All The Ingredients Of A Scandal…

The straw that broke the camel’s back as far as the Betsi being placed into special measures was concerned were the events at Tawel Fan (please see blog posts ‘The Tawel Fan Scandal’ and ‘Update on Tawel Fan’ for details), although a lot of people maintain that the Betsi should have been put into special measures long before this.

There has been a lot of academic work published relating to NHS scandals, the events that precede them and unifying themes. For example this chapter by Butler and Drakeford (2005) looks at scandal through the lens of the notorious Ely case scandal_social_policy_and_social_welfare_2_ (There is also a reference to the North Wales Hospital Denbigh in this chapter, ie. that it was observed that the physical conditions at Denbigh were worse than those at Ely.)

This paper by Sally Sheard (2015) is a brief overview concerning abuse, complaints and inquiries in the NHS http://www.historyandpolicy.org/opinion-articles/articles/why-we-never-learn-abuse-complaints-and-inquiries-in-the-nhs

and this paper by Claire Hilton (2016) looks at whistleblowing in the NHS since the 1960s http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/whistle-blowing-in-the-national-health-service-since-the-1960s

And here is a powerpoint presentation by Kieran Walshe looking at unifying themes in the major failures in the NHS since 1968 http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/sites/files/nuffield/kieran-walshe-learning-from-the-past-may10.pdf

Some of the features identified in these publications include: poor communication, overbearing hierarchical management, dysfunctional organisations, failing to act on patients complaints, the attacking of complainants, the discrediting and marginalising of whistleblowers, problems in recruiting staff, the blaming of patients, the view that ‘doctors know best’, the belief that the NHS is ‘the best in the world’, long-standing problems that are well-known but not tackled, endemic secrecy, failing staff being allowed to exit ‘without a fuss’ or simply being moved around. All of these features have been obvious in the north Wales mental health services. One of the co-authors of one of the papers quoted above was Mark Drakeford, who later entered politics and was the Health Minister who finally placed the Betsi in special measures in 2015. Mark Drakeford is a very capable social scientist and knows exactly what a troubled organisation looks like. Before he entered politics professionally he was Special Advisor to Rhodri Morgan, when Rhodri Morgan was First Minister. When so many of us were raising concerns about the mental health services in north Wales…

Many of the articles that I have referred to above mention the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, the most high profile NHS failure in recent years. The man who chaired the public enquiry into Mid-Staffs (and who has chaired a number of other enquiries into high profile NHS scandals) was Sir Robert Francis QC. Before he became famous for chairing these enquiries, Robert Francis was a barrister who was frequently employed by the Medical Defence Union. I know this because many, many years ago when psychiatrists in north Wales first began demanding that I should be prosecuted, on one occasion Robert Francis acted for one of them. Robert Francis was well aware of what I was maintaining was going on in the north Wales mental health services. Interestingly enough, at one point my lawyers obtained correspondence between psychiatrists in north Wales and their lawyers. Their own lawyers were telling them that prosecuting me was ridiculous – yet this course of action was followed. Post Mid-Staffs Robert Francis has reframed himself as a patients champion and is now the President of the Patients Association. He is also a non-executive Board member of the Care Quality Commission and chaired the Freedom to Speak Up Review, exploring NHS whistleblowing. There is on-going criticism of the Care Quality Commission as it continues to fail to identify and take effective action against abuse and neglect in services. Many campaigners maintained that Francis had not gone far enough regarding his recommendations in the wake of the Freedom to Speak Up Review. I often wonder what Robert Francis thought was going on in north Wales twenty five years ago and whether he remembers that part of his glorious career.

Walshe’s presentation mentions many scandals with which many members of the public are familiar, eg. Harold Shipman, Mid-Staffs. However he also mentions the Kerr/Haslam scandal, which received far less publicity, particularly considering what was involved. William Kerr and Michael Haslam were two psychiatrists in North Yorkshire who for decades sexually abused and exploited their female patients. Their conduct was widely known and was the subject of much gossip locally, yet the patients who dared complain were told that they’d never be believed against a consultant. A nurse who raised concerns about them was demoted and an academic who was making enquiries about their activities was threatened. This didn’t happen generations ago in some other era – it came to light in the late 1990s and the Inquiry into Kerr and Haslam was published in 2005. Considering what Kerr and Haslam actually did and for how long they did it for, the consequences for them were not as devastating as one might have expected. Here is an excellent account of what went on http://pb.rcpsych.org/content/30/6/204

At this point I would refer readers to my blog posts ‘How No-one Knew About Dr Dafydd Alun Jones’ and ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’. And perhaps we could all ponder further on why scandals just keep on happening in the NHS no matter how many millions are spent on public enquiries chaired by people like Robert Francis.

 

 

 

After The Betsi Came Into Being

My blog post ‘After The Attempt To Frame Me’ gives details of some of the things that were happening to me as the North West Wales NHS Trust breathed it’s last. Havoc had broken out in the region’s NHS and I was hearing anecdotes that the old regime were livid at Edwina Hart’s attempts to destroy their power base and were openly stating that they would not co-operate with the newly established Betsi Board (which was at that point very much better than the mediocrities sitting on the Board at the time of writing) and that they would bring down the new CEO, Mary Burrows. (I will be blogging more about the chaos that prevailed and the numerous efforts that were made from within to sabotage the new Board.)

I very much appreciated Edwina’s attempts to deal with the serious problems in the north Wales NHS – although she should never have allowed the previous failing staff and managers to be redeployed into the new Board and there should undoubtedly have been a police investigation into some of what was happening – and I had met Mary Burrows who was certainly very much more impressive than Martin Jones, the CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust and Elfed Roberts, the Chairman of that Trust. I had e mailed Edwina directly many times regarding what was happening to me and others at the hands of the mental health services and I made it clear to her that I wanted to support her efforts to improve services and I wanted to support Mary Burrows as well. After Elfed Roberts had used DC Steve Power to harass and intimidate me, I e mailed Edwina to reassure her that no matter what had happened to me previously, I did not hold her or Mary Burrows responsible. I knew who were causing problems in north Wales and I knew many of the people who were colluding with them. I received this reply from Edwina 064091

So Edwina accepted that I wanted to work with the new Board. Once the new Board had been established, I tried to arrange a meeting to discuss the enormous problems that I had encountered with the mental health services and how we could move forward (a nice bit of NHS speak there). However this proved to be very difficult indeed. Far from calling a truce – let alone apologising for what had gone on – the mental health services decided to continue being as objectionable as possible. The Board had changed but the mental health services certainly hadn’t. Mary Burrows suggested that I meet with the Chief of Staff for mental health, Dr Giles Harborne, for discussions. I did not know Giles Harborne but I knew that he was a psychiatrist who had worked at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh – so perhaps I should have realised that this was going to end badly.

In February 2010 I received an e mail saying:

Kay Roney here standing in for Giles’ PA on her annual leave.
I am attempting to set the ball rolling in setting up a meeting.   I have access to his time both here and in Wrexham and alternate weeks in Bangor.  Which is most suitable for you?
Regards
Kay Roney
General Office Manager
I replied:

thanks for this.

bangor would be easier for me if that’s ok with you – do you have any idea of which venue in bangor dr harborne would wish to use for the meeting?

diolch

I then received:
Would 31st March be soon enough?
He has Board Executives’ meeting Wednesday mornings and these are alternately at Ysbyty Bangor – the venue would need to be handy for that.   I think he is free after 1pm on those days   If that is suitable to you i will leave it to himself to set the venue.
Regards
Kay
So I replied:

hi there

yes march 31st will be ok for me. could you let me know where he’d like to meet in case it poses a problem for me?

diolch

In reply I received this:

please see below – if this is acceptable to you let me know and that will confirm

And ‘below’ was this ‘reply’ (if that’s what these few words could be counted as) from Giles Harborne:

From: GILES HARBORNE (Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board – Mental Health) Sent: 08 February 2010 20:35 To: Marlene Maddock ((Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board – Mental Health) Subject: RE: Meet with Giles Harborne

12

bangor, suggest college road

 

‘College Road’ was, I presumed, a reference to 26 College Road, the base of the notorious Arfon Community Mental Health Team, who, years earlier, had proudly boasted of acquiring an injunction against me preventing me from entering that building and who had tried to have me imprisoned for actually walking past it (please see my blog posts ‘The Arfon Community Mental Health Team’ and ‘Gwynedd Social Services and the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal’ for details). So I could hardly meet Giles there. I replied:

12 noon should be fine.

i’m sure that dr harborne isn’t trying to trap me here, but i think the world and his wife are aware that the previous denizens of 26 college road made much of obtaining a high court injunction preventing me from going into that building – they even took me to the high court in chester in an attempt to have me imprisoned because they saw me on the pavement outside!

could someone suggest a rather more neutral place please where i can be absolutely certain that a face from the past is not going to leap out from a broom cupboard and scream at all and sundry to arrest me?? my god can we please show some sensitivity in the planning of this meeting?

