I want to introduce you to Jason.
Jason was a man in his forties and had autism and learning disabilities who died after inserting some batteries up his nose last year. He died in hospital following an operation to remove the batteries. At the time of his death he was detained in an assessment and treatment unit run by the Huntercombe Group.
And that’s about as much as I know about Jason. You see, the powers that be don’t want the world to know about Jason. His death was originally attempted to be put down to “natural causes”. The BBC notified the CQC of Jason’s death, although in fairness, it also appears that Huntercombe did a referral. We don’t know whether there will be an inquest. We don’t know the outcome of any investigation (even if there was one). What we do know is that life at Cedar House goes on and soon after Jason’s death, the 40 bed unit was back up to full capacity again.
I’m ashamed to say that I’d forgotten about Jason. It was a tweet from BBC’s Jayne McCubbin that reminded me of him this morning. The CQC today published their latest inspection report of Cedar House and the service has now diminished to an overall “Requires improvement” rating. It failed two of the inspection categories: Safety and Caring. Basically, it has got worse since Jason died.
The inspection covers the period shortly after Jason’s death. The full report is here. It is a long and grim read but an important one:
Jayne’s tweet expressed her shock that there was no mention of Jason directly in the report. He may have been included in this paragraph:
“The provider reported eight serious incidents requiring investigation in the 12 months prior to October 2017. These involved three incidents of patients swallowing batteries, two incidents of aggression, two incidents of self harm and one allegation of sexual assault. The provider has carried out investigations to establish the root cause of the incidents”.
Or perhaps, it is Jason that is being talked about here:
“We identified one incident where a patient, who ultimately required admission to a general hospital, was not seen by an appropriate trained member of staff in a timely manner, causing a delay of two days”.
We have sunk so low in our attitude towards the deaths of people with learning disabilities that walking around with batteries lodged inside you for two days because nobody bothered seeking treatment barely causes a ripple. In the CQC report it gets the same tone, the same bland language as it might assign to a problem with the tumble drier in the laundry room. Sara Ryan got it spot on when she said that a learning disability diagnosis is now a life limiting condition.
I think it’s fair to say that Huntercombe has quite a reputation for very long detentions in their units. 5 years plus is very common. I know some of the families who have sons and daughters in their units. You probably do too. Most people will have heard of Stephanie Bincliffe and Mia Titheridge who both died shocking deaths whilst in the “care” of Huntercombe.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for the families reading today’s CQC report. Already facing relentless blocking of discharge, the report throws up fresh layers of terror. To know that your loved one is being held in a place that has failed at being safe and caring must be so frightening. For most families, with expectations at rock bottom, the hope you cling to is that your family member will be safe and cared for. Cedar House pisses all over those most basic of hopes.
If you get beyond that awfulness, then you scour the report for clues about the sort of life your loved one will be living at Cedar House. I’ve read the whole report and my heart breaks. The lives lived are so barren. Lots of paragraphs about seclusion rooms, medication protocols, the Mental Capacity Act but nothing about the normal stuff of living a life. I challenge anyone to read the report and to try and get a sense of what Jason’s daily life might have been like. It must have been utterly grim.
Jason mate. There are some good people out there. And they will try to make sure you get the respect in death that you were so callously denied in life.