Dr Valerie Murphy – No Likey Likey

This week saw the conclusion into the Fitness to Practice Tribunal for Dr Valerie Murphy, the psychiatrist and lead clinician responsible for the “care” of Connor Sparrowhawk whilst he was in the STATT Unit. The determination was reached last November: this week’s hearing was to apply the sanction.

Following the live tweeting of the three days was too hideous for words. But the worst was kept until last. Dr Murphy escaped with a year’s suspension (She has given up her license in the UK and now works in Cork, so heaven only knows whether the sanction will have any effect). The Tribunal statement included a paragraph on “mitigating circumstances” and had the outrageous sentence “in the difficult world of adult learning difficulties”. To read such institutional disablism from a medical tribunal is truly shocking.

Much has been uncovered, written about and discussed since these proceedings began but this morning, Sara Ryan posted the following tweet:

Put aside the system failures. Put aside the need for lessons to be learned and a culture change. Put aside the litany of gross failings that the tribunal found in Dr Murphy’s practice.

Just supposing the core of this horror is that Dr Murphy had taken a dislike to Sara. Connor died because the responsible clinician didn’t like his mother.

For what it is worth, I think Sara is right. I think a handsome, talented, unique young man died because of the lead officers vanity and ego. Most of the evidence at the tribunal when stripped right back has rested on her narcissistic arrogance. Most of the behaviour of her counsel stemmed from her impossible ego.

There’s lots of other evidence to suggest that this happens. I would suggest you dip into some of the discussions about the case of Dr Bawa Garba on social media. I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of the case but the behaviour of some of the medical people towards the non medics has been appalling. Sneered at; mocked, attacked are just some of the things I have witnessed and been subjected to. I would suggest that these behaviours stem from a dislike of anyone from outside the profession who has the audacity to challenge the expert.

Much was made in Steven’s court case about the infamous email from the social worker to several of the MDT.

“There is always going to be something or other that Mr Neary will bring up and more often than not we are having to appease his needs rather than Steven’s, however I want Steven to remain at [the support unit]. I know that it seems that you as a team are constantly being questioned but this will be the case because Mr Neary wants to find issues with the care that other people give Steven. We just need to ensure like we have that we are working together for the best outcome for Steven.”

What the court judgement didn’t make clear was what led to her email. In fact, it was a reply to one that I sent to the social worker and the Unit manager the day before. I reproduce it below and hope the content is self explanatory:

“Hi All. I’ve just come back from the gym with Steven and the support workers. I couldn’t help but notice that the issue about Steven’s ties, cords and laces going missing is still happening. His trainers had no laces in and whenever he kicked the ball, they flew off. Also, the elastic from his tracksuit bottoms had been removed and every time he did some short sprints, his tracksuit ended up around his ankles. I know that **(Another resident) has the tendency to go into the laundry room and remove these items and I’m not knocking him at all. For me, this is a matter of Steven’s dignity. And also it’s becoming quite expensive to keep replacing all these clothes that have become useless……”

It’s not aggressive is it? But it cut the social worker’s fragile ego. Her response was totally inappropriate to my enquiry and demonstrates the real loathing she felt towards me.

If it was just a battle between the parent and the medic, that would be one thing. But as numerous stories reveal, there is a consequence to the person being cared for. Revenge on the parent can be played out on the child. Steven’s fate was a year’s detention: Connor’s was unbearably worse. Dr Murphy was blinded by her feelings towards Sara and it led to total indifference towards her patient. (I’m sure the Freudians among you, may suggest something even worse).

One thing I never understand in the world of social care is where is the clinical supervision? In my professional counselling world, I have clinical supervision once a fortnight. It has many purposes but one of the most important ones is to look at where my stuff may be intruding into the therapeutic work. On a few occasions my supervisor has said to me “Mark – this is your shit”. It is deeply uncomfortable but invaluable and a real necessity.  It is about serving the client. From the evidence of Dr Murphy’s tribunal and the ragbag collection of character witnesses she produced it was clear that, even six years on, she receives none (or little) clinical supervision. I suspect that sometimes you reach such a height in your field that supervision is considered beneath you. Or you are left to organise your own supervision and that would have been very low down Dr Murphy’s list of priorities.

