Sideshow: 1. A minor show or exhibition in connection with a principal one, as at a circus. 2. Any subordinate event of matter.¹
So the Public Hearing into Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which resulted from the deaths of five vulnerable people, opened with an odious statement by Mr Nigel Pascoe QC relegating the bereaved families to a sideshow – a subordinate event. A fully copy of his statement (for publication) is here→
Amongst other objectionable parts of his statement is:
“As Chair of this investigation, I have decided today not to make any comments on either of the responses given by the families. To do so would be to prolong their agony, with the added danger of creating a sideshow.”
And yet, relegating the families to a sideshow and not explaining their failure to reengage, did exactly what he claimed he wanted to avoid. Family members who watched his statement were so upset that they are unlikely to log in to the hearing any more.
One of Mr Pascoe’s more objectionable comments concerned the Panel Members:
“I have no doubt whatsoever that they cherish their independence.”
“The man doth protest too much, methinks”²
It insults the intelligence of the families, the media and the public. A TV reporter has already identified it. It is a key reason why the families withdrew – no wonder Mr Pascoe refused to expand on the subject – and didn’t even allow the Panel Members to introduce themselves so the public could judge for themselves. The families’ full statement is available here and we quoted subsequent statements here. The families asserted specifically:
“The idea of spending a few more months locked into an exploitative relationship devoid of trust, with people who mock the word independence [our emphasis].”
For good measure, Mr Pascoe engages in the NHS-practice of media/family blame:
“Nothing will deflect us from pursuing that objective, no matter how much noise there is in the public arena.”
The, “Noise” Mr Pascoe was (amongst other things) caused by NHSE’s failure to produce Terms of Reference (“TORs”) that met the families’ expectations and a panel, which no reasonable person would perceive as indepenedent. And you, Mr Pascoe agreed them.
No wonder Mr Pascoe did not want to address the families withdrawal in detail. Clearly, it had more to do with concealing the fatal flaws in the TORs and procedures. His statement served only to prolong their agony.
Here are some comments about Mr Pascoe’s opening statement by bereaved family members [unredacted, save for identities, with emphasis added}:
Family member 1.
“Thank you for sending this slimy statement – it is interesting insofar that Pascoe clearly feels compelled to explain and justify his decisions !!!!! And he does so (notably in the same manner as the [unsigned] panel statement) without explaining what is meant by ‘CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGE’!! His claim that he was left with just ‘two choices’ is plain bullshit as if he had he actually carried out an investigation into the ‘quality of investigations’ he would have found more urgent issues to consider than Trust policy!!!!!!!!!
Family Member 2.
“Thank you [CRASH] for your work and support, without you we’d have none whatsoever.
“You’re right, his opening statement made me feel totally vindicated for removing ourselves from this deeply biased, heinous process. I would not want him or the ‘not so independent’ Panel to sully the memory of our deeply loved, beautiful [redacted].”
Family Member 3.
“Thank you for taking the time to send this on to us. I will be interested to see the outcome and whether anyone will actually ask why we didn’t go ahead?
Don’t hold your breath!
CRASH spoke to a TV reporter on the second day of the Hearing. It was an interesting conversation. She agreed the lack of independence of the Panel, commented on the small number of service user/carer witnesses, and the unconvincing procedure.
‘The Daily Echo‘ reports (here) that one bereaved family member is so distressed by this charade that she has written to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State asking for a genuinely independent investigation.
In talking of witness numners, the TV reporter was spot on. Also Trust witnesses did not inspire confidence that they had a grasp of their brief.
We should however express sympathy for Julia Lake. She became Deputy Director of Nursing when the formidable³, Florence Nightingdale Scholar, Sara Courtney left about four months ago. It reflects poorly on Southern Health’s leadership that they cannot retain the services of a well-respected officer and put up a new appointee for such an onerous and stressful task.
It was notable also that witnesses were asked to attest that they would tell the truth but there was no means of checking if they were doing so. We will go no further now than saying that several questionable statements were made to the Panel.
Others were simply laughable.
None were challenged.
Service User Witness
Credit must go to service user, Mr Matt White who made five extremely good suggestions.
As there is no recording or transcript available to the public, I hope I have noted them accurately. They are excellent ideas. Matt started by asking how to complain about the complaints department – that speaks for itself! He had reached five conclusions!
- Moving forwards, staff should follow their employers’ policies, first and foremost. [Otherwise] it’s a pointless document. [Applies to Directors as well as staff. Ed.]
- Professional negligence insurance should be available for complaints handlers/investigators [Not clear on this one. Ed.]
- Clinicians should record their thought processes in patients’ medical records as well as facts and decisions.
- Evidence suggests that the complaints department should itself be independently investigated.
- Selection & Training of investigators needs to be more robust with accountability. Second investigator not up to the job: when challenged went silent.
Matt, who has questions unanswered since 2017, said that the complaints process was very hard work; damaging to him; not made easy; still has unanswered questions. He had seen no improvements since 2017. He still feels no closure or resolution and feels he has exhausted all options. He referred to deep psychological and emotional harm.
Matt hit the ‘nail on the head’ – staff (including leaders) don’t follow policies and the complaints department itself needs independent investigation including of its supervision – hopefully more independent than this charade. The families reasons for withdrawing included the TORs only allowing the Panel to consider the robustness of policies – no point in that because the Trust (including leaders) often pay scant (or no) regard to its complaints policies and procedures anyway.
For those who wish to form their own opinion, next week’s schedule for the Hearing (including witness details) is here 9 – 11 March witness schedule for publication.
³ We interpret ‘Formidable‘ selectively as, “Inspiring respect through being impressively capable” as in, “A formidable upholder of service users’ rights.” We do not mean, “Inspiring fear through being impressively large!!!”