This morning I attended the Joint Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board/North Wales Community Health Council Meeting. Regular readers will know that I have long given up expecting to hear any sort of honest discussion at meetings involving the Betsi Board – or indeed the Community Health Council – but it is fascinating to observe these meetings, if only to marvel at the level of denial and the fact that Peter Higson, the Chair of the Betsi, has not resigned yet.
The most noticeable feature of this morning’s meeting was how many people were absent, both from the Betsi Board and the CHC. Peter Higson sent apologies from a list of people – including the delightful Martin Jones – and the Chair of the CHC (I’m afraid that I don’t know her name) noted that they were ‘very light on the ground’. Indeed I think there was only about five members of the CHC present – so much for the ‘watchdog’ that ‘holds the NHS to account’. There was another noticeable absence from the Board though – Jo Rycroft-Malone aka the Racist In Chief. Neither did Higson offer apologies for her absence. Has the dreadful Jo finally gone, having realised that her position was untenable on the grounds of her multiple conflicts of interest alone, yet alone what is passing for the ‘research’ that she is ‘leading’ in her capacity as PVC for Research at Bangor University? We can only hope. However Jo’s mate the equally dreadful Lyn Meadows was present. Another interesting absence was the husband and wife team ‘Independent’ Board member Bethan and her husband, who is Chair of Gwynedd CHC – never mind the conflict of interest, just get your bums on the seats of as many Boards as possible.
Higson continues to look like a very worried man indeed, which is hardly surprising in view of the fact that this Board sinks deeper into the barrel of slurry in which they are obviously drowning as each day passes. In a recent blog post I questioned why Higson was still hanging on, considering that he is past retirement age and has already picked up a pension and an OBE as a reward for his career of ignoring serious abuses in the NHS in Wales. A reader e mailed and suggested that because the previous CEO of the Betsi, Mary Burrows, seemed dangerously determined to try to put a stop to the flagrant abuses that are rife in the NHS in north Wales, when those we know and love finally brought Mary down Higson probably thought that it would be a good idea if he returned to the north to protect the many people whom he had spent his whole career protecting, as they were squealing loudly. This would certainly explain why certain mental health professionals whom I know to have been involved in some very sordid activities were cracking open the champagne at the thought of Higson returning. They have however done so much damage that even the Godfather cannot keep a lid on it any longer.
The meeting kicked off with the usual trawl through the minutes of the previous meeting. There was an extensive discussion concerning the Social Services and Well-Being of Future Generations Act, led by Board member Geoff Lang. He explained that under the terms of the Act the Board’s focus was on ‘individuals with care and support needs’ and that the Betsi were working with the Area Planning Board on issues like substance abuse. This blog had previously documented the extraordinary ‘commissioning process’ that has led to the Area Planning Board and the Betsi giving millions to CAIS, who are very obviously failing to deliver on substance abuse – but did anyone ever really expect a ‘charity’ in which Dr Dafydd Alun Jones and Lucille Hughes play a key part to deliver on anything? What is the point of a grandiose Act when organisations like CAIS are being contracted to deliver ‘services’?
A representative from the CHC called Eryl pointed out that during discussions with the matrons of community hospitals, he had been made aware that the NHS operates ’24/7′, but the Social Services stop at 4pm on a Friday. Eryl has raised a very old problem – mental health patients, even if they were deemed worthy of input from Gwynedd Social Services (which they usually weren’t), have long since found that there is no service on a Friday, no service at weekends, no service on a Monday and no service on any days before 9-30ish and 4pm. A discussion held regularly by mental health patients pivoted around who was actually receiving a ‘service’ if it involved Gwynedd Social Services. There was a plentiful supply of callous, negligent social workers on the books but no-one knew who was getting anything like a ‘service’. After Eryl’s comment there followed a discussion regarding the ‘challenge’ involved in providing care home beds for dementia patients – I think that we are talking crisis rather than challenge regarding this matter.
Gary the CEO then moved on to the matter of the ‘Phase 2 report’ – that is the report that has been compiled in relation to the ‘progress’ (or not) of the Betsi under special measures. Gary rattled on about the many areas that special measures covers – which seems to be just about everything. He maintained that ‘good progress’ had been made, that an ‘awful lot of effort’ had been put in but that there was ‘still an awful lot to do’. Presumably that’s why there’s a suicide, avoidable death or scandal involving the Betsi reported in the local media several times a week.
Eleanor Burnham, the former LibDem AM who is now a member of the CHC, then started giving the Board a very hard time regarding the case of a man who had waited so long for a wheelchair that he had developed sores. She told Gary very firmly that if they can’t even get a wheelchair to someone there is something wrong with the Health Board. Which is of course true, the Health Board is broken – but the north Wales NHS has been grossly dysfunctional for many years and I don’t remember Eleanor making much of an issue out of this when she was an AM. Furthermore Eleanor has a shameful past – she sat on mental health tribunals at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh. This was an institution that illegally imprisoned patients who dared complain and where serious abuse of patients was pervasive. In her role of a member of the tribunal Eleanor will have gained much information about those abuses – perhaps she’d like to start publishing an account of what really went on out there, because it’s about time that someone did. However one of Eleanor’s colleagues also kept quiet about serious abuse and neglect in the mental health services in Wales. This colleague of Eleanor’s was approached by the family of a patient who had killed herself whilst in the care of Powys Local Health Board some years ago. The neglect was appalling – for example two of the staff who were supposed to be ‘observing’ this severely depressed young woman had GONE SHOPPING whilst they were ‘on duty’. At the eventual inquest there were I think 36 points on which Powys had been found wanting. But the AM whom the family of this patient approached refused to get involved, although she had described Powys LHB as a ‘time bomb’. Who was this AM? None other than Kirsty Williams – who, whilst all this was going on, had decided to run for the leadership of the LibDems in Wales, which no doubt was why she wasn’t going to do battle with the dear old NHS. Indeed when the various vested interests in the NHS were attempting to cause havoc for Mary Burrows, Kirsty was happy to share platforms with representatives from that institution riddled with corruption, the BMA. Kirsty is now the Education Minister for Wales and makes regular appearances in her Serious Woman in Power specs lecturing the nation. Pity about that young woman who died at the hands of an LHB that you knew was dangerous wasn’t it though Kirsty.
