The LeDeR Report was published on Friday, 4 May: three years of Bristol University’s project reviewing the premature deaths of learning disabled people. Coincidentally, on 9 May, Southern Health presented its ‘Future plans to develop our Secure Forensic Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Services.‘
There is plenty of blog commentary on the LeDeR Report by Dr Sara Ryan, Mark Neary, Mark Brown, two posts from Professor Chris Hatton here and here. Also an opinion piece by Ian Birrell here. All worth reading.
Key issues (Dr Sara Ryan)
1. The findings of the report (shameful).
2. The underfunding of the work (shameful).
3. The attempts to bury the report (shameful).
Those referred to above have far more knowledge of learning disabilities than CRASH. Our education has come from Sara and the preventable death of her beloved son Connor; Jane and Ian Hartley, whose son Edward had profound learning disabilities and died aged 18 in May 2014 following complications from an epileptic seizure; and others who lost loved ones whilst in the ‘care’ of Southern Health. Our eyes have been opened, not only to the care (or lack of it) of persons with LD by the State but also of the valuable contribution they can make to society.
On Wednesday, 9 May at a public meeting, Southern Health presented its future plans for secure forensic adolescent mental health services and for adults with Learning Difficulties. A summary of the strategy is available here→; a full colour presentation here→; and plans for the Proposed New Learning Disabilities Residential Unit on the Rufus Lodge site here→.
Credit, where credit is due – the need for more beds for forensic psychiatric adolescents and improved LD facilities is ‘a given’. The architectural plans are very impressive but perhaps the most poignant comment came from a Governor:
“I am sceptical of new buildings for projects, its the mindset of the people that matters most.”
The adolescent forensic services should be OK under Dr Mayura Desphande – an excellent and empathetic Consultant – if she can get the staff. Our concerns are:
- However impressive the architectural plans, in the end it’s the expertise and empathy of management and staff that matters.
- Southern Health already has staff recruitment problems for hospitals on the Tatchbury site, owing to its remoteness and recent history: when the building work is finished, they will need more specialist staff.
- The temporary but lengthy transfer of adults with learning disabilities from a reasonably pleasant environment at Woodhaven to Ravenswood – only one step down Special Psychiatric Hospitals, such as Broadmoor. Unless he has been moved since 2015, Ravenswood houses infamous hack-saw murderer Daniel Rosenthal¹.
- Ravenswood also is an old building.
- The plans also rely on strengthening the Community Mental Health Teams.
The Trust says that patients, family and carers and staff have all been informed but were they told the true nature of Ravenswood or given the opportunity to see it?
One disappointment – we asked the lead officer for the project if he had approached Dr Sara Ryan for her comments on the LD strategy and facilities. He answered : “I know of her.” We suspected what he meant – “No, I haven’t approached her“: we were right.
With the exception of the failure to approach Sara, at least this is a sign of the good intentions of the new regime, but, as they say, ‘the proof of the pudding….’²
Bluestar here’s a heartwarming story about Bluestar bus driver, Mike Rogers, who helped an autistic boy get home after he boarded the wrong bus. He has other learning difficulties, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
And a Gold Star for Mike
¹ Daniel Rosenthal WARNING: The text and links below contain graphic descriptions
If your scribe was the family or carer of an LD adult patient, I would want to know if Rosenthal still resides at Ravenswood but (quite correctly) Southern Health won’t say on confidentiality grounds. Instead, I would certainly want serious reassurances about security (between wards) and expect a site visit.
Rosenthal’s history is detailed here – in 2008, he had already spent 28 years in Ashworth Special Psychiatric Hospital for murdering his mother and cutting her up with a hacksaw. His Consultant Psychiatrist told Hampshire Police he would be recommending that Rosenthal never be released because he had made absolutely no progress.
Between 2008 and 2013, Rosenthal somehow managed to get transferred to Southern Health’s medium secure unit, Southfields. He hit the news again in August 2013 by absconding. Despite not improving in 28 years in Ashworth, Southern Health claimed he had made “significant progress and recovery“.
True to form under its old regime, Southern Health misled the press and local residents (of which CRASH is one).
- They claimed that Rosenthal posed an “extremely low risk” to the public, whilst he was simultaneously described as “potentially dangerous” by police, who issued urgent ‘dangerous, do not approach warnings‘ though the media.
- They claimed initially that he had ‘gone over the wall‘ on an unsupervised walk in the grounds – only to admit, a few days later, that he had been granted formal leave – from which unsurprisingly he did not return.
Fortunately, the police found him fairly quickly – boozing in Southampton. I suspect this is when he was transferred to Ravenswood. He next made news in 2015 when he was given technical bail, whilst awaiting trial for the murder of his father in France 34 years ago. He had fled from France (before the French police found the body) and returned to Hampshire), where he did the same to his mother. Read more here→
At this point, your scribe reported his concern to the police – Ravenswood had just received a critical CQC report. We pointed out that Winchester Crown Court is as accessible from Broadmoor as from Ravenswood.
The police ‘listened’ and a few weeks later CRASH received a call from a charming female Detective Sergeant thanking him for the ‘intelligence’. Of course, she could not confirm whether he had been moved or not. (Sorry guys, I am sure there are charming male DSs out there too!)
² ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating‘ is a very old proverb. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations dates it back to the early 14th century. The phrase is widely attributed to Cervantes in The History of Don Quixote.