On Injustice, Exhaustion and Tough Love

Life’s lessons 10:  Hard choices for hard times
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I used to think that, if people only knew about something going badly wrong, they would mobilise against it.

But I grew up under the lingering influence of World War 2. We were the brave little island that had held out against the evils of fascism and set up free universal secondary education and a National Health Service. We were the dragon-slayers.  We were the good guys.

Postwar childhood games, played out on overgrown bomb sites, always involved shooting down the bad guys to emerge victorious.

It took me a very long time to realise that knowledge alone doesn’t stop bad things happening. You need courage, spirit and commitment to confront monsters.

After reading Kara2008 (whobyf1re.wordpress.com) this morning I got to thinking about LB and all the others killed or damaged by health professionals in one way or another. I’d bet each one of us has experience of family, a friend or colleague affected. There is a stack of anecdotal evidence around. There is research evidence too. Think of the data circulated to hospital trusts about death rates. Think of the number of civil cases instituted against them.

We all know at every level that something is badly, systemically wrong and also that nobody, apart from a handful of lowly scapegoats, has been called to account.

As a teacher I had to call various culprits to account.  I remember one stubborn, little red-haired toughie, who had stolen some money from my purse. I usually kept it locked in my filing cabinet but I had been called out of my office suddenly and hadn’t stopped to turn the key.

I saw the set of her jowl and knew it was pointless to rage or accuse. The evidence was incontrovertible, but she would never back down. Then my anger and frustration lifted. I felt very sad for both of us. I asked her to imagine that she had done it. We would think about it as a purely hypothetical situation and consider the possible outcomes.

I can’t remember the detail, but at one point she protested that if she was able to walk away uncondemned, nobody would know anything bad about her.

“But that’s not true, is it?” I pointed out. “Somebody would know, wouldn’t they? Think about it!”

She thought.  “I would know,” she said at last.

And that was the thing that mattered most. Not the money. Not the punishment. Not her admitting anything. It was her looking honestly at herself and deciding what path she wanted to walk down. Did she want live a life based on feeling clever and pleased with herself for doing somebody else down and getting away with it? It was her choice to make. 

And, this morning, it seemed to me that, at an individual and systemic level, the NHS has reached a similar point.

For a range of reasons, individuals collaborate or collude with bad practice and organisations block or stifle concerns, protests and avoid the investigation of incidents.

Yet I can’t believe that the majority of workers in the system are happy about it. I can’t believe that the majority of managers are workplace psychopaths. I can’t even believe that the majority of elected representatives in the Commons are smugly complacent about it.

So why is it happening? 

I said at the start that you need strength, spirit and commitment to change bad things and it is clear that many within the system are too worn down to do it on their own. There are outstanding pockets of good practice, scattered examples of excellence, honourable individual practitioners, but as a whole the NHS is failing.

We have to help it envisage the way ahead, not just as a financial and organisational spreadsheet, but as a moral choice. Who really wants a shoddy, showy business, lacking integrity, getting away with minimum standards by the skin of its legal teeth?

We on the receiving end have already tried to highlight the need for an honest look at realities, rather than spin.

We’ve tried “consulting” nicely and so far it hasn’t worked.

I fear it is going to take a conviction for corporate manslaughter to strengthen the good guys, inside and outside the system.

In the sixty odd years from post war optimism and good intentions, it has come to this.

It should make us all very sad.

Then we should look at LB’s quilt and commit ourselves anew.
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This Is For All The Little People

Life’s lessons 8  Beware of the “I” word

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Sunflowers for Nico today – Nico who died because the basic routine care and therapy he needed to keep him alive were not provided.

Make no mistake, they had been allocated funding from the money you and I pay all our lives in taxes. But, at every level, the organisation of how that money was spent was so confused, and the process of ensuring he received the support he needed so convoluted, that his young life was ended.

We do not, and cannot, know the detail, because the inquest process is so slow, especially should the organisation responsible for his care fail to provide the required documentation.

Nico’s story and Connor’s story ( mydaftlife.WordPress.com) need to be viewed alongside a letter sent by Katrina Percy’s letter to Connor’s mother. This encapsulates just why the current NHS situation is so desperate.

In this letter the “leader” of the Health Trust states she cannot be influenced by the views of any group or interest, no matter how loudly they protest or how much long they persist.

There is absolutely no recognition given to the possibility that a group or interest’s protest could be valid. They could be shouting so loud and so long because something is very wrong.

No – that doesn’t come into it, because she has to act “in the interests of all parties”.

Please pause to think for a moment about the implications of the statements above

In management, as in life, some parties or interests are right and some are wrong and some are a bit muddled and hard to sort out. If I had preventable deaths occurring in my line of business, I’d want to be doing a bit of sorting.

And remember, this is a letter addressed to the mother of a healthy young man who drowned just one year ago in a bath in an institution her organisation ran.

It is written to be shared with the family’s supporters, who are fundraising to pursue this matter through legal process, as the only way to ensure that proper accountability can be achieved.

It is written for sharing with any other patients, care residents or their relatives (like Nico’s family), who group together to try to raise issues or protest about how their beloved children, or friends, or parents have been, or are being, treated.