In reply I received this from Mary Burrows:

Sally

I’ve just seen your email so thanks for copying me into this.

Let me reassure you that Dr Harborne will be unaware of what you have experienced. There is no hidden agenda I assure you.

Is there another venue you would prefer?

So I replied:

its ok, i did assume that it was cock up rather than conspiracy. i am simply wondering what on earth i have to do to indicate that yes i am well aware of how very serious the misconduct of your predecessors was, no i do not want to cause the new regime difficulty, but i am beginning to wonder how on earth we are going to get any sort of resolution here because everyone in the nhs either hates me, is terrified of what i could do to them, or is too guilty/embarrassed to face me because of what they were complicit with. meanwhile i have to put up with elfed, martin, huw daniel and uncle tom cobley and all pompousing around the local area pretending that no wrongdoing ever occurred at all.

i suspect that the new regime knows intellectually what went on but fails to understand that inviting me to meet a denbigh-trained psychiatrist at 26 college road is a bit like inviting a relative of one of fred wests victims to a meeting in cromwell street in gloucester. and if giles harborne doesn’t know what went on between me and college road i think thats pretty remiss of him – not only have most of them all recently been booted out, but the previous denizens led a very high profile vendetta against me dating from 1986, which involved telling anyone who would listen that I was a dangerous psychopath and should be ‘locked up’, perjuring themselves repeatedly in various high court cases in attempts to get me imprisoned, telling my landlords and neighbours and employers that i was dangerous and when i began teacher training announced that they would ensure that ‘no decent person will have anything to do with her’. i understand that they were ably assisted by one dr dafydd alun jones in all this – giles will know him, he was one of giles’s old colleagues from denbigh – jones was very cross indeed because i complained about him… i was called a lying cow for 25 years which was certainly interesting because when i finally extracted my medical notes via the high court, there was a letter in there from jones to a psychiatrist in london in which he stated that i was attractive and seductive… so obviously i was a lying cow who deserved to be ruthlessly hounded for 25 years because of what i said about poor old jones. the whole of north wales was well aware that jones did this sort of thing to me – and to scores of other young female patients – and believe me, giles will have known it too.

i’ve had to come home from work and have spent most of the afternoon feeling suicidal because once again another encounter with someone from the regional mental health services has proved exhausting, upsetting and disastrous.

i’m fairly sure you’ll manage to kill me in the end and then your bloody problem will be solved won’t it.

Then I received this from Giles’s PA:
Hi Sally,
I really am sorry about this but I have had to cancel your meeting with Dr Harborne on Wed 31 March 2010.
I have, however, managed to rearrange the meeting for Wednesday 14th April at 12.30 in the Bodfaen Unit, Craig-y-Don Road, Upper Bangor.
I would be most grateful if you could let me know if this is convenient for you.
Once again please accept my apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.
I replied:

hi there

i assumed that this meeting had been cancelled anyway actually!! no problem, i’m not free on the 31st anymore anyway.

please don’t worry about apologising for the inconvenience – i do know that this is a difficult situation and i do understand how busy you all are. can i get back to you very shortly – i’m getting something ready for a deadline here and i’ve probably been banned from bodfaen by the organisation that the betsi succeeded anyway – i think the eventual verdict from martin jones and elfed roberts was that i’d been banned from everywhere at all times. i think it also needs to be made clear exactly what i’m meeting giles harborne for, whether there will be anyone else in the building etc etc. i would like to discuss the terms of engagement – i think april 14th should be ok…

diolch

Then I received:

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to reply sooner, as you know I have been away and stuff has piled up in my absence.    The meeting as I have set it up will be between yourself and  Dr Harborne only, but he has also invited Robert Evans, Head of Community Services, to be present.  The theme of the meeting as I understand it is to address issues that you yourself have raised.Regards

I was getting pretty fed up by now so I sent this reply:

hi there

thanks for this.

if that is the rob evans who was many years ago a manager in gwynedd social services, then more recently something related to the mental health services on anglesey, who at one point accused me of ‘arrassin’ him in a supermarket, then i do not want him there!! in fact to be honest, i don’t want anyone else there but dr harborne, unless mary burrows wants to be present. i know there is now a different board of directors at the new health board (although martin and grace have had to be redeployed into new non-jobs) and i have no problem meeting people like giles harborne and mary, but i’m not going to waste my time with people who for decades did their very best to ensure that i died or went to prison. giles does not need a bodyguard, so does not need to invite other people along. i’m the one putting my head in the lions den, not him

so could you please confirm that there will only be giles harborne there – or giles harborne and mary?? and if i do turn up to meet giles and/or mary and i find a gang of fools who just happen to be popping into bodfaen in the course of their work, i’ll leave straight away. my opinion of them will not change, they had 25 years to behave appropriately towards myself and others but they just wouldn’t.

diolch,

cofion cynnes,

It got worse – this was sent in reply:

I discussed your email with Dr Harborne.  He would be happy to have an independent third party at your meeting, eg an advocate, or someone from UNLLAIS or Mind etc given the history of misunderstandings on both sidesWould you be happy for me to arrange this?  
Kind regards
I wrote back:

no i really don’t need an idiot from unllais or mind or any other of the organisations that stood back without comment and watched martin et al repeatedly try to kill me or imprison me. i am a grown up and i am capable of speaking to giles by myself – i just don’t want people from the nhs who i know are capable of lying to bear false witness again.

i also think it would give you all a little bit more credibility not to dismiss what i have been through as ‘misunderstandings’. it was gross negligence and criminal conduct and the one thing that i find irritating is everyone trying to pretend that it really wasn’t that bad. it was.

i am honestly trying to work with you all here – i can only imagine the mess that mary et al have to clean up in the wake of martin and elfed – but i really wish you’d all stop trying to pretend that you have any cards to play, because frankly you don’t, so can we now begin to have honest discussions before my goodwill is exhausted??? i am getting VERY fed up, as i continue to be hassled by fat louts like stephen gallagher even as i am buying buns. [This was a reference to the dreadful Stephen Gallagher (as featured in my blog post ‘Two Dangerous and Very Dishonest Nurses’) trying his best to intimidate me when I bumped into him in Caernarfon.]

diolch

Then this arrived:
Hi Sally,
My apologies for the short notice but I have to cancel your meeting with Dr Harborne tomorrow as you have declined the offer of somebody from UNLLAIS etc being involved.  Dr Harborne still feels having another person present at the meeting would be helpful to both of you and therefore I will arrange a further meeting and ask a service manager or senior nurse from another area to attend to assist in resolving the issues you have raised.
I apologise for any inconvenience  this may cause and will notify you of the date as soon as I am able.
By this point I really had had enough of Giles and his patronising suggestions. I replied:

thanks for this, but i was expecting it!

i am under no obligation at all to discuss sensitive personal issues with a ‘service user representative’. indeed, if giles wants, i am happy to forward him a publication that i co-authored that explores many of the problems inherent in the notion of ‘service user involvement/advocacy’. i expect to be further exploring this asinine notion in a book about neoliberal health reform this summer.

neither do i intend to discuss sensitive personal issues with a ‘service manager’ or ‘senior nurse’ from another area. my privacy has been routinely and grossly invaded for the last 25 years and it stops here. i have so far turned down a number of offers from the media to talk about what happened to me at the hands of the nw wales nhs trust and i am saddened that having shown this much patience and tolerance (more than was ever shown to me even when i was seriously ill), that the betsi feels unable to meet me to resolve such serious problems. barely a week passes without the welsh media reporting some appalling situation that prevailed under the nw wales nhs trust that resulted in the death of a patient – i think i have been clear that i am sorry that the impression being given to the general public that these incidents were the fault of the present regime and that i do not want to give anyone any ammunition to throw at the current regime. i continue to be harrassed and intimidated by your staff who made my acquaintance by contact with me through the nw wales trust; i assume that the mountains of grossly defamatory rubbish that was documented as fact upon my medical records still exists; i continue to live in hiding because of the constant threats and intimidation to which i have been subjected by people associated with the nw wales trust; i have no access to any medical care at all because i still have no assurance that i will not be assaulted by staff or arrested for crimes that i haven’t committed.

i don’t know how much the betsi are paying for the highly risk-averse legal advisors that are telling giles et al not to communicate with me, but i suspect that the betsi are wasting their money.

 

I never did meet with Giles, although some time later I met with Mary Burrows and her deputy Geoff Lang. They were very pleasant although I did notice that they were being very careful what they said to me. Mary however apologised at what I had been through at the hands of the NHS. She is the only person who has ever done this. The mental health services continued on to catastrophe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Bad News Re Mental Health Services: November 14 2016

The Daily Post online is running another north Wales mental health bad news story today http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/more-100-north-wales-psychiatric-12169525

So the Betsi is now spending vast sums of money and sending many mental health patients to England for care. I note that the Betsi spokesperson maintained that it was essential that patients were treated by ‘fully trained staff’ on a ‘purpose designated ward’ – which is of course true. Is this some sort of admission at last that the north Wales mental health services are so bad that they don’t have many ‘fully trained staff’ or ‘purpose designated wards’ and that the only way of keeping patients safe is to send them out of the region because the Betsi can’t afford any more scandals?