The conduct and professional behaviour of Dr Murphy will continue to attract much analysis and discussion.

I suggest that it would be foolish to overlook the obvious. Dr Murphy’s conduct and professional judgement was impaired because she hated Sara Ryan.

Connor died because of a fragile, out of control ego.

When the world of adult social care is populated by professionals like this, this is what  makes that world “difficult”. Not the Connors.


15 thoughts on “Dr Valerie Murphy – No Likey Likey”

  1. All professionals were and are, even worse now in private for profit hospitals, controlled by their pay cheque .

    If we blame the individuals, we lose sight of the real problem, which is systemic and getting much worse.

    Public NHS mental, replaced by private monopoly no doubt for years contracts from CCGs, harvesting and locking up more for longer, with more deaths and more medication.

    1. Disagree Finola. This post wasn’t about systemic problems (which, of course, there are many). This was about one woman’s ego and if we ignore that and shift the focus on to systemic problems, then people like this psychiatrist will continue to get away with murder.

      1. But as you know the system is getting away with many effectively murders, as the death rates for those in hospitals and residential rises.

        Every doctor, no matter how important, has to work within the system, if they want to keep their jobs and they therefore have to subjugate their ego to that system, so this system must be examined first and any actions of staff judged in relation to this systemic control..

        We all know that parents are deliberately ignored and vilified, as they are seen as a threat to the system and as it is not fit for purpose it does not want to be exposed.

        Until we remove this ‘us and them’ and the total inequality between those who care most and strangers who care least and simply have to comply with the system or lose their jobs, there can be no change.

  2. As you know I have been in the Court of Protection for the last 10 years. The hostility to me as Martin’s mother has been unceasing. Mr Justice Charles judgments are all in the public domain, as is the penal notice he put on me. In the original hearing in 2006 there were 489 pages of allegations of whar I had done wrong as Martin’s mother. Before the MCA the LA twice called me to a Protection of Vulnerable Adults meeting. They also stated that my GP should refer me to a psychiatrist.

    1. I love the way the government keeps telling us there is no stigma to being mentally disordered and then practically every assessment of a parent is to deliberately find a mental disorder, with a choice of now 375, to marginalise their opinions and exclude them from even visits to their children and the same happens in the care courts.

  3. Negative and patronising, unhelpful responses and behaviours to family appears to be part of their role. First sight of a social worker the family had for years. Desperate for help as treatment to people in that house had deteriorated to the point of everyday distressing chaotic institutionalism & abuses of peoples rights. Reported ongoing incidents of appalling care and risks exposed. Firm order in a reply from social worker assigned to help with a move
    ‘Only contact me if it’s life or death’.
    Death came soon enough.

  4. The role the provider took was something else. Far worse Their challenging behaviour was off the scale. Disgusting. Ordering support workers to ostracize the next of kin, who is also the advocate, the Deputy for COP, the representative for DoLS; leaving a man many have known for years to remain in isolation, lying sick in his bed, waiting for the doctor to arrive and not one came to check on him. ‘The Doctor never came’.
    ‘I didn’t call the Doctor to come out.’

  5. It is about resenting skilled parents, Mark.
    We had two psychiatrists with huge egos. One took an instant dislike to me which baffled me and I tried to ignore it. Other parents and even you have mentioned the particular ‘lead’ psychiatrist I refer to. He creeps into every lead role, doesn’t do much work, and mostly gets away.
    Medics with real skills I’ve met in every other field and never had a problem with.

    These two managed to destroy hope and I’m still doing the work myself, years after the crisis began. They damaged us, but have the audacity to write research papers and books as though they do good care.

    I met other psychiatrists who I liked but couldn’t get onto their case lists, so it isn’t all psychiatrists who hate. We should have choose and book to protect us, as you would with any other consultant.

    As Finola says, it is about ‘those who care most and strangers who care least’.

