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Disability Law Service

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Published in Resources
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 13:28

-George Julien/Mazars/Blog

Psychic families and prophetic consequences #JusticeforLB

This weekend I watched an old film Silent Minority recorded in 1981 (thanks Saskia and Sara for the tip off).


It was filmed 25 35 years ago (thanks for those who noticed it’s even longer than I thought, by ten years), and yet some of the voiceover could as readily apply to what we’ve seen and heard about the failings at #SouthernHealth in the last few years. People left in beds or on beanbags because no-one had the ‘wit or wherewithal’ to imagine a future for them, to support them, to see them (as fully human). Lives lived and arranged around staffing tea breaks (motivational tea party anyone). Incarcerated people doing everything they can to subvert the system (or just trying to communicate – next step PBS bootcamp).

In many ways I think we’ve got nowhere in the intervening 25 years, and that is our responsibility, each and every one of us who make up our crappy society with ideals of containment, paths of least resistance and a discomfort of the sight, sound, smell of difference.

So we pathologise, and label, and snub out any hope or optimism or belief. We create a hell on earth with no imagined future and a sort of living purgatory for anyone who is different and those who love them.

In the last six months, since Southern Health had the Mazars draft, a number of families have complained that they were not listened to. While Southern Health have been orchestrating their PR operation to get some good press and apparently transform their substandard care death reporting for people with learning disabilities or mental illness, here’s what families with the most recent dealings with them, had to say:

  ‘I think lessons need to be learned all around, the communication has been terrible for us to phone nine times about our concerns, I can see there is a lot of people talking in circles and not facing up to the truth that there was not a crisis care package for her and that was one of the reasons for her not being here today’ Doris Cranmer’s family

  ‘Southern Health failed to take into account the very strong feelings of the family that Emma was a suicide risk, particularly as the Easter Sunday was a significant anniversary for her. as it was the 20 year anniversary of her daughter’s death and She had shown signs of severe mental stress and had discussed feelings of suicide with them. Southern Health ignored the family’s concerns and released Emma home with the guarantee of a phone call at seven o’clock that evening. The phone call never materialised and Emma tried to commit suicide four hours later’ Emma Connell’s father, Peter Stuart

This builds on previous incidents too, in 2011 Victoria Nye’s father desperately pleaded with Southern Health:

  ‘Her death sparked a top-level inquiry by health bosses into care given to Victoria and the decision to allow her to return home, despite the desperate pleas of her dad, Graham, who warned she would be dead within hours of her release’

Teresa Colvin died in 2013, and despite the lessons apparently learned by Southern Health by then:

  ‘The hearing heard that during her stay staff failed to tell her husband about the severity of two incidences where she escaped the unit and the coroner accepted that Mr Colvin should have been fully informed…. Mr Colvin insists that “the signs were clearly there” to indicate that she was at real risk of harming herself and believes that Southern Health NHS Trust, which ran the service that has since been closed, “fatally let her down”… I have heard nothing that gives me any doubt that the risk assessment and the quality of management of my wife’s care over the weekend of her admission was inadequate and directly led to her fatality’

The following year, 2014, Jason Kelly died while under the ‘care’ of Southern Health:

  ‘Even on the morning of his death Mrs Kelly says she pleaded to have her son sectioned under the Mental Health Act’

Like LB, Eddie Pearse was only 18 when he died. He too had crossed the magic invisible threshold into adult [non] services, that within Southern Health seemingly equates to completely ignoring any family concern or involvement:

  ‘Once he turned 18 his care was transferred to Southern Health’s adult team meaning his dad was no longer informed of the issues affecting his son and prevented him from taking part in sessions… as soon as they hit 18 they are considered adults, there is no transition… there should have also been a much better handover between the youth and adult mental health service. The paperwork was passed across but there was no meeting’

These parents and family members were all psychic it seems, prophesying what would come to pass and completely sidelined and ignored by staff and systems at Southern Health. Sara predicted what would happen to LB, her greatest fear realised 44 days after she wrote it:

  ‘The thought of him having a seizure, in a locked unit, unnoticed, has generated a new level of distress I can’t describe.  I don’t care how old he is, and I certainly ain’t treating him like a child, but I want to comfort him, and keep a watchful eye for any further seizures. And I can’t’

Not only did Sara predict it, she did everything in her gift to make sure Southern Health staff knew and could care for LB. Sara spoke to staff, she called them, she emailed them, she wrote a blog about it (and we now know her blog was being monitored for reputational risk purposes) and still it was no use.

Despite all of the (false) reassurances about learning lessons, families are still ignored, patients are still just collateral, an inconvenience.  The worse thing is that this plays out in broad daylight, not a sniff of accountability, nothing. 25 35Geeorge Julien/Mazars/Blog years since Silent Minority, our most vulnerable are as vulnerable as they ever were.