The message is clear. Don’t bother, because it’s being placed on record that the leaders won’t be swayed. Their word is law, though you’re welcome to come in for a cosy little chat now and again.

The letter says the organisation is doing lots of things right and has lots of hardworking employees. I’m sure it has. That’s not the point.

As far as the NHS trust is concerned, we, the little people who pay the taxes, are regarded as no more than vexatious complainants.

Our views are there to be mocked in the office amongst colleagues, our reputations disparaged and insulted, our concerns glossed over and, wherever possible, silenced.

Practically every paragraph in the letter begins with the word “I” – “I believe this or that”, “I support this or that”.

But it is not about what one individual “I” believes or supports.  It is about best and rotten practice. It is about taking proper, justifiable pride in a job well done and facing up to a botched one.

It’s about right and wrong.

This Is For All The Little People

Life’s lessons 8  Beware of the “I” word

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Sunflowers for Nico today – Nico who died because the basic routine care and therapy he needed to keep him alive were not provided.

Make no mistake, they had been allocated funding from the money you and I pay all our lives in taxes. But, at every level, the organisation of how that money was spent was so confused, and the process of ensuring he received the support he needed so convoluted, that his young life was ended.

We do not, and cannot, know the detail, because the inquest process is so slow, especially should the organisation responsible for his care fail to provide the required documentation.

Nico’s story and Connor’s story ( mydaftlife.WordPress.com) need to be viewed alongside a letter sent by Katrina Percy’s letter to Connor’s mother. This encapsulates just why the current NHS situation is so desperate.

In this letter the “leader” of the Health Trust states she cannot be influenced by the views of any group or interest, no matter how loudly they protest or how much long they persist.

There is absolutely no recognition given to the possibility that a group or interest’s protest could be valid. They could be shouting so loud and so long because something is very wrong.

No – that doesn’t come into it, because she has to act “in the interests of all parties”.

Please pause to think for a moment about the implications of the statements above

In management, as in life, some parties or interests are right and some are wrong and some are a bit muddled and hard to sort out. If I had preventable deaths occurring in my line of business, I’d want to be doing a bit of sorting.

And remember, this is a letter addressed to the mother of a healthy young man who drowned just one year ago in a bath in an institution her organisation ran.

It is written to be shared with the family’s supporters, who are fundraising to pursue this matter through legal process, as the only way to ensure that proper accountability can be achieved.

It is written for sharing with any other patients, care residents or their relatives (like Nico’s family), who group together to try to raise issues or protest about how their beloved children, or friends, or parents have been, or are being, treated.

The message is clear. Don’t bother, because it’s being placed on record that the leaders won’t be swayed. Their word is law, though you’re welcome to come in for a cosy little chat now and again.

The letter says the organisation is doing lots of things right and has lots of hardworking employees. I’m sure it has. That’s not the point.

As far as the NHS trust is concerned, we, the little people who pay the taxes, are regarded as no more than vexatious complainants.

Our views are there to be mocked in the office amongst colleagues, our reputations disparaged and insulted, our concerns glossed over and, wherever possible, silenced.

Practically every paragraph in the letter begins with the word “I” – “I believe this or that”, “I support this or that”.

But it is not about what one individual “I” believes or supports.  It is about best and rotten practice. It is about taking proper, justifiable pride in a job well done and facing up to a botched one.

It’s about right and wrong.

I Was Going Back To My Knitting, But Then I Changed My Mind

LB #107days and after..

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I was thinking of retiring Wisegrannie and going back to being Badgrannie, spending my pension on age unsuitable clothing and drink.

You get very tired as you get older. Tired of all the dialogue out there and the holier-than-thou pontificators on every bandwagon that rolls along. You just yearn for a bit of peace and quiet.

I started blogging for LB #107days, because (like all the varied campaign supporters) I felt outraged at his death by neglect. I stopped drinking too (more or less!) and donated the drinks money to the campaign instead.

But at the end of 107days, I wondered.  What comes next?

It’s a lot easier to begin something than keep it going. You jump into a course of action because you’re incensed or desperate to do  something, anything, to show support.  And it feels good to be part of a great team.  That’s something you miss when you’re not in the working world.

But after #107days? The wearing, draining slog to call the health authorities to account goes on, and LB’s family will continue to need  practical and moral support for many months to come.

However, a new suggestion arose out of the #107days campaign- to promote a parliamentary initiative, an LB Bill, to safeguard the rights of LD adults to live in their own home. An open group was set up on Facebook to gather suggestions and ideas regarding this.

This is a whole new angle on the situation.  It brings in all sorts of interested parties. Everybody can have their say. And everybody will!

But the impetus for action will not be the same. This is a planned, political initiative to bring about change. It won’t be raw, grass roots stuff like #107 days.  It can’t be. It’s a different strategy, though no less valuable. Both have their place in improving the life-chances of LD adults.

And let’s be clear-sighted about this.  Once you get into this kind of campaigning, there will be all sorts of different interest groups pushing their own agendas. It won’t be cosy!  There’s going to be argy-bargy! 

So let’s not get too huffy with each other. And let’s not get above ourselves.  No one of us alone has the answer, but together we might just hammer out a way forward.

Perhaps I won’t retire Wisegrannie just yet!

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