Once again Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid) has waded into the debate. She comments that ‘this is not a health service fit for our communities in north Wales’. She’s dead right – but this hasn’t been a health service fit for our communities for a very long time and her colleagues have been strangely silent with Hywel Williams (Plaid) actively colluding with this dreadful service. Liz makes some rather more interesting comments as well. She remarks that ‘it is symptomatic of the crisis that Ysbyty Gwynedd is effectively reliant on the police to provide extra security and back up help for patients with challenging behaviour’. I’m not sure that Liz is being particularly transparent here – the Hergest Unit has been well known for years for calling the police and mounting prosecutions against patients for astonishingly trivial reasons, rather than any real cases of ‘challenging behaviour’. (Many of the posts on this blog describe such instances.) I was prosecuted for calling a manager a ‘fat idiot’, over the phone, to a secretary. Someone else I know was prosecuted for telling a nurse on the phone that he was so suicidal that he felt like chopping a gas pipe. He ended up in prison on remand but was never actually charged. One young man hung himself in prison in Liverpool hours after the Hergest Unit insisted that he was prosecuted and remanded in custody for ‘attempted robbery’. According to this man’s wife, this was a man who was psychotic, who had escaped from the Hergest Unit into the adjoining car park and had tried to get into a nurse’s car in a rather incompetent escape attempt. The police attempted to persuade the Hergest Unit to readmit him but they refused, insisting that he be prosecuted and remanded in prison. (After his death his wife rang the Hergest Unit to ask if she could collect his clothes – they told her that they were too busy to go looking for patients property.)

One thing that many patients who were dealt with by the police, or indeed prosecuted, had in common was that they had complained about the mental health services. Allegations that patients were ‘violent’ or even ‘dangerous’ were routinely made by the mental health services to deflect serious complaint. When patients demonstrated that staff had lied and that the patients had not conducted themselves as accused there were no investigations and no apologies. No questions were asked even in the event of court cases collapsing against patients repeatedly. Far from being serious criminals in the making, these were distressed patients utterly frustrated with a system that was obviously institutionally corrupt and failing to address serious malpractice, even when evidence was produced.

Liz calls on the Health Board to be open about staffing levels and how staff are ‘supported’ to work with mental health patients. The Health Board doesn’t even need to bother to answer this – it is admitted that there is a staffing crisis at the Hergest Unit and there has been for years because no-one wants to work there such is it’s dreadful reputation. And staff are not ‘supported’ to work with patients at all – numerous Hergest Unit patients can give first-hand accounts of the aggressive, intimidating, callous behaviour of Hergest Unit staff. If this is what Liz is referring to, she should perhaps be a little more frank and make reference to the pervasive abuse and neglect in the mental health services.

 

A Visit To Gwynedd Archives

A couple of days ago I found references in Hansard from 1989 to serious problems – namely a huge financial overspend and mismanagement – in Gwynedd Health Authority http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1989/mar/23/gwynedd-health-authority

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1989/mar/23/gwynedd-health-authority-1

Ieaun Wyn Jones (then the Plaid MP for Ynys Mon) and Dafydd Wigley (Plaid MP for Caernarfon at the time) had both angrily spoken in the Commons about people in Gwynedd having to suffer because of the actions of Gwynedd Health Authority, who, surprise surprise, were considered to have not been held accountable for their mismanagement. I noticed that Wyn Roberts (Conservative, Minister of State at the Welsh Office) was also involved in the debate.

By the time that this debate was taking place, I had been in contact with Wyn Roberts regarding events involving the north Wales mental health services – only to receive rather unhelpful bland replies. (Before I wrote to Wyn Roberts, a psychiatrist in north Wales had snapped at me ‘you can even write to the Secretary of State if you want’. He was obviously very confident that he and his colleagues were not going to be questioned about their conduct too closely.) It had become apparent to me that institutional corruption was at work. (Please see blog posts ‘Hippocratic Oath or Hypocritic Oaf’, ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’ and ‘Gwynedd Social Services and the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal’.)

Yesterday I decided to see if I could find out more by visiting Gwynedd Archives (there is very little on the internet about Gwynedd Health Authority, it was abolished/rearranged before the advent of the internet). I then discovered something interesting – there is very little publicly available regarding Gwynedd Health Authority. The files that are of most interest to me are all classified as ‘closed for thirty years’. Then I found the reference to files relating to the North Wales Hospital Denbigh – ‘closed for 100 years’. Well fancy that! And there is no information available regarding the identities of most of the people who actually sat on this useless Health Authority who had mismanaged so badly – although if I ever do manage to find out who they were no doubt there’ll be some familiar names from the past.

So I read what was available. There was a consultative document issued by Gwynedd Health Authority dated 1987, regarding maternity and psychiatric services. This document describes Seiriol and Dwynwen psychiatric wards in Ysbyty Gwynedd as being ‘unsuitable’ for mental illness provision. This document also states that Gwynedd Health Authority had recently been subjected to a major examination of most aspects of its services due to the ‘large and increasing overspend situation’ and that the Welsh Office had sent in a team of management consultants. There was also a letter from David Hunt MP (at that time one of Margaret Thatcher’s junior ministers) to Noreen Edwards, the Chairman of Gwynedd Health Authority. The financial crisis was so bad that it was going to affect the Health Authority for the next few years and this was why there were plans to cut services. So during the first few years during the period of time when I was raising concerns with politicians and regulatory bodies regarding serious misconduct in the mental health services, it was well-known that Gwynedd Health Authority was in deep trouble – and of course the abusive regime at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh was common knowledge. Furthermore, Gwynedd Health Authority, whilst experiencing such serious financial problems that the Welsh Office were brought in, clearly took the view that no expense would be spared in pursuing me through the courts, sometimes on very serious charges, although they did not have the evidence to substantiate their allegations. All this was very public. But no questions were asked.

One of my friends knows one of the men who was abused in the north Wales children’s homes when he was young. This man has now emigrated to Australia but was recently approached by someone involved in the recent investigations into the north Wales child abuse scandal who asked him if he’d come forward with his account. He said no, because ‘everyone knew what was happening to us at the time and no-one was interested’. (He felt that the current displays of concern for him and his peers are hypocritical.) It seems that the situation in the mental health services was very similar – everyone knew what was happening but they were doing nothing to stop it. And even decades later, the identities of the people involved are concealed. Indeed the children’s services and mental health services in north Wales used an identical strategy to discredit anyone trying to bring their wrongdoing into the public domain – they criminalised them. Whereas I was repeatedly prosecuted for ludicrous offences such as ‘walking past 26 College Road’ or ‘staring at a social worker’, I noted that in one of the recent child abuse trials in north Wales one of the children had been arrested for ‘stealing a packet of chewing gum’. The far more serious wrongdoing of the whole network of people surrounding the individuals making these ridiculous allegations was ignored – and when anyone tried to complain about them it was stated that the complainants couldn’t be believed because they were ‘criminals’.

There were a few other interesting documents in the archives. One of these was a report, Commissioning Adult Mental Health Services, Gwynedd Health Authority, 1994-1995, by Alistair McQuaid. The language in this report is familiar to those of us who remember the zeitgeist of healthcare policy at the time – there was much talk of ’empowerment’ and Mr McQuaid was delighted at the establishment of the Gwynedd Users Forum (please see my blog post ‘Service User Involvement in North Wales’ for an account of what a travesty this was). Mr McQuaid mentioned that Arfon Community Mental Health Team exhibited ‘good practice’ by employing a student counsellor – yet there are indications that all was not well in reality because Mr McQuaid commented on the lack of a crisis and out of hours service (a lack that was never rectified). Had Mr McQuaid talked to anyone but the co-opted and unrepresentative ‘Service Users Forum’, he would have found out exactly what the notorious Arfon CMHT were doing (please see blog post ‘The Arfon Community Mental Health Team’).

The Gwynedd Health Plan, April 1994-March 1997, is a similar document. It enthuses about plans to develop community mental health services (such development never actually happened) and states that there is a commitment to ‘increasing the direct involvement of service users in the planning and development of local health services’ (which was obviously why a well used and popular day centre was shut down against the wishes of the majority of the ‘service users’ themselves). There is of course references to the Patients Charter – a well publicised Government initiative of the time, which barely touched the lives and experiences of mental health patients in north Wales. Again in keeping with the spirit of the times, the Health Plan describes complaints as being ‘key indicators of the quality of service provided’ – the Health Plan states that a plan will be agreed with the Commissioners of services which will ‘ensure that complaints are dealt with effectively’. This never happened – complaints about the mental health services in north Wales were not then, and are still not now, dealt with effectively. Furthermore, the more serious the complaint the less likely it is to be dealt with effectively. Indeed, there are still enormous problems regarding complaints per se in the NHS in north Wales -this story appeared on BBC News Wales yesterday http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-37837632

So in 1987 in north Wales, there was an abusive, neglectful mental health service which failed to deal with complaints properly and a Health Authority that was deeply in debt due to gross mismanagement and the Welsh Office had been called in. In 2016 in north Wales there is an abusive, neglectful mental health service which fails to deal with complaints properly and a Health Board deeply in debt due to gross mismanagement that the Welsh Govt’t has put in special measures. In 1987 Dr Peter Higson was a manager in the north Wales mental health services. In 2016 Dr Peter Higson is Chairman of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board that covers the whole of north Wales. Such is evolution in the NHS. The patients are still dying but Peter Higson (and numerous others) have done really well out of this system.

