Impersonal correspondence: 10-15 #nhssm

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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5 thoughts on “Impersonal correspondence: 10-15 #nhssm

  1. Having had to write a fair number of letters dealing with difficult/sensitive matters in my time, I much appreciate your great job of demonstrating how and why this model is so wrong. I can’t get over the disrespect in language and tone throughout.
    It is worryingly extreme. If I was on the Board, I would be beginning to feel seriously concerned. (Especially if she has the Chair in her pocket)

  2. This letter is so stunning in its awfulness that it deserves to be taken apart line by line. What was she thinking of? What kind of “leader” thinks this sets any kind of example? Its only message is “Your son died. But my concerns are what matter here, and you should shut up and play the role that suits me.

    And, of course, many parents/families would not have much choice. That IS the way the game is played, and it must be very dismaying that Sara’s courage and determination – and her blog – has meant that this time, the usual minimising and brushing off isn’t working.

    I don’t know that Sara demanded PUBLIC answers, But KP ought to have cottoned on to the idea that this is a matter of public concern and let go of the idea that a private, easily spun, meeting behind closed doors would work this time.

    Go and look again at what happened, KP. Staff who wouldn’t make eye contact. Parents who were ignored. A casual approach to epilepsy. Then tell us what lessons have been learned. Maybe then you would stop digging a bigger hole.

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