  6. I am an acute hospital doctor and deal with social care daily. The notion of social workers and social care as person centred and altruistic and inherently more professional than the NHS is risible. The behaviours are (understandably given the epic cuts local government and social care has sustained) entirely driven by the need to control or avoid spending or delay spending and ration care and there is no sense of urgency when patients are stranded in acute hospitals often for weeks while money dominates the agenda. Procedural rules trump person centred approaches at every stage. And by the way, the many scandals around child protection or neglected/abused older adults involving social care are a matter of public record. I am 100% supportive of social care, social services, social workers and local government and repeatedly on the record in print/broadcast media in this regard. But please please spare us the sanctimomy of social care having superior values. It is very heavily rationed, means tested and denied to many people, whereas the acute NHS has to soak up unlimited demand 365/24 can never say no and has practitioners working round the clock just having to cope with whatever is thrown at them free at point with no means testing, irrespective of well documented workforce gaps. Moral high ground? really??

    1. Where’s the moral high ground David? In the post I was comparing two professionals whose egos have caused considerable pain – one a psychiatrist and the other a social worker.

    2. I’ve great respect for acute NHS services as they more often deliver. They don’t blag or dither over everything like so many others, including learning disability services. Three episodes in A&E with my son were compassionate experiences. It was traumatic, but I remember good things, especially doctors following my requests – we worked together – easily.

    3. I too am 100% supportive of social care, social services, social workers and local government – because they are there to provide essential services to the public – yet that does not alter the fact that my family has been treated disgracefully by social workers and social work managers and contracts management and that they have gone on to use public money to cover up and lie about their failures. I too am 100% supportive of the NHS and am appalled at how it is being crushed and privatised.

      But, aside from that, there was no sanctimony or moral high ground in the post that i just read…….

  7. I think there is an interlink between the system and individual professionals – the professionals work and shape the system and the system shapes the individuals within the system.

  8. I often watch the programme about the A & E services in two major London hospitals. One particular episode was about a psychiatrist who was terribly ill. He looked and sounded like a really gentle caring man. His mother was interviewed, and she said that her son treated recovering alcoholics, many of them down and outs. She said that he always treated them is if they gentlemen. If only Dr. Murphy could have been that magnanimous.

    Disliking a patient and their family is not unknown, but to dismiss the family’s concerns, in this case Sara’s, was egoistical and arrogant. Her failure was that she would not listen to a mother’s worries about his care. A mother who knew her son inside out, a mother who had raised him. loved him and probably was exhausted somedays because of her love for him. Why could she not see this, and welcome Sara’s insight into her son’s condition. Perhaps she was scared of Sara’s knowledge and intellect because it may have surpassed her own.

  9. I think there are people out there whose duty it is to serve and support people with learning disabilities who simply disregard families and their positive contributions. In doing so, they discriminate against and harm the learning disabled person as well as the family. I don’t think necessarily that those people “hate” the family member. It is simply that they have not bothered to consider any of them as anything or anybody at all. Just nobodies. And when that nobody asks a question, however nicely, or offers input, however helpful, it seems to cause intense irritation.

    “Professionals” should be ashamed of themselves when and if they leave families feeling that if they had just not spoken up, then things would have turned out better for their loved one. It is sickening and causes untold pain for the family members. Professionals should raise with their management, government and professional bodies that they are under impossible pressures when that is the case. It is important though that people with complex needs and their families are not expected to somehow absorb the stress and pressure when needing access to services.

    We must tackle and fight against systemic failures but we absolutely must also tackle the individuals within those systems who treat us with contempt.

    Mark reminds us about the vicious email saying “There is always going to be something or other that Mr Neary will bring up and more often than not we are having to appease his need”. Interesting the authorities trot the “appease” word out when a family member manages to stand up for their loved ones very basic rights. My family got that one too when the authorities caused devastation to our loved one and then their solicitor (paid for by us ordinary people) stated that extra support had had to be provided “to appease the family.” Extra support had been provided because it was absolutely critical at that time and its need beyond any rational doubt. They are the hateful fuckers. We do not deserve such hatred. Ooops I have argued against myself. Maybe it is just pure hate after all. But the Saras and Marks of this world did and said what they had a duty to do and say and what we all HAVE to do and say placed in such circumstances. Our silence would be even more terrifyingly harmful !

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