 

Two Dangerous Very Dishonest Nurses

In other blog posts I have stressed how staff are very rarely disciplined, yet alone removed, from the mental health services in north Wales, no matter how serious their misconduct or how much evidence is produced demonstrating this. This seems to be true of staff in the rest of the NHS in north Wales as well. To illustrate this, I will recount here the terrifying tale of Stephen Gallagher and Alan Roberts. My encounters with these two men occurred when they were both employed as senior nurses at Ysbyty Gwynedd when it was run by the North West Wales NHS Trust and Martin Jones was the CEO and Elfed Roberts was the Chairman.

For substantial periods of time I was left with no access to healthcare despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. (Other posts on this blog will describe the wilful failure of Martin Jones to enable me to access care and treatment despite the best efforts of my lawyers – the Trust eventually admitted (in a meeting from which I was excluded) a ‘serious failure’ to provide care. Unbelievably the serious failures simply continued even after this admission.) Like many other patients whom the Trust had flatly refused to treat, on a number of occasions I tried to get help from the A&E dept in Ysbyty Gwynedd. This turned out to be a high risk strategy.

One such occasion was in October 2006. My father had died a few hours previously, my moods had been unstable and I was feeling suicidal. So I went to A&E to ask for an assessment. I was met by a phenomenally aggressive Scottish nurse whom I later found out to be a Stephen Gallagher. I had never met Gallagher before, yet he flatly refused to assess or treat me. He told me that if I was suicidal I should be ‘in a cell’. He shouted and raged at me, in full view of other waiting patients, and yelled at me that he was going to call the police. Other staff on duty in A&E at the time witnessed all this and none of them said a word. They continued with their ‘duties’ as though Gallagher behaving like this was entirely routine. Throughout Gallagher’s extraordinary performance, I sat quietly on a chair in A&E, refusing to move, hoping that I would be eventually be seen by someone rather more rational than this man. That didn’t happen and Gallagher called the police, although I had broken no law. Gallagher maintained that I had been threatening and abusive. Despite a whole A&E dept watching the events, I noted that Gallagher didn’t actually produce any witnesses to my alleged threats and abuse. The police were friendly and a good deal nicer than Gallagher and took me over to the part of the hospital that housed the on-call GP service. Where once more I was refused treatment, although by now the police had left so they didn’t witness this.

There was then an attempt to throw me off the hospital premises entirely. I was sitting quietly in a public waiting area – it was a weekend, so there were very few people around, just a receptionist and an elderly couple sitting on the seats near me – when a man wearing boots more usually seen on labourers approached me and told me to get out. He did not have an identity badge on him and was not wearing any sort of identifiable uniform. I asked him who he was and he told me that he ‘was in charge’. I told him that this was not actually a very informative answer, but I still wasn’t given a name or role. He simply repeated that he was ‘in charge of the whole hospital’ and started kicking the chairs around me with his substantial boots, saying things like ‘I’m in charge of these chairs’ and ‘I’m in charge of the fire extinguishers’ and other nonsensical statements. He became so aggressive that the elderly couple next to me left as quickly as it was possible for them to do so and I noticed that the receptionist had disappeared too. I was alone in a waiting area with a man who was behaving very oddly. After he told me that he was in charge of the chairs and fire-extinguishers I told him that may well be true but I doubted that he was in charge of things like neurosurgery. (Although I very much doubt that there was any neurosurgery at all at Ysbyty Gwynedd – the hospital was in such dire straits that even the NHS wouldn’t have trusted it with neurosurgery.) My comment made him very irate and he got a lot louder and a lot nastier and carried on kicking things, getting closer and closer to me, circling around my chair. At one point he accused me of ‘impersonating a GP’. I asked him what on earth he was talking about and he replied that I’d told someone that I was Dr Sally Baker. I told him that was true, that I had a PhD so I was entitled to use that title – at no point had I ever suggested that I was a GP. He responded by saying ‘you’re not a fucking doctor’. I offered to show him my driving licence as identity – at this point he completely lost it. I realised that whoever this man was he was clearly not rational and seemed to be getting dangerously near to hitting me – I left the hospital quickly out of self-preservation.

Over the next few days I contacted my lawyer regarding these events and my friends also became aware of what had happened (my friends were always very supportive and did the job of the mental health services for the substantial periods of time that the mental health services decided that they were not going to do what they were paid for.) I found out that the first aggressive Scottish nurse whom I had encountered was a Stephen Gallagher – and that the complete madman in labourer’s boots was, unbelievably, a ‘nurse practitioner’ called Alan Roberts.

I – and later my lawyers – made representation about Gallagher’s and Roberts’s conduct to Martin Jones. Martin made the usual smears that were made whenever I (or anyone else) raised complaint about NHS staff – that I had been ‘threatening’ and ‘abusive’ and that’s why poor intimidated Gallagher had called the police. My lawyer then made Martin aware that there were CCTV cameras in the A&E dept (not to mention scores of witnesses – and that I had not been charged with any offence by the police), CCTV cameras that would reveal what had actually gone on in A&E that day. Martin then wrote back saying that the CCTV tapes had been destroyed. My lawyer then correlated times, dates and other relevant information and pointed out to Martin that the CCTV tapes had not been destroyed until after I had made complaint about Gallagher and after he had made his allegations about me. Somehow I don’t think that CCTV recording showed me being aggressive or threatening at all – I think that it recorded Gallagher abusing a patient in full view of the whole dept with no other staff intervening. Despite a large amount of correspondence passing between Martin Jones, Angela Hopkins (the then Director of Nursing), my lawyer and I, no light was ever shed on the mystery of the destroyed CCTV tapes, or Gallagher’s appalling behaviour – and as for Alan Roberts and his terrifying aggression, there was simply silence from the hospital. Furthermore, after my lawyer requested the medical records relating to the interaction between Gallagher and me, we were told that the records couldn’t be found. And indeed they never were found – although we did discover a document written by Gallagher claiming that I ‘had held a nurse hostage’. I have never ‘held a nurse hostage’ and had never even been accused of such a thing until Gallagher decided to write this down. No amount of correspondence with the North West Wales NHS Trust ever shed any light on this very serious completely fallacious allegation that Gallagher had made about me.  The whole incident with Gallagher and Alan Roberts was never ever investigated – the way that NHS complaints were investigated at the time involved a ‘lay-reviewer’. This type of investigation has since been deemed by successive Governments as being very tortuous and highly unsatisfactory, with evidence that ‘lay-reviewers’ were frequently little more than stooges. It was interesting therefore to note that in this case the lay-reviewer stated that he was unable to conduct an investigation because Martin Jones refused to co-operate with the investigation. (Martin’s obstructiveness and unpleasantness during all this will be detailed elsewhere on this blog.)

Interestingly enough, in the spring of 2008, Stephen Gallagher hit the national media. He was being hailed as a hero in his capacity as a Territorial Army medical officer. Claims were made about Stephen Gallagher saving the life of a ten year old boy in Afghanistan eg. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/7288128.stm Further enquiries revealed that the only role Gallagher had actually played in this medical drama was to make a telephone call. I was told that it was the authorities at the North West Wales NHS Trust who had given this story to the press, not the Territorial Army. Issues raised regarding confidentiality and ethics (photographs of the boy’s relatives and X Rays of the boy had been released to the press) were not addressed.

