leading in tough times, it’s perfectly appropriate for her to tout her wares and false promises of openness and transparency, but when we come down to it she’d like to play a complexity card. In case anyone isn’t up to speed, we’re not discussing a complaint from Sara about a parking ticket, we’re discussing the preventable death of her son, so who gives KP the right to decide what is, or isn’t appropriate?
More to the point, even if you were to just accept her dictat, it kind of doesn’t explain why she’s now spent one and a half pages of A4 laying out her manifesto and belief for the world without addressing Sara’s questions. This was a letter sent to Sara via her solicitor – so not on social media – a letter, could have been delivered by carrier pigeon for all we know given how cutting edge communications appear to be; so why can’t the detailed responses be given in writing, in this letter? Is it an unreasonable request for a grieving family to just be given answers to their questions. Let’s cut through the crap of ego and identity and hierarchy and strip it back to the basics, Connor died a preventable death in KP’s hospital – why does her consideration about communication methods come into it? Just answer their questions.
This will all come out in the end, even if it takes years of Sara and her family and ‘supporters’ submitting FOIs and requests for records, and pouring over Board Papers, and a Police investigation and an Inquest – it will all come out in the end, all of this just appears to be a desperate attempt to wear Sara down. Stalling tactics for what? KP looking for a new job? Hoping that enough people leave so the blame can be pinned on them, ‘oops I’m sorry our party donkey went lame so we pinned all the blame on him, took him out back and shot him?’ Nothing to see here, now can we move on? That sort of thing?
‘By their very nature, Twitter, other social media channels and blogs can sometimes unintentionally over-simplify or distort facts and context, provoke misunderstanding or unnecessarily polarise views on what are often complex, multi-faceted and sensitive issues. I am sure you would not wish this to happen, even by accident‘
Wowwwww. This statement clearly indicate that KP doesn’t really have a clue what she’s talking about here. Social media relies on interaction, it doesn’t have a ‘nature’ or identity without people interacting, a bit like a conversation, or any other form of communication. So blogs, tweets and other ‘channels’ don’t distort or over-simplify, people do. One could say a little like KP is attempting to do in this very missive. How very dare she assert what Sara would or would not wish to happen, does she honestly think she’s that omnipotent?
We’re all intelligent ‘fellow human beings’ here, of course any of these platforms could be used to over-simplify, to distort facts and context, to provoke misunderstanding, to polarise views, yep, all possible. Indeed, one may conclude that KP is fairly expert in that herself, in spin and manipulation of language, let’s not forget Chris Hatton’s brilliant post analysing the opening pages of the Southern Health Annual Report, Welcome from our Chair and Chief Executive.
Communications can of course be used to manipulate, but social media can also be used as a force for good. I have been repeatedly told by many that it is being expertly used in this case, to shine light on complexity, to highlight facts and contexts, to promote understanding, and to mobilise views.
Of course KP might not like this, in fact the very nature of it being hard to control has already bothered her and her Trust, such as the occasion when we were accused of trolling. I can’t finish the letter right now, it literally makes my head hurt. Instead I’ll leave you with the final tips from Victoria’s post When is a troll not a troll and who decides? The advice came from @Digitalastair and focused on how communications might want to respond from an NHS Trust point of view, the post itself is worth a read in full, but he ends with…
- Don’t make this about social media, it’s not.
- Do remember that these people are better at social media than you as an NHS Trust are, so don’t ever try and control the conversation
- Don’t take it personally if you’re the comms person receiving all these tweets. It’s not about you. Equally, never forget precisely *why* people are so angry and upset.
Tomorrow I’ll come back to the rest of the letter. Comments on progress so far very welcome.