Phew. I’m just coming up for air after a remarkable two days. In case you’ve been absorbed in recataloguing your pinny drawer for 48 hours, a quick recap. On Wednesday, a cheeky monkey leaked the Mazars report on deaths in Southern Health services to the BBC. Lit the blue touch paper and…..Boom! Incredible media coverage. Trending on Twitter. An urgent question tabled to Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons.
And quite rightly too. Over 1000 unexpected deaths not investigated. Only 1% of learning disability deaths investigated. No human rights in life. Even less human rights in Death. The phrase is often used carelessly but it really is a national scandal. I found myself in that familiar space of swinging between murderous rage and unbearable sobbing.
One thing that has fascinated me since the news broke has been peoples’ positioning. This post is me trying to make some sort of sense of it all.
The Southern Health position should come as no surprise at all. Weasly, throwaway statements about how services have improved, how lessons have been learned. But once the incongruous cliches are out of the way, they moved quickly on to their usual reputational agenda and steadfastly stuck to disagreeing with the report. With idiotic sleight of hand, we found ourselves talking about the report’s methodology, conveniently avoiding the 1000+ deaths. Thankfully, the media and the politicians (in the main) weren’t suckered.
This morning, Katrina Pearcey was interviewed and kept up the position. No, she won’t be resigning. She has her hard working doctors and nurses to lead. She apologized to people “who may feel let down”. Not, people who we let down. People who feel let down. Nothing to really do with us. Nothing to do with 1000+ deaths.
The HSJ wrote an interesting article, aligning themselves with the Southern Health cautionary position. Nobody should be leaping to any conclusions. It’s an unfinished draft (Its not. It’s been finished for months). Giving considerable space to the ” expert” that Southern Health have commissioned to review the review. Little empathy shown to the 1000+ families dealing with this bombshell. I couldn’t understand this positioning. Surely it’s not tied up with HSJ giving KP their CEO of the year award a couple of years back. They were handing out their gong smack bang in the middle of the period the Mazars report covered.
Yesterday I was invited to an event at the House of Lords to celebrate International Human Rights Day. I was booked to talk for 15 minutes about the Get Steven Home story. Travelling on the tube, I wanted to mark the breaking news in some way. Partly it was because it is such an obvious human rights story. Partly it was to honour Sara, Rich and Connor. Still undecided, I turned into the main building and bumped into the Labour MP who had tabled the urgent question, two hours earlier. That felt like some sort of sign, so I changed my script. It got a good response.
As I was leaving, a chap who’d been in the audience caught up with me on the stairs. He congratulated me on my “bravery” over Steven’s story but then said: “I hope you don’t mind me saying but do you think you were rather previous mentioning the disputed report?” “Previous?”I replied. ” Yes. We only have a small portion of the truth. I think we need the official picture and not just an outraged group”. I was gobsmacked. We continued our exit in silence and then went our separate ways. I don’t know who he was but he was obviously establishment. He wasn’t outraged about the 1000+ deaths. He was outraged at the affrontery of the leak. He was outraged because I hadn’t played cricket.
One of the other speakers was a home affairs correspondent from Channel 4 News. He wasn’t talking about the Mazars report but he said some interesting things that I think apply here. He talked about how the public love a David & Goliath story but it has to be presented in exactly the right way. The public are intolerant of David’s turning into Goliaths. The establishment have a huge investment in David’s remaining David’s. But the David profile is pretty limiting so it requires a skilled tightrope walk to navigate it. And we have to remember that lots of people are welded to the David position pre-slaying and don’t want an active David to reveal this. It’s a minefield. But I believe that all this has been going on over the last two days. The third speaker was Imran Khan, the barrister who represented Stephen Lawrence’s family. He said that the world can cope with the Lawrence’s as “brave victims” but step outside that profile and the world becomes tense. That made a lot of sense to me and mirrored what I’d been experiencing the last two days.
My apologies if you feel this post has been too long. Nothing to do with me or my blog writing methodology. I could have posted the abridged version, calling on the expertise of Private Jones:
“They don’t like it up ’em”.