Stephen Gallagher was to touch my life again. I continued to encounter serious problems in accessing healthcare. In June 2008 I was once more experiencing severe mood swings. I didn’t dare go to A&E in person because I had continued to experience much harassment and unpleasantness from staff employed by the local NHS and indeed from Martin Jones himself. So one night, feeling very bad, instead I rang A&E hoping for advice. I gave my name and was put through to none other than Stephen Gallagher. Who slammed the phone down. I rang again, another member of staff answered and when they realised it was me, the phone was slammed down again. This happened six or seven times. I then rang a friend and her husband to tell them what was happening. They rang A&E – only to be met with rudeness and hostility and to be told that ‘there were policies and procedures for dealing with Ms Baker’. They were then accused of ‘harassing and manipulating’ A&E staff. At this point my friend revealed that she actually worked in the hospital herself, was appalled at what was going on and the way that she had been responded to and would be making a complaint – Gallagher’s response was to threaten her position in the hospital. It was poignant that the day on which all this happened was the 60th anniversary of the NHS. Whilst Gallagher et al were slamming phones down on me and abusing and threatening my friends, TV programmes were being screened ‘celebrating’ the NHS and its achievements. Clearly a nurse carrying on like Gallagher was exactly what Nye Bevan dreamed of. I spent the night at the house of two other friends because as usual it was clearly unsafe for me to approach the NHS for help that night. (I was later told by the friend who had been threatened by Gallagher that when she went into work the next day she was met by a posse of managers and subjected to a full-scale interrogation regarding how long she had been friends with me and how did she know me. It was alleged that I was ‘using staff’ to ‘get at’ the senior managers of the Trust. Gallagher’s behaviour was not an issue up for discussion.)

As ever, I then raised my concerns with the delightful Martin Jones and Elfed Roberts regarding events on that night. As ever, I got nowhere, although this time I couldn’t be accused of being harassing, abusive etc because I hadn’t even been in the hospital. And two members of the public had ended up being insulted and threatened by Gallagher. I then asked for copies of the policies and procedures for ‘dealing with’ me that Gallagher had referred to over the phone when speaking to my friend. Martin denied that any such policy existed. I then managed to acquire a copy of a document that claimed to be a ‘procedure’ for dealing with me. Interestingly enough it referred to me being ‘potentially violent but unlikely to be so’. This phrase encapsulates the idiocy and slander that is inherent in the mental health services in north Wales. Somebody is either violent or they are not. And I have never been ‘violent’ and no-one can ever demonstrate that I have been. (My lawyer had a wonderful phrase for the constant supply of very serious but totally unfounded allegations that the mental health services made about me – ‘institutional fairy tales’.) As ever, no-one was able to shed light on this libellous document (or Martin’s lie when he denied that it existed) – although I was told that it had been ‘approved’ by a Dr Pauline Cutting and the notorious Angela Hopkins.

I then discovered something else. That Stephen Gallagher had previously been the subject of a complaint by a doctor, that Gallagher had been reprimanded and that it was concluded that his ‘competence and integrity’ could not be relied upon. So despite this, that hospital continued to employ him in a front-line role, unsupervised, dealing with sensitive situations. And when I subsequently made complaints about him, the hospital was defensive and aggressive, CCTV evidence was destroyed and there was no appropriate investigation even when two members of the public had been insulted and threatened by Gallagher. This complaint regarding Gallagher was never investigated either – after getting nowhere with Martin Jones and Elfed Roberts, I eventually wrote to Edwina Hart, the Minister for Health. I understand that Edwina wrote to the North West Wales NHS Trust requesting that they investigate my complaint. They ignored her and indeed continued to ignore her request that my complaint be investigated until the North West Wales NHS Trust was abolished in 2009.

It didn’t get any better though. Alan Roberts then hit the local media. He was standing trial at Caernarfon Magistrates Court, accused of assaulting and injuring an 88 year old female patient. The incident had occurred in 2010 and had only ever come to light because another nurse had witnessed it and was so horrified by what she saw that she blew the whistle. (A friend and I went to the court and sat in the public gallery. As we left the Court, Alan Roberts shook his fist at us.) It was revealed in Court that during the dispute with Alan Roberts, the elderly lady had asked for the police to be called. Roberts had replied ‘I am the police’. (This sounded vaguely familiar – ‘I’m in charge of the whole hospital…’) Roberts was found guilty, but the Court was told that he was worried about losing his pension and that he had a son studying nursing at University whom he needed to support, so he would be appealing against this conviction. Roberts then appealed – and incredibly enough in 2011 won, on the grounds that although he had used ‘unlawful violence’ against the old lady, it could not be proved that he had caused her ‘actual bodily harm’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-13983939

I note that Roberts had claimed that the old lady had assaulted him, but Judge Niclas Parry made a point of saying that the Court did not accept this. By the time that Roberts won his appeal the old lady had died, so wasn’t around to give evidence. (And no doubt if the old lady had dared complain or contradict Roberts’s version of events, she would find that whereas she had to pay for her own lawyers or at best be eligible for a very limited amount of Legal Aid, Roberts would receive the full free backing of his union and have access to unlimited lawyers funded by the NHS. I have found that the NHS spares no expense when fighting patients and will carry on throwing money at lawyers whilst still behaving appallingly until the patient simply runs out of money if not energy). After winning his appeal, Roberts announced his intention to apply to return to his job. And no doubt Ysbyty Gwynedd were quite happy to comply with that request.

Stephen Gallagher appeared in the local media again in 2011. In December 2010 a body had been found in the Bible Gardens in Bangor. It transpired that this was the body of Patrick Cleary, a man with a history of alcohol and drug problems. He had previously attended the Hergest Unit but was advised to contact his GP or mental health team. He then attended A&E – where he encountered Stephen Gallagher. He was found dead hours later. (‘Gallagher doesn’t have much luck with patients does he’ observed Brown upon hearing about this matter.) At this time, stories of desperate patients being refused help by the Hergest Unit and A&E were legion – the same patients also often found that no assistance would be forthcoming from the community mental health teams. The story of Mr Cleary was depressingly familiar. No need to worry though – the coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones had stated that the system had not failed Mr Cleary – although he’d died. And Gallagher had stated that he had told Mr Cleary that he had ‘limited options to help him’ (!). I note that Mr Cleary’s grieving relatives ‘thanked the doctors and nurses who had tried to help him’. I suspect that Mr Cleary’s family had absolutely no idea how those doctors and nurses regularly conducted themselves as they ‘tried to help’ patients.

I have been told that staff at the Betsi are reading this blog. If anyone has any further information regarding these two unhinged, dangerous, dishonest nurses – for example are they still employed in the NHS in north Wales? – I would be most interested to hear it.

 

A Very Bad PR Man

About ten years ago I had a number of articles published in the UK laypress, as well as a number of letters published in the UK broadsheets, regarding the mental health services. I was subsequently contacted by a number of interested people who had read my articles/letters.

One of these people was a man called Sean Tierney who told me that he was campaigning for better mental health care for ex-military personnel. Sean Tierney asked to meet me and when we eventually met told me that he was a former Major in the British Army and had been seriously wounded in the Falklands conflict and had only survived thanks to battlefield surgery. He then told me that he had severe PTSD and was only able to access treatment from one heroic psychiatrist – Dr Dafydd Alun Jones. He spoke about Jones in glowing terms and asked if I knew that Jones’s ‘nursing home’ for veterans, Ty Gwyn, was under threat of closure. I knew all about DA Jones’s practices and the reality of this ‘nursing home’ (details of which appear in other blog posts) but I didn’t tell Sean Tierney what I knew. He then asked me if I would help him campaign to save Ty Gwyn – as well as asking me if I would join his campaign he was also in touch with a number of local politicians. I told Sean that I would not have anything to do with DA Jones or his enterprises and that under no circumstances would I campaign on his behalf. Sean kept repeating that Jones was the only man who could ‘get through’ to distressed veterans and asked me why some people seemed reluctant to support Jones. He then directly asked me if this lack of support was anything to do with allegations regarding Jones and his behaviour towards women. I suspected at that point that Sean was either someone who had been completely duped by Jones or that he had been sent by Jones to see what I would say about him when asked. So I simply told Sean Tierney about the Mary Wynch case (see blog post regarding this case for details) and told him where he could find archived material detailing it.

Sean then appeared in the local media from time to time with regard to veterans and PTSD. He sent me brief e mails now and again. Some time later, he asked to meet me again. At this meeting he made a point of telling me that he had recently been at a military awards ceremony and had met a nurse from Ysbyty Gwynedd’s A&E dept who was in the Territorial Army, a ‘very good man’, one Stephen Gallagher. I found this mention of Gallagher particularly interesting as by this time I had encountered Stephen Gallagher at Ysbyty Gwynedd and had been threatened by him and refused treatment. (For details of my encounters with Stephen Gallagher please see my blog post ‘Two Dangerous and Very Dishonest Nurses’.) I realised that Sean Tierney seemed to be closely associated with a number of very unpleasant people who had caused me serious problems.

All went quiet for a while. Then, out of the blue, I received another visit from Sean Tierney. He told me a bizarre tale about an old friend ‘who was in the same regiment as me’ who was currently serving a hefty prison sentence for sexually abusing his own son. The rest of the family had all maintained that the man serving the prison sentence was entirely innocent, that his son had had a ‘nervous breakdown’ which is why he had made the allegations. Sean showed me a letter from a solicitor in Nottingham and from what I read this letter seemed to be explaining that the only possible way that the man in prison would win an appeal would be if his son changed his evidence. It was explained to me that Dr Dafydd Alun Jones wanted to ‘help’ the man in prison. Sean then told me that the son of the man in prison was believed to be a student at Bangor University and asked me if I would access the student database and confirm whether this young man was indeed a student. Before I had time to say ‘no’, Sean Tierney breezily said ‘I think we need to push him about a bit to make him withdraw his allegations’. At this point I realised that I was dealing with some pretty awful people – even by the standards of Dafydd Alun Jones’s acquaintances – and in true News of the Word reporter style I made my excuses and left. I got straight onto Brown to ask him what the hell I should do about this bunch of bastards. Brown’s advice was to find out whether the man that Tierney intended to ‘push about’ was indeed a student at Bangor and if he was, to contact both him and the University in confidence and inform them that witness intimidation was planned/taking place. To my great relief, it transpired that there was no student at Bangor of the name that Sean Tierney had given me.