Published in News
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 13:03

Mazars report/ scandal says Rob Greig

‘A learning disability scandal is being swept under the carpet’

Rob Greig, former Department of Health director for learning disabilities, says the silence on a damning review of Southern Health is worrying


By Rob Greig

The Justice for LB campaign is widely, and rightly, viewed as one of the most successful examples of the mobilisation of public opinion to challenge service failure.

For those not familiar with it, Connor Sparrowhawk, a young man with learning disabilities, died while under the care of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in July 2013. Given the trust’s failure to accept responsibility, Connor’s family and friends launched the Justice for LB campaign (Laughing Boy, ‘LB’, was Connor’s nickname).

The trust initially said Connor died of ‘natural causes’ but an independent investigation found his death could have been prevented. Last year, an inquest jury found that neglect contributed to his death.

‘Failure of leadership’

Before Christmas, there was a sense that this campaign was leading to real change. Most notably, the findings were revealed from an NHS England-commissioned report (the Mazars review) into Southern Health’s handling of patient deaths.

The report described how the trust had, among other things, failed to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths of people with learning disabilities or mental health conditions. It blamed a “failure of leadership” and warned investigators had “little confidence” the trust fully recognised the need to improve.

Strong words were said by people in authority. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt was “profoundly shocked” by the findings. Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, spoke of the health service being at a “cultural turning point” at which it must change the way it responds to families.

Lack of changes

However, since Christmas, far less has been said. It is also hard to identify any significant change to emerge from the litany of criticism that followed the Mazars report. What has happened to permit the silence that now surrounds this scandal?

Real change should be identifiable in three main places:

1) National policy: The reports and inquest provide learning about diverse issues. The rights of families. Staff training. How NHS trusts are allowed to merge and how their services are regulated. A new government ‘learning disability action plan’ is being developed. The version I’ve seen addresses none of the issues arising from Justice for LB.

2) General NHS practice and behaviour: One of the most disturbing statements in this saga came from Southern Health’s chief executive. She said that what was happening at Southern was no different to other NHS trusts.

A joint NHS England/CQC response to the Mazars review committed to action to find out if this is the case, but that involves a fair bit of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Improving investigation of deaths is good – but the key issue is stopping those deaths in the first place. That requires action around factors such as recognition of rights, family engagement, staff skills and applying real person-centred practice and leadership. The national action around this would be politely described as hard to see.

3) Southern Health: All the indications from Southern Health suggest they are still more concerned with denying responsibility than instigating fundamental change. The initial failure of the trust has been compounded by a persistent failure to accept responsibility. Accepting input from Monitor on how to improve death recording is not a cultural and quality improvement plan.

A fresh start is needed

Many observers remain baffled as to how the trust and NHS England cannot see the need for a fresh start to create that culture.

I’ve never been one to pillory individuals, but it took Connor’s young brother standing up in public to get Ms Percy to apologise directly to the family.

Effective leaders can see when they get things wrong – without needing a series of external reports to speak of ‘failure of leadership’. Out of self-respect, if nothing else, how can the chief executive and other leaders in the trust not accept their responsibility and recognise the need to move on?

Compare and contrast this with what happened after the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal. There, neglect was considered to have caused fewer deaths than went uninvestigated in Southern. Yet senior people lost their jobs, staff were struck off their professional registers, families received compensation, a public inquiry was held and the government placed new, explicit expectations on the NHS, for example around staffing levels.

You cannot help but conclude that government is ascribing a different value to the lives of people with learning disabilities and older people with mental health problems (whose unexpected deaths also commonly went without investigation).

Why the lack of action?

In a recent blog, I described how, during my time as the government’s national director for learning disabilities, a very senior NHS manager said his non-delivery on institutional closure was acceptable because “no-one loses their job for not delivering on the learning disability agenda”. It is time to tell another anecdote.

Over 10 years ago, when the abuse of people with learning disabilities within NHS services in Cornwall was about to be exposed, I argued within the Department of Health (DH) for a robust action plan in response – if only because there would be a strong public demand for one.

A very senior DH official told me this wasn’t needed because “DH gets attacked in the media about the NHS every week. We take it on the chin, apologise for a couple of weeks, and then move on while the media forgets about it because it is attacking us about something else”.

Fortunately, he lost that argument and a task force was sent in to sort things out in Cornwall. However, that mentality remains in key places.

One of the strengths of the Justice for LB campaign is that the family, their friends and allies are not going to forget and move on. There is a need for government, NHS England and Southern Health to show that they have heard and acted on the need for real and discernible consequences and change – and demonstrate that Connor’s death, and those of others, has made a difference for other people with learning disabilities and their families.

