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Random Investigations

October 29, 2017

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:

https://www.dimensions-uk.org/news-blog-post/point-nursing-midwifery-council/

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.

Completely random.

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9 Comments
  1. weary mother permalink

    The two agency workers who spoke out are heroes. The agency manager who contacted the police also.

    One would wonder whether they were made to pay for their integrity. The fact that the abuser felt free to attack Steven in front of them is an illustration of the iceberg of abuse that must go ‘unseen’ and unreported.

    Also the police could only act for Steven because they/agency staff were brave enough to speak of what they saw.

    So many vulnerable sons and daughters must be suffering on in silence.

  2. Yes, I agree with weary mother.
    Thank God for those with integrity – they make this country great. The NMC are a disgrace in comparison.

  3. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Yes Weary Mother it is a very frightening world for some vulnerable people who cannot possibly protect themselves from bullies and thugs who are able to penetrate some of the services offered or pushed upon our loved ones.

    Mark I read the post by Steve Scown. It makes me shudder to think that there is no justice for people who can be abused like that. The nurse who broke the jaw of a patient and punched out three of his teeth surely cannot be trusted to look after anyone else. He has a short fuse and an anger problem and should never be looking after someone who is in need of specialist care. However he has been reinstated!

    The nurse in question is safe in the knowledge that the person he abused cannot properly articulate what actually happened. The nurse knows that it is his word against a person who has no rights and is seen as an unreliable witness. Therefore people who look after vulnerable people have carte blanche to do what they like and if they happen to be thugs then god help anyone who is put into their care.

    What sort of message is this sending out to the general public? The message is clearly that people who have autism/learning disabilities are non-humans. Strangely though if a dog, cat or any other pet was so cruelly treated the perpetrator would now be doing time in prison.

    • If a person punches so hard that they knock a person’s teeth out, they clearly can’t control themselves. He isn’t a ‘nurse’, and doesn’t have training in how to withdraw safely, and should have been told to leave at least of not imprisoned, not be reinstated.
      We can’t accept this. The general public don’t know, unless it’s on the news, but all vulnerable people including those with dementia would be at risk.

      • LizzieD permalink

        And then there is the defenceless, voiceless young woman fitted with a contraceptive patch, because it is easier than finding out who is raping her.

        While bullies and thugs know they are working with a system that won;t hold them accountable, this isn’t going to change is it? Horrifying and disgusting.

        It isn;t easy looking after defenceless, confused, frightened people. But if they were better cared for, they might not be so frightened.

  4. weary mother permalink

    Yes Lizzie

    As in Long Care establishment. See Long Care report and the book by John Pryle.

    • Yes it is all about good care and well trained well paid carers this has to come from the top down. Many of these support jobs are given to people who have no idea how to support people with complex lives. I know as a parent who has spoken out about poor provision by a service provider I was bullied intimidated on a regular basis. Definitely labelled as a trouble maker I have see the worse side of a leading service provider who punished me for speaking up. I was treated as a whistle blower and demonised for telling the truth it takes a lot of courage and guts but it was worth it.

  5. Shocking truly shocking! I am also deeply concerned at the service providers who jump in to criticise when all is not as it should be within their own organisation. It is also very disturbing there is always a cover up some where I have seen some truly shocking behaviour delivered by so called carers poorly trained and have little idea of their role and responsibility. I have also witnessed brilliant support workers who I have great respect for. The service providers need to be closely examined CQC do not always listen, safeguarding is not always listening
    Social Servces do not always listen. Families are often led to police the provision of care and humanity to their loved ones but often name calling and bullying kicks in and you are no longer welcome because you are prepared to speak up

  6. kate permalink

    You’re so right Vicki that some “leading” service providers jump in to criticise when all is not as it should be within their own organisations. And yes, they bully, intimidate and demonise people who dare to question or speak up about their service. And if the service provider is big enough, Social Services won’t question their behaviour. Better to silence or remove the victims and whistleblowers than deal with the failures of a large service provider and the failures of a Social Services dept to have properly overseen it. CQC will sometimes listen but possibly only after Panorama, the truth is all over the media and the evidence is sufficiently overwhelming. They don’t deal with individual cases.

    I will continue to cry and weep at this blog and also to delight in SN and MN’s defiance and strength and hilarious take on how we are treated.

    But, like you, I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the insult when some executives out there try to market themselves and their organisations as leading lights in how things should be where their services fall short and do not tolerate challenge in any way or form, certainly not from family carers.

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