By this time, the threats and harassment directed towards me by people connected with the north Wales NHS were escalating and I became used to very odd things happening. (More details of this will appear on a future blog post.) For example, someone seemed to be letting themselves into my office at work and having a good root around, even when I had locked the door. Letters from my solicitor – which at one point were arriving at my work address – had been opened by the time that they arrived in my pigeon hole. My car was broken into one night and the only things stolen were letters from my solicitor which were in the glove box. A poison pen letter stating that Brown was a ‘known paedophile’ was sent to the authorities at the University where he worked. Someone tried to get into my house late one night but was frightened off by my dog. And on a number of occasions cars were driven very carelessly in my direction when I, or on one occasion when Brown and I, were travelling around north Wales. In one incident, I was driving around the roundabout at Llandygai near Bangor when a car tried to push me off the road. I got home and opened my e mails ready to tell Brown that I had encountered yet another dangerous driver, when I saw an e mail waiting from the dreaded Sean Tierney. When I opened it, there was a photo of him dressed up in military uniform, wearing a row of medals, with a bizarre fixed grin on his face, advertising for a ‘date’ with a woman between 18 and 30 (Thank God I was too elderly for him). I received a number of similar photos of him by e mail over the following days. I suspected that I was supposed to be a Woman in Fear.

I didn’t receive any further communications from Sean Tierney, but in August 2012 a news story broke in north Wales that a man in Llandudno had attacked his neighbours, stabbing them and had nearly killed them. Shortly it was revealed that the man involved was Sean Tierney. Subsequent newspaper reports revealed that Tierney had been in the army, but it was many years ago and he had been kicked out again fairly quickly. He was eventually charged with attempted murder and is currently serving a life sentence http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-21246463

No mention was made at the trial of his association with Dafydd Alun Jones and Stephen Gallagher or his PR work for Ty Gwyn. There is one issue about Sean Tierney and Dafydd Alun Jones that needs resolving. When I first met Sean Tierney he was very pleased because he maintained that Dafydd Alun Jones was going to get him an army pension. (Jones used to boast about his ability to secure army pensions for people when he worked at the Hergest Unit.) Did Jones actually do this? Here is a link to a website in which Tierney gives an account of his glorious military career and sings the praises of DA Jones – and describes being in receipt of an army pension http://www.familytraumacentreuk.org.uk/testimonials.html

If Jones did secure an army pension for Tierney, how was Jones securing army pensions for people who had barely served in the army and who had been kicked out anyway? Surely this is worthy of investigation.

How ‘No-One Knew’ About Dr Dafydd Alun Jones

One of my favourite works is Isabel Emmett’s 1964 classic, ‘A North Wales Village: A Social Anthropological Study’. Isabel Emmett was an anthropologist from Manchester who married a man from Llanfrothen and she wrote this now well-known wonderful community study of life in Llanfrothen in the mid-twentieth century. Emmett’s study caused a lot of controversy because she wrote about aspects of life in the community that had not been openly discussed and were inconsistent with notions of Nonconformist respectability of the time – for example she revealed that there was a high rate of illegitimate births in the village. Emmett wrote about the phenomenon of ‘not knowing’ – people in the community would claim that they simply didn’t know that certain social practices were taking place, yet the evidence was there for all to see and they must have known. (In one of my own studies of older women who grew up in rural north Wales I came across the same phenomenon.)

I have also encountered a great deal of ‘not knowing’ in my dealings with the mental health services. In 1986 I had the misfortune to encounter Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, a psychiatrist based at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh. I encountered Jones both at Ysbyty Gwynedd and then in the winter of 1986/87, when I was a patient at Denbigh, having been sectioned and detained there by Jones. (This detention was actually illegal, in that Jones had not examined me (or even met and spoken to me) before having me arrested and then appearing in the Magistrates Court in Bangor waving a Bible around demanding that I be taken to Denbigh – he had simply heard that I was back in north Wales and decided that I should be taken prisoner.) After experiencing the horrors of Denbigh (I’ll blog more about these in detail soon) I returned to London where I was a postgrad at the time and continued to make representation about Jones and investigated further (please read my blog post ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’ for some more details on this).

One of the many things that I made representation about – for years – was Jones’s highly inappropriate behaviour and attitude to me and other women. Once I began to ask around I encountered many people with first hand accounts of this. Two members of female staff told me that they had been personally sexually harassed by him and that women would try to avoid being alone with him. A trainee clinical psychologist from Bangor University whom I met also claimed to have been sexually harassed by him, after he had shown her an ancient photo of himself with the words ‘this is me whilst I was doing my medical training. Don’t ewe think I was handsome?’ (Indeed, ‘don’t ewe think I was handsome’ became a phrase that caught the imagination of many mental health patients in north Wales when Jones was discussed.) She also told me that there was constant gossip in Denbigh regarding Jones’s conduct with young female patients whom he had decided to take ‘a personal interest’ in. On another occasion I was shown a document that had been compiled by a representative of MIND which stated that five female patients had given statements claiming to have had a sexual relationship with him. I was told by a member of staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd that at one time Jones had cohabited with two female patients at once. Someone else told me that Jones would discharge young female patients from psychiatric care and it would then be discovered that they were living in his house with him on Anglesey because they were now his ‘nannies or housekeepers’. Much more recently, a former social worker from Gwynedd told me that it was an ‘open secret’ that Jones was having sexual relationships with patients.

Whenever I raised my concerns about Jones’s attitude to me and indeed to other female patients, staff would get quite vexed and say ‘he never touched you’ (well no, because I never gave him the chance) or ‘you don’t have any evidence to back up your allegations’. The best comments were that I had ‘delusions’ about Jones and that I had ‘a problem with older men’. Many years after these flat denials that Jones had ever behaved inappropriately with patients, I found some very interesting medical records compiled by Dr Robin Jacobson, a psychiatrist at St George’s Hospital Medical school and Springfield Hospital London, when I had been admitted there in the early 1990s. Jacobson had documented an extraordinary phone call that he’d had with Jones before meeting me – although Jacobson did not tell me about this conversation. Jones had told many bare-faced lies about the ‘care and treatment’ that I’d received in north Wales (one memorable claim that Jones had made was that I had been treated in a ‘therapeutic community’), but what was really interesting was that Jacobson had documented that Jones had described me as being ‘attractive and seductive’ and said that he had a ‘soft spot’ for me. Jacobson noted that he suspected that there were ‘boundary issues’ in north Wales (in other words he thought that Jones was having sex with me) and that he felt ‘very depressed’ at being asked to take over this case. (Jacobson solved that quite easily – I was ignored for the weeks that I was in Springfield, then discharged with no aftercare.) So Jones made these comments to a third party – who was working in a leading teaching hospital in London – and no questions were asked. And those documents must have been read by scores of mental health professionals – and no-one breathed a word, yet they continued to talk about my ‘delusions’ regarding Jones. I had been told by a solicitor in Bangor that once Jones had treated a patient no other psychiatrist would agree to treat them. I had presumed at the time that this was probably because Jones would constantly interfere – having read the documents that Jacobson compiled, I now suspect that it was because other psychiatrists did not want to be faced with what Jones might have said or written, or indeed what the patients might say about Jones. Everyone could then carry on ‘not knowing’ about Dafydd Alun Jones. As for Robin Jacobson – he ended up as a consultant in The Priory in Roehampton. Presumably treating distressed celebs is rather less compromising than discovering the mess that NHS psychiatry leaves in its wake.

There is a clip available on You Tube which shows Bill Oddie being interviewed about Jimmy Savile. At one point, Bill Oddie shrieks, in an incredulous voice ‘The head of the BBC didn’t know about Jimmy Savile??’ He then falls about laughing at the very idea of this ‘not knowing’.

DA Jones is now very elderly and won’t last much longer. To my knowledge, he is still on the Medical Register. I am wondering if after Jones dies, we’ll discover that there were quite a lot of people who did know about him after all.

Another Death: Update, Sept 2nd 2016

Both BBC Wales and the Daily Post online edition are reporting on the inquest of the death of Christopher Jones, a young man from Mancot who killed himself in June 2015. Mr Jones’s severe mental health problems are described and it was reported that Mr Jones’s mother told the inquest that ‘health professionals had failed to heed her warnings that he would harm himself’. She also told the inquest that she had decided to apply for a bank loan to fund private care ‘because Betsi Cadwaladr were doing absolutely nothing’. Four hours after she made this decision Mr Jones ran into the path of a high speed train.

