I’ve been following the NMC fitness to practice hearing into the conduct of the nurse from Winterbourne View who broke the jaw of one of the patients. The outcome was so utterly depressing as the panel decided that the nurse was able to continue practicing in the nursing field. Steve Scown from Dimensions has written a cracking post on the subject:
There are two other ongoing investigations by professional bodies as well. Next week sees the resumption of the GMC hearing into Dr Valerie Murphy, the responsible clinician for Connor Sparrowhawk. The way the hearing has gone so far, it is impossible to predict what the outcome might be.
Last week also saw the HCPC held a hearing into the conduct of the social worker, Linda Fraser. Ms Fraser had been found by the Judge in a Family care proceedings case to have altered care records to present the parents in the case in a worse light and to have lied about the matter in court. She is still working in the same role. Once again, the evidence at the HCPC hearing has been so removed from the court ruling that the outcome could go any way.
All these case has taken me back to the time Steven was assaulted by one of the shift leaders when he was in the Unit. I thought it then, and I feel even more certain about it now – any investigation into an assault, or even worse, a death of a learning disabled person is completely random. Despite armies of professional bodies, safeguarding agencies, the police, the matter can be investigated or totally shut down. It’s the toss of a coin. A positive outcome relies more on luck than process.
The day Steven was assaulted, he was lucky. (I can’t believe I’ve just wrote that). The shift leader turned up for work. From the evidence in his trial, it seemed likely that he was hungover from the night before. Steven was in the garden with two agency staff waiting for the shift leader before they could go out. The agency staff had no agency at all and couldn’t do anything without the say so of the shift leader. I imagine it was pretty tense in that garden. The shift leader appeared in the garden with a cup of coffee. Steven asked him when they were going out. The shift leader didn’t respond. At some point, Steven hit the shift leader on the arm. The shift leader kicked Steven three times and threw the coffee over him.
Here’s the lucky bit. The two agency staff had integrity. They phoned their manager and told her what they’d just witnessed. Another stroke of luck was that the manager was unable to contact the social worker nor the manager of the unit, so phoned the police. That meant the police arrived before any shutdown had started to happen. The shift leader and the chap he was taking over from had started the cover up and already got Steven out of his wet clothes but they couldn’t hide the cuts and bruises on his leg. Fortunately, the agency staff witnessed all this and weren’t prepared to keep quiet.
I didn’t know any of this until later that day. The social worker and her manager visited me and told me that Steven had been attacked. What they left out of the story was that the attack had been carried out by a member of staff. They led me to believe that it was another resident at the Unit that had assaulted Steven. Another stroke of luck was that about an hour after they left, I took a phone call from a policewoman, who had already started investigating. She told me that she would be interviewing Steven that evening and would I like to be present? The social worker and the manager of the Unit didn’t tell me about the police interview. Left to them, it would have happened without me.
An internal investigation started but we never found out the outcome of that. I was shown a draft copy of an interim report that was so heavily redacted it was unreadable. Thankfully, the police were more transparent and the CPS decided to prosecute. The two agency workers were the key witnesses for the prosecution. The defense was a shambles. The chief witness (the other shift leader) was late and the court clerk had to phone him to insist he appears to give evidence. The attacker made a complete pigs ear of his demonstration of how he “defended himself” and brought up stories from Steven’s past to present himself as the innocent party.
A strange thing happened at lunch. We adjourned for lunch. I could have gone home but decided to go and sit in the park and be alone with my thoughts. I nipped into Tesco to pick up a sandwich. As I leaned across the counter to pick up my egg mayonnaise roll, my hand touched another shopper. I looked up and it was the Judge. We didn’t exchange words but there was something in her glance that told me it was going to be okay.
The shift leader was found guilty and sentenced to 40 hours community service. I don’t know if his professional body took any action. I don’t know whether the internal safeguarding investigation took any action. One odd thing about sitting in court that day was the absence of any Hillingdon staff. It was like they had nothing to do with the event at all. The fact that it took place in their Unit and was carried out by their staff was lost. The whole thing was conducted in a vacuum. A Hillingdon free vacuum.
As a moving postscript to this story, when Steven came home eventually, he mentioned the shift leader’s name one day. I steeled myself to hear Steven’s version of that event. However the story Steven wanted to tell me had nothing to do with the assault and concerned something that had happened a few months before the assault. This was Steven’s story:
“N threw Steven Neary’s shoes in the garden. N pushed Steven Neary into the garden to get his shoes. Steven Neary’s socks got all muddy. N was laughing massive”.
Nobody spoke up that day.