News Round-Up, Feb 24 2017

Three news reports that might be of interest to readers have appeared over the past two days. BBC News Wales reported an update on the shenanigans at the Board of Community Health Councils (please see previous blog posts ‘High-Level Shenanigans at the Community Health Councils’ and ‘Update On CHC Shenanigans’), which has involved the suspension for unclear reasons of Dr Tony Rucinski, the CEO of the Board of Community Health Councils It is reported that Dr Rucinski’s suspension has cost more than £53,000 in extra salary payments. No figure has been released regarding the legal costs pertaining to all this, so we can assume that it will be substantial. Meanwhile, the CHCs in north Wales continues to remain silent in the face of the mental health services that continue to exterminate vulnerable people. Just to remind readers, members of the CHCs in north Wales include a retired psychiatrist from the Hergest Unit, a retired surgeon, someone who is married to a member of the Betsi Board and Eleanor Burnham, a former AM who’s wiki entry boats that she previously sat on Mental Health Tribunals for the North Wales Hospital Denbigh – an institution that was known to be illegally detaining people. There’s nothing like an ‘independent watchdog’ is there.

The Cambrian News reports that Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con) is maintaining that the Betsi will be receiving an extra £11 million from the Welsh Govt as a result of the increase in the waiting times experienced by patients waiting for orthopaedic surgery. The Welsh Govt have stated that the figure quoted is actually part of the £50 million allocated in December to deal with ‘winter pressures’. Whatever the truth, the Betsi obviously continues to constitute a black hole swallowing a great deal of money and not showing much in return.

Yesterday the Cambrian News ran a story on a lady from south Gwynedd who killed herself whilst on the waiting list for a gall bladder operation because she could no longer bear the physical pain of her condition.

Update on CHC Shenanigans

Since I posted ‘High Level Shenanigans At The Community Health Councils’ earlier today, BBC News Wales has reported further regarding this story

So leader of the Welsh Tories, Andrew R.T. Davies, has accused Ministers of keeping AMs ‘in the dark’ regarding the suspension of Dr Rucinski and Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid) is ‘deeply worried’ that Ministers may have put pressure on Dr Rucinski’s colleague that ultimately resulted in him being silenced in the media. Even an employment lawyer has popped up to give his opinion. Mr Davies has stated that he will be ‘seeking answers’ from Vaughan Gething, the Minister with responsibility for health.

Whilst I am pleased that questions are being asked about this (although I wish that a similar level of interest had been shown regarding the utterly hopeless performance of the CHCs and the conflicts of interest that seem to exist within these organisations), once more I cannot help but compare the furore around this matter with the complete silence from nearly all politicians regarding the abuse, neglect and wrongdoing of the mental health services in north Wales – and the deaths of so many patients. Yes, that’s DEATHS. Plaid like to think of themselves as the main opposition in the Assembly. And Rhun is their health spokesman – and a north Wales AM. Yet not a word about DEATHS and criminal conduct, neglect and abuse. Once again I urge readers to take a look at the tweets pouring out of Plaid politicians in north Wales. There’s support for just about every worthy cause – refugees, human rights issues, child poverty, anti-Trump causes, the contaminated blood scandal, more investment for the NHS (yes, they’re very keen for even more money to be given to people who are mismanaging it and killing their patients to boot), it goes on and on. And not a word about mental health deaths in north Wales. So presumably if you’re mentally ill in north Wales, for once human rights will not be on the agenda…

So Darren Millar remains the only politician in north Wales to speak out publicly about the neglect and abuse of mental health patients. Anyone else fancy joining him?

Interestingly, out of the three blog posts that I posted this morning, the one concerning a double suicide received the lowest number of reads. I am gratified that the blog is attracting such interest and I know that some people are reading specifically to gain knowledge about the wrongdoing in the mental health services and associated ‘research’, but could I appeal to all readers to take as much interest in my posts regarding deaths and corruption in the mental health services as they do in financial mismanagement or shenanigans at high levels in the CHC?

High-Level Shenanigans At The Community Health Councils

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been very critical of the Community Health Councils, the allegedly ‘independent watchdog’ in Wales, that supposedly represent patients and hold the NHS to account. The CHCs do no such thing and have not done so as long as I have known about them. I first approached Gwynedd CHC about fifteen years ago, regarding neglect, abuse and criminal behaviour by staff at the Hergest Unit. The ‘chief executive’ of Gwynedd CHC, one Glanville Owen, initially told me that hospital care was not part of their remit. I soon discovered that this was a lie and so returned to the CHC. We went around and around in circles for many months, absolutely nothing was achieved and mental health patients in north west Wales continued to die. I took interest in the CHC yet again about four years ago, when a friend was having terrible problems with the mental health services in north Wales. Again, nothing was achieved and no complaint investigated or resolved. At this time, the leading light in the North Wales CHC was a recently retired surgeon from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, who was keeping a blog that made it clear that her biggest priority at that time was to defend her former colleagues at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd from the threatened restructuring of their service. Another member of the CHC on Anglesey was a retired psychiatrist from the Hergest Unit. Whoever the CHC was representing, it certainly wasn’t the patients. Things seem to be little better now – the CHC in north Wales continues to remain completely silent about the death and destruction on the part of the mental health services and a recent addition to their number is the former LibDem AM Eleanor Burnham – who previously sat on Mental Health Tribunals for the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, an institution notorious for abuse of the Mental Health Act and indeed abuse of patients per se. The wife of the Chair of Gwynedd CHC sits on the Betsi Board.

So imagine my surprise when this feature about the CEO of the Board of Community Health Councils, a Dr Tony Rucinski, who has been suspended on full pay since February 2016, appeared on BBC News Wales online

The matters leading to Dr Rucinski’s suspension remain very cloudy, but it seems that he is alleging that he was ‘gagged’ – in terms of speaking publicly – by the Chair of his own organisation, Mutale Merrill, and it is implied that a Minister from the Welsh Govt may have exerted pressure to achieve this. I note that Dr Rucinski wrote an e mail to the Wales Audit Office in April 2016 in which he observed that ‘the independent voice of patients and the public in Wales has been gagged during a crucial time for healthcare debate nationally’. I also note that Dr Rucinski stated that he wanted the CHCs to be more proactive and a more effective patient voice. He was appointed to his role in July 2015 – so the man who wanted an effective patient voice lasted less than a year before being suspended. Mean while, Eleanor Burnham arrived at the North Wales CHC…

As readers of the blog seem particularly interested in financial matters, I’m happy to report that the total budget for the CHCs in Wales and Dr Rucinski’s Board that oversees them for 2015-16 was £3.8 million. £3.8 million – to make damn sure that no-one speaks publicly about what is happening in the mental health services in north Wales. So we’ll expect more patient deaths then…

The Wales Audit Office has decided that it is not within their remit to investigate Dr Rucinski’s suspension and the Welsh Govt has stated that it is an internal matter for the CHC. Nothing to do with us guv – we’re just splashing out a few million to fund this travesty.