The coroner gave a narrative verdict, making references to the ‘unsatisfactory delay’ in the formulation of a care plan and risk assessment and to the ‘inadequate escalation of concerns at a time of significant decline in his [Mr Jones’s] mental health’. The coroner also expressed concern about the delay of the introduction of CBT that was planned for Mr Jones and the practice of consultants reviewing patients treatment only on an annual basis. The coroner issued a Regulation 28 letter to the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in the wake of this death.

The Hergest Unit, Ysbyty Gwynedd

This blog post is an overview of the Hergest Unit for the benefit of readers unfamiliar with the mental health services in north Wales or those unfamiliar with the history of the Hergest Unit. More detailed accounts of my own experiences of the Hergest Unit will be given in future posts.

The Hergest Unit is the acute mental healthcare unit for adults covering north west Wales and is situated at Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor. It now has an abysmal reputation and in the last few years has been the subject of much critical media coverage (often in relation to patient deaths) with a number of highly critical reports being compiled about the Unit. One such report (which was concealed by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board for many months) described the Hergest Unit as being in ‘serious trouble’ and providing ‘worrying’ levels of patient care  http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/ysbyty-gwynedds-hergest-unit-provided-10464590

Mental health patients in north west Wales know that the Hergest Unit has been in ‘serious trouble’ for a very long time – many of us were trying to alert the authorities to this as long as fifteen years ago but our concerns were ignored or dismissed.

It was not always so. The Hergest Unit was opened in the early 1990s in the wake of the closure of the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and it was seen as a bright new dawn for mental health services in north west Wales. There seemed to be a very genuine commitment among some of the staff to provide a really good service to patients, after years of patients enduring what one consultant psychiatrist admitted was the ‘very poor’ ‘service’ provided by Denbigh. When Denbigh finally closed, there was quite an interesting phenomenon evident in the Hergest Unit – patients were expected to forget about how bad Denbigh had been and to stop talking about the practices that had prevailed there. Of course this did not happen – patients remembered all too well what had gone on at Denbigh and the staff at Denbigh were all working in the new Units across the region such as the Hergest Unit. Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, the senior psychiatrist at Denbigh who had been the subject of much complaint, continued to visit the Hergest Unit to hold clinics. Patients would see him and inevitably swap anecdotes. There was an obvious air of embarrassment from the other staff, as if they could wish the grim history of the mental health services away. Despite Jones’s visits causing much anger among some of the patients, the Hergest Unit started off well. The physical facilities at the Unit were far better than what was on offer at Denbigh and a number of new staff and consultants gradually arrived, some of whom were excellent. Sadly this did not last long.

Within two years or so there were indications of serious problems at the Hergest Unit, despite the presence of some people who were still clearly trying to do their best for patients. Conflict between the staff became very obvious. Dafydd Alun Jones seemed to be determined to cause serious problems. He was clearly in conflict with some people in the NHS at a regional level as well as in the Hergest Unit and began to give media interviews complaining about the services. Which certainly mystified patients – we all remembered Denbigh and Dafydd Alun Jones very clearly and the early years of the Hergest Unit were most certainly a great improvement. Dafydd Alun Jones had reached retirement age and clearly didn’t want to retire, although a lot of people were desperately hoping that he would. The battle was fought out in the Welsh media. A number of TV programmes were screened in which Jones was portrayed as a hero fighting a valiant battle. There was no reference at all to the appalling conditions and practices that had prevailed at Denbigh under his ‘leadership’ and the many complaints about him. A local resident of Bangor, a young man with addiction problems, featured extensively in one of these programmes, praising Jones and claiming that he was worrying about what his fate would be should Jones fail to save the day. I was friendly with this young man’s former foster mother who was still very close to him – she was not happy at the thought of him being manipulated and asked him why he had agreed to appear in the programme. He replied that he had been paid to appear. The rows rumbled on, as did the media coverage but eventually Jones retired from the NHS (although he continued to do much private work and chair the addiction charity CAIS).

People breathed a sigh of relief once Jones had retired and there was a palpable feeling that at last the patients might stop talking about what had gone on at Denbigh. Within another two years or so however it was clear that all was not well at the Hergest Unit. It was very clear that a lot of the best staff were leaving for other posts, often in England. It was a trickle at first and patients presumed that staff were leaving for various personal reasons – but it soon became obvious that this was an exodus from the Hergest Unit. At the same time, the service started to be eroded.

There was a very popular, well attended day centre at the Hergest Unit, staffed by people who had an excellent relationship with the patients. The day centre provided facilities for socialising and activities to many patients who were living very isolated lives in the community on very low incomes. It was mooted that the day centre should be closed as the concept of a day centre was ‘old fashioned’. The patients overwhelmingly supported the day centre whether it was ‘old fashioned’ or not – it was the only chance that a lot of them had to socialise and access health advice. Despite the rise of consumerism in the NHS and talk of patients ‘choice’ and ‘service user involvement’ it seemed that in the case of the day centre, the patients wishes were going to be ignored. Further discussions took place regarding its closure. Patients were told that the notoriously unpopular Arfon Community Mental Health Team were pushing for the closure of the day centre. This angered many of the patients, because most of the patients attending the day centre had made serious complaints about the Arfon team or had been refused a service from them. Patients began to speculate whether the Arfon team were experiencing embarrassment in the face of a day centre used by several hundred people from across the region, whereas the heavily staffed Arfon team themselves had alienated so many people (or refused to treat them) that their grandly titled ‘resource centre’ was hardly used. An audit was carried out, consisting of a series of focus groups. I attended one of these focus groups and we were asked why we were using the services of the day centre and not the Arfon Community Mental Health Team. Nearly every member of the group related extremely negative encounters with members of the Arfon team, or gave accounts of the ways in which the Arfon team had refused to provide them with any service at all. The results of the audit were eventually relayed to us – the day centre had received glowing reviews from all patients.

This did not seem to be enough for the manager of the Hergest Unit, the highly unpopular Alun Davies, however. Within months he’d announced yet another review of the day centre. He also implemented budget cuts and gradually the day centre started to decline. Eventually a meeting between the patients and Alun Davies was held. It was farcical, with the deeply compromised ‘service users rep’ (who had never been elected by any service users, who had achieved notoriety by publicly stating that ‘my job is to do what the NHS wants’ and who was widely viewed as Alun Davies’s stooge) using his position as chair of the meeting to protect Alun Davies from critical questions. One patient had been told by one very angry and disillusioned consultant that the medical director of Ysbyty Gwynedd had received a performance related ‘merit award’ in return for cutting the mental health services. When this patient asked Davies if this was true, the service users rep helpfully told Davies that he didn’t need to answer that question. So Davies didn’t and left the meeting shortly after – most of the patients had already walked out anyway denouncing the meeting as a farce. The day centre was shut down shortly after, with reports placed in the local papers by the hospital authorities saying that there had been extensive ‘consultation’ with patients.

At the same time as the closure of the day centre occurred there was a very obvious shift in attitude towards the patients by some staff – many of the staff with the best rapport with patients had left. Some of the staff remaining had a highly punitive attitude toward patients and prosecutions started to be mounted against patients for astonishingly trivial reasons. The police were also being regularly called to the Unit by staff, again for very trivial reasons. Rural north west Wales is a small community and I started to hear that the local magistrates and the police were expressing concern as to what was happening at the Hergest Unit. Sadly no-one actually put a stop to it. The prosecutions of patients continued and a pattern could be seen – these were usually patients who had made complaints against the Unit which was now deteriorating rapidly. They were also often patients, who, once they had made complaint, had been diagnosed with ‘untreatable’ personality disorders – even though many of them had previously received different diagnoses at the Unit or outside of the region. Scores of patients were told that they had ‘borderline personality disorders’ – they were all deemed to be untreatable. (Interestingly enough there was someone working at Bangor University who had substantial expertise in borderline personality disorder and its treatment – I was not aware that she was consulted by the Hergest Unit as they bandied this diagnosis around so liberally. Perhaps she should have been asked why a corner of rural Wales had so many people suffering from this ‘disorder’ – and why they were ‘untreatable’ when there is considered to be successful therapeutic interventions available.) The Hergest Unit became notorious for refusing to treat patients. On numerous occasions the police would detain patients after assessing them as being in need of a place of safety and take them to the Hergest Unit, only for the Hergest Unit to discharge these patients hours later. One woman was picked up by the police seven times in the course of one weekend and taken to the Hergest Unit, only to be immediately discharged again. This course of events resulted in the Assistant Chief Constable of North Wales informing the CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust that if they picked up this young woman again they would charge the Trust for her care. Patients routinely described being treated more humanely by the police than by staff at the Hergest Unit. At this time I was friendly with a local junior doctor who had been employed at the Hergest Unit – he told me that he had been told by the consultants there that he was to admit as few people as possible as in-patients. Later, in his capacity as a GP, the same doctor told me that he gave up referring patients to the Hergest Unit because when he did so he inevitably received a letter back telling him that ‘this patient will not benefit from psychiatric input’. A local mental health social worker whom I knew socially told me a similar tale – that it was becoming virtually impossible to make a successful referral for secondary psychiatric care.