Rob Greig is chief executive of the National Development Team for Inclusion. He was the Department of Health’s director for learning disabilities from 2001 to 2008.

Published in Resources
Monday, 08 February 2016 10:59

Salim Razak

Hi, my name is Salim and I work as a Consultant Psychiatrist in a Community Team for people with learning disabilities. I have lots of experience in supporting people with learning disabilities, autism spectrum conditions and other neurodevelopmental conditions such as Aspergers syndrome and ADHD. Some of the people who I support have issues with their mental health, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia etc, some may have issues with their physical health such as epilepsy and some people may have behaviour that others find to challenging to support them with. Some of the people that I work with have spent time in hospital and some people may have been arrested or had to go to Court. As well as giving advice around health, my work also involves giving medicolegal advice to Courts or to hospitals around the use of the Mental Health Act and Mental Capacity Act and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLs).
Sadly, it is still the case that people with learning disabilities continue to experience inequalities in health and a disproportionate number of people are detained in mental health units. I am a passionate advocate for peoples health and rights and believe that we must all challenge these injustices.
Published in Biographies
Tuesday, 05 January 2016 17:29

Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 is the corner-stone of policing: it is the law that governs important state invasions into our civil liberties through stop and search; search and seizure; and arrest and detention without charge. It can seem overwhelmingly complex stuff and I admit that as a PC, I was often confused as to what was going on some of the time!

I remember as a probationary constable watching a group of sergeants scrumming down with a copy of PACE to work out what on earth was going on with a prisoner who had been arrested in another force area and then transferred to the West Midlands. This was all before we had IT to do half the work for you and when calculating legal detention timescales could get very complicated indeed, even to those familiar with PACE!

So here is a series of BLOG posts, not covering the extreme complexities but the various common topics that I hope amounts to a brief but reasonable understanding of what is going on in police custody, for those of you who need to understand it just a little better. It was motivated by a request from an AMHP who found it confusing to consider how PACE affects the MHA assessments and decisions that she was obviously familiar with – I hope this hits the mark Aisling!


Published in Resources

The Rights in Reality blog contains a list of solicitors who have expertise in disability and SEN cases (link opens in a new window).

Published in Resources

The Rights in Reality blog (opens in a new window)  contains commentary on English legal matters.

Published in Resources
Friday, 21 August 2015 08:50

Emma Jones

Emma Jones joined Leigh Day in October 2000.  She completed one year of her training contract at the specialist mental health firm Scott-Moncrieff Harbour and Sinclair and one year at Leigh Day. Emma spent six months training with Sarah Leigh and then moved to the human rights department.  She qualified in October 2002 and remained a member of the human rights department until March 2007.  She then moved to Mind, the mental health charity, where she was head of legal.Emma returned to the human rights department at Leigh Day in September 2009, at which time she worked on bringing the Stafford Hospital group claims.  She now specialises in abuse claims including claims on behalf of children, adults who were abused in childhood, and the abuse of elderly individuals, human rights claims against hospitals, false imprisonment and assault claims and public law challenges. Emma will be available to help from February 2016.

Published in Biographies
Tuesday, 14 July 2015 17:02

Jane Byford

Jane Byford has worked all her working life in the care sector. She started in residential and nursing care and eventually qualified as a manager with a registered 5 qualification with Ling Trust. Since those days she has been one of the major hands on managers with many people coming out of assessment and treatment units, providing hands on help and support and getting people back into the community. Jane is highly respected by many of the people who receive services, professional practitioners and families/carers as a very knowledgeable and practical " doer" with a passion to see people receiving the most effective and genuinely person centred services.

Jane lives in Colchester in Essex. Her own family situation has taught her the values of good care and support. Jane is passionate about her work and will assist you on line in anyway that she can. She may also be able to offer some telephone advice. 


Published in Biographies
Wednesday, 01 July 2015 08:56

Julie Stansfield

Julie is one of the founding members and chief executive of In Control. In Control is a national charity working for an inclusive society where everyone has the support they need to live a good life and make a valued contribution.

Julie has over 25years experience in the health and social care sectors. Julie studied at Huddersfield university business, management and leadership with a strong particular focus on managing change. She was able to put theory into practice, managing considerable change in social and health care commissioning and provider arrangements, covering a variety of disability and health sectors and organisations.

Julie is rooted in her passion for inclusion and enabling people to have the support they need to lead an ordinary life.

In 2003 she was the co founder of the national charity “In Control Partnerships” which instigated self directed support and the personalisation agenda in health and social care policy and practice. This enabled people with disabilities and their families to be more in control of their health and social care provision. 

I can provide on line advice either as an individual or signpost you to others or services through In Control. 


Published in Biographies
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