‘King’ of West End farce, actor and impressario Lord Brian Rix¹ is credited as losing his trousers over 12,000 times in 26 years on stage. Previously, we referred to Basil Fawlty but Stage 2 of the Public Investigation into Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust by Mr Nigel Pascoe QC is fast-becoming like a Fawlty-Rix co-production.
Despite the families’ withdrawal on 29 January 2021 amid allegations of being misled, misrepresented, gaslighted and bullied, NHSE/I issued updated procedures but continued (implictly and explicitly) to include the families in the Terms of Reference (“TORs”) – no doubt desperately hoping they would reengage and to lend credibility to the farce. It met a tart response from the families in a new public statement to the Panel Secretary, Alice Scott:
“Thank you for your email on 12.02.2021. The following statement from the 5 families addresses this.
“The families are not prepared to partake in the investigation or work with people and organisations who refused to honour the agreed terms of reference for stage 1, and who have the audacity to transform a stage 2 public investigation into a kangaroo court designed to showcase improvements to Trust policy at the expense of learning from the deaths of five very vulnerable people.
“The idea of spending a few more months locked into an exploitative relationship devoid of trust, with people who mock the word independence, reject the integrity of transparency, and circumvent investigations into the deaths of vulnerable people, will invariably result in further torment, distress and frustration for all of the families. We see no point in resuming participation in a process that has so cruelly and repeatedly denied us any sense of closure and justice for our loved ones.”
It was followed by another public statement:
“It has come to the attention of the families that you issued a revised Procedural Document for the Stage 2 hearing subsequent to our withdrawal from the process. We understand that this document refers to the participation of the families in regard to the hearing / public investigation and we firmly believe this is misleading to witnesses and others who may be participating in the process.
“We are clear in our decision to withdraw and we therefore request that you remove any suggestion of the families’ continued involvement from any communications in connection with the hearing and public investigation.”
In a longer statement available here, CRASH and a recently resigned Public Governor of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust withdrew their evidence and two complainants explained why they had not even registered as potential witnesses. We highlighted more omissions in the TORs, especially consideration of the Trusts’ leadership, governance, and culture, and (of course!) NHSE/I’s failings and actions (including failure to address alleged witness intimidation), none of which will be considered by the Investigation.
But ‘Health Service Journal‘ this week published two articles about the ‘Learning from Deaths‘ project, which aimed to standardise and improve the way acute, mental health and community Trusts identify, report, review, investigate and learn from deaths, and engage with bereaved families and carers:
‘Jeremy Hunt’s safety programme has stalled, say bereaved families’
In 2017, the National Quality Board (“NQB”) published new Guidance on the subject.
And who is on the NQB Board – Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer, who is entirely responsible for guaranteeing that this Fawlty/Rix coproduction will not deliver justice to five bereaved families and that the NHS will not learn from their experience.
How do these people sleep at night?
Soundly, we suspect – in full knowledge that their jobs are secure. Reminds us of the old Australian Aboriginal adage:
¹ In Memoriam The Right Honourable The Lord Rix CBE DL
This process may be akin to a Brian Rix farce but it would mortify him.
His first daughter, was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. Then, there was no welfare support, little education and only a Victorian era, run-down hospital for affected children. He campaigned and fund-raised tirelessly for charities.