Relationships between staff – particularly between the consultants – became very obviously strained and it was openly talked about within the locality that some of the consultants at the Hergest Unit hated each other so much that they would not speak to each other. There seemed to be very dysfunctional staff dynamics throughout the Unit and there was obviously intimidation and bullying going on between the consultants. One long serving consultant retired early – for months patients had been openly told by some nurses that he was ‘mentally ill’ – and he made a point of asking that only patients, not staff, should attend his leaving party, so fraught was his relationship with his colleagues. His wife, who also worked as a consultant at the Hergest Unit, retired early shortly afterwards and it was rumoured that she had been overtly bullied out of her position once her husband had retired. Another consultant, at his retirement do, made a blistering speech attacking the Arfon Community Mental Health Team, denouncing their abuse of their positions.

As consultants left/retired it became clear that the Hergest Unit was unable to recruit replacements. Vacancies were left unfilled – except for one consultant vacancy that was filled by a man who had been the subject of many complaints during his years as a junior doctor. It was alleged that the Hergest Unit knew that this man was an unsuitable candidate but that the vacancy had been advertised several times and he was the only applicant. The complaints continued after this man was appointed as a consultant.

By the early 2000s it was clear that the Hergest Unit was, as was admitted 15 years later, in serious trouble. Numerous patients were finding it nigh on impossible to secure treatment, patients had started dying at an alarming rate, people who were admitted to the Unit were having very distressing experiences, complaints about the Unit were soaring – some of these complaints concerned physical abuse of patients by staff – but were not investigated properly and facilities had been successively shut down. Patients had started to approach politicians but nothing improved. There were stories of staff going off sick at a high rate.

Subsequently, at one point, there was a much publicised inspection of the mental health services in north west Wales. Things were so bad by then that a number of patients, myself included, made a point of making appointments with the inspector that had been despatched to tell them that things were not good at the Hergest Unit. I found out later that two members of staff were also so concerned that they too had made appointments with the inspector to blow the whistle. One of the patients that gave evidence to the inspector had had the most extraordinary experience at the Hergest Unit. She had been diagnosed with a ‘borderline personality disorder’ and had been arrested for ‘threats to kill’ staff. She later demonstrated with the help of a second opinion from outside the hospital that the diagnosis had been wrong and not only had she not threatened to kill anyone but that the ‘clinical psychologist’ who had made this allegation wasn’t a clinical psychologist at all – he was a nurse with a PhD whom the hospital were presenting as a clinical psychologist. (Upon being made aware of this patient’s evidence, unusually for the Hergest Unit, the confrontational behaviour towards her stopped and the Trust agreed to fund treatment at a private clinic of her choice.) Eventually we all received a copy of the inspection report. It was a wonder to behold – the Hergest Unit was given a glowing review and compliments were paid regarding the ‘excellent relationship’ between the Arfon Community Mental Health Team and the Hergest Unit no less.  The patient who had unmasked the nurse posing as a clinical psychologist commented that it was like reading about a completely different hospital. The two whistleblowers were dumbfounded and commented that they had been very frank with the inspector regarding the serious problems in the Unit. This inspection report was produced before the avalanche of bad publicity in the UK regarding glowing inspection reports being produced about very troubled services…

In the years that followed, the Hergest Unit went into meltdown. I was told by a former nurse from Ysbyty Gwynedd that there were huge rows taking place between the psychiatrists and other consultants as psychiatric patients were being admitted to the medical wards with injuries after attempting suicide and the psychiatrists were refusing to treat them. I was told that one patient had jumped off the Britannia Bridge three times after being refused treatment from the Hergest Unit – when he was admitted after the third jump, he was simply allowed to stay on one of the medical wards until the consultant treating him considered him to be no longer suicidal. GPs and mental health community workers simply stopped referring patients to the Hergest Unit because they were of the opinion that there would be no help forthcoming, patients continued to be prosecuted in great numbers, patients committed suicide at an alarmingly high rate, Alun Davies quietly left and a new manager took over who subsequently developed severe clinical depression and had to leave his post – and two psychiatrists committed suicide. The one whistleblower left was ferociously bullied, but continued to raise concerns regarding standards of care at the Unit. His concerns were ignored and eventually very few members of staff at the Unit would even speak to him. The Hergest Unit had become completely toxic – and unsafe.

In 2014 a report by one Robin Holden was commissioned by the Health Board – it admitted in this report that the Hergest Unit was in ‘serious trouble’. But Robin Holden had known that for years – he had worked as a senior nurse manager at the Hergest Unit. Another inspection report also reported what everyone had known about for years as well – that staff relationships were terrible and that two consultants, Tony Roberts and David Healy, refused to speak to each other and that this was impacting on patient care. David Healy has become famous for his expose of the wrongdoing of Big Pharma – what a pity that he didn’t apply the same rigorous scrutiny to the Unit where he works.

Health Inspectorate Wales produced another report about the Hergest Unit earlier this year (2016). It states that things are improving but that there are still serious problems (one memorable feature in this report was the numerous ligature points in the Hergest Unit that the inspection had revealed). The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is now in special measures because of the sorry state of the mental health services. The Health Board is unable to recruit, so I very much doubt that much has improved at the Hergest Unit despite the comments of Health Inspectorate Wales – no-one will work there and the best answer now is probably just to close it down. The Hergest Unit didn’t hit the buffers overnight. It ended up in this state because for many years serious complaints from patients were ignored or concealed and whistleblowers were bullied out of their jobs.

 

Making Legal History – the Mary Wynch Case

The North Wales Hospital Denbigh caught the attention of the London-based national press in the late 1980s/early 90s because Clwyd Health Authority was successfully sued by a former patient, Mary Wynch. Mary’s case made legal history – she was the first person to successfully sue after being illegally detained under the Mental Health Act. Mary had been unlawfully detained in Denbigh for a year by none other than Dr Dafydd Alun Jones. The account of Mary’s case that appeared in the press told how she became involved in a legal dispute with her sister over her mother’s estate. Mary believed that the various solicitors involved in this dispute were guilty of malpractice – Dafydd Alun Jones declared that Mary was suffering from ‘paranoid schizophrenia’ and she was banged up in the dreadful Denbigh for a year. Press reports stated that Jones failed to visit her or review her case throughout that year. When Mary finally got out she began legal action. There was a lot of publicity surrounding her case because it involved an appeal to Lord Denning in his capacity as Master of the Rolls. Mary won and was awarded substantial damages.

There were however even more terrifying aspects to this story than were reported in the press. After Mary won her case, I contacted her via the Guardian. (Mary had gone into hiding in England so bad was the aggro that she’d experienced in north Wales.) By that time, I had experienced Denbigh and the dreadful DA Jones and I’d become aware that there was something very wrong with the mental health services in north Wales – I explained this and Mary agreed to meet me. The first thing that Mary told me was that although she had won her case and that Clwyd Health Authority had admitted liability, they were now wriggling around like a worm on a hook making excuses as to why they were not actually going to hand over the damages. So Mary faced the prospect of a further legal battle to enforce payment. We then had a very interesting conversation regarding the conduct of DA Jones. I told her that he had threatened me and when that hadn’t worked how he had tried to bribe me into dropping my complaint about him (this will be detailed elsewhere on the blog), and that as far as I could see he was, frankly, corrupt. Mary then revealed that her mother had been a resident in a nursing home owned by Jones (Jones has for a long time had big interests in private provision and there have been a number of complaints, including representations to the GMC, about the standards of care in some of these establishments). Mary had been very concerned about the way that her mother had been treated and was alleging mistreatment and negligence that led to her mother’s death. She had not been able to follow any of this up long term because she’d been incarcerated in Denbigh. The UK press could only publish what had been proven in court – illegal detention in Denbigh – so Mary’s concerns about her mother’s experience at the hands of Jones were not widely known.

After Mary won her case, various spokesmen from Clwyd Health Authority were wheeled out to give statements to the media and answer awkward questions. I remember hearing one Radio 4 programme in which Mr D. Hinchcliffe, an administrator from Denbigh, was asked if there could possibly be any further cases like this at Denbigh. Mr Hinchcliffe answered that he was sure that there weren’t. Which was particularly interesting, because at the time of that interview, I was corresponding with Mr Hinchcliffe myself – regarding my illegal detention in Denbigh by one DA Jones. Despite all this, no-one saw fit to dismiss Jones and the dear old GMC took no action against him either.

Although it made legal history and gained widespread publicity, the case of Mary Wynch does not feature in any of the historical projects on Denbigh…