Gary the CEO then started discussing the Board’s handling of patient complaints. He defended himself robustly, maintaining that ‘we’ve made definite improvements’ and explained that the handling of complaints often involves a ‘meeting’ with the complainant. Followers of the blog will know that I made a complaint to the Betsi about a number of very serious matters before Christmas and my complaint has still not been resolved – on fact I’ve taken parts of my complaint to the Information Commissioner because it doesn’t seem as though the Betsi is making any progress with it at all. Furthermore the only meeting that I’ve been invited to was a meeting to ‘discuss’ this blog with Gary and Peter when they wrote a silly letter to me the other day complaining about the content of my writing here. Eleanor chipped in again refusing to accept Gary’s claims of an ‘improvement’ and reminded Gary that the Public Services Ombudsman ‘whom I know’ had dished out some very harsh words to the public services very recently. Which indeed he had, he had some very damning conclusions – however, once more I ask why Eleanor and her colleagues at the Assembly have done so little about the state of the NHS, particularly as a lot of them do know people such as the Ombudsman.
Geoff Ryall-Harvey, the Chief Officer of the CHC, talked about how the CHC handled complaints. He stated that some people don’t know about the CHC. Well I do know about the CHC and when I approached them with my complaints they variously told me barefaced lies, ran around in circles for months or ignored the complaint. Meanwhile the mental health services that I was complaining about continued to imprison and kill patients.
Eryl from the CHC asked whether special measures was affecting the recruitment of doctors. North Wales has had a major recruitment problem with doctors for years, particularly in specialities such as psychiatry. One only has to encounter some of the psychiatrists and it is very obvious that they are working in north Wales because they have not been able to obtain another job. Thus has been the situation since the days of the North Wales Hospital – whoever would have wanted to work in a place like that? Special measures probably could not make the problem any worse than it already is in psychiatry. The other specialities have long been troubled as well – for years medical students and junior doctors advised each other not to take jobs in north Wales, particularly at Ysbyty Gwynedd. Martin Jones was despised by the staff when he was CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust – he is now the Director of Workforce of the Betsi. Is it surprising that their recruitment events prove fruitless?
A member of the CHC who I think was introduced as Mark raised the matter of the mental health services. He stated that it was not yet evident that the ‘work’ that the Betsi is doing is having an impact on the patients. It certainly isn’t – the tally that I am keeping on this blog regarding the constant stream of deaths of people with mental health problems testifies to this. Gary the CEO admitted that ‘we’ve got a long way to go’ – and you’re not going to get there until you start dismissing the scores of abusive and neglectful staff that you have on board Gary. Andy Roach, the Director for Mental Health, commented that they would be presenting a ‘comprehensive document’ to the Board in April and that ‘they were on a journey’ (a journey that a lot of patients are not surviving) and that they are doing a ‘lot of work’ with service users and carers – well what they have done is pay the bunch of crooks and charlatans at CAIS £1.5 million to deliver ‘service user/carer involvement’. Meanwhile people carry on dying. Gary commented that a number of people are unhappy but don’t complain – that Gary is because they have witnessed the all-out witch hunts of people who have complained. Furthermore that is the purpose of those witch-hunts – to make damn sure that no-one else dares to raise concerns.
The Board moved on to a discussion about the urology service, with which there would seem to be much dissatisfaction. There were allegations flying that patients are being left so long with catheters in that there is a suspicion that this was being done instead of offering surgery. The discussion became incredibly bad-tempered with Eleanor Burnham and Christine Evans, another member of the CHC, shouting at the Board. Christine Evans is of course a retired surgeon from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd who is the former Chair of the CHC. At that time, she wrote a blog in her capacity as a councillor that made it quite clear that her priority was to protect the jobs and empire of her former colleagues. At one point during the urology discussion it was mentioned that the Betsi had ‘lost a urologist’ and Christine Evans stated that ‘I have to say that he will be no loss – I know that’s a rude thing to say’. I don’t know the urologist in question, perhaps he was bloody awful, but when Christine Evans was Chair of the CHC she knew that north Wales was heaving with dreadful doctors who were abusing their positions and she did not utter a word. In fact I happen to know that Christine Evans was the consultant who treated one of the psychiatrists at the Hergest Unit who had busied himself making very serious allegations against me that he knew were baseless in an attempt to ensure that I ended up in prison. But then doctors in north Wales sometimes dispense a rather different style of treatment to each other than they do to the rest of the population…
A discussion about orthopaedic surgery followed and the unacceptable waiting times. Again Eleanor and Christine went into battle fiercely – if only they could feel this passionately about the mental health patients that are dropping like flies. However someone mentioned something that interested me during this discussion – that the Police and Crime Commissioner was previously a member of the CHC. I presume that this was a reference to Arfon Jones, who used to chauffeur Gordon Anglesea to the locations where it was later revealed that Anglesea sexually molested teenage boys and whose ‘oversight’ ensured that Anglesea’s widow ended up with 50% of his police pension although Anglesea died in prison as a convicted sex offender. No wonder that CHC has never done what it should…
I left the meeting at this point after realising that as ever, nobody was going to take Higson to task regarding the horrors that still prevail in the mental health services.