News Round Up, June 8 2017

I’ve written a lot recently on this blog regarding the con that is CAIS, the Third sector organisation providing ‘substance misuse’ services. Previous posts have detailed the dodgy commissioning processes by which CAIS have received millions in funding from the Welsh Gov’t to provide services, including ‘service user involvement’ (see post ‘The Story Behind £1.5 Million’), the huge contracts that they have been handed by the DWP despite their very limited success regarding ‘outcomes’, the scam that they seem to have operated to persuade George Osborne to cough up a lot of money (please see post ‘George Osborne Enters The Picture’) and the very questionable histories of many of the CAIS Trustees. I’ve also documented the burgeoning drug problem in parts of north Wales which suggests that CAIS are failing spectacularly in providing ‘services’. CAIS have now moved into the homelessness business, eg. providing ‘supported accommodation’. Again, a quick walk around Wrexham would suggest that CAIS are having bugger all effect in this domain. So I was certainly interested to read in the Daily Post online that a very angry lawyer in Wrexham has demanded that Wrexham Council should ‘get a grip’ on the drugs and homelessness problem – that’s the Wrexham Council that seems to have been tying itself in knots to ensure that the contracts for the ‘services’ to address drugs and homelessness are given to CAIS. The lawyer concerned, Mark Davies, has a client, Craig Nikolic, who has just been imprisoned. Mr Nikolic was imprisoned after he was found ‘asleep in Lord Street with his sleeping bag next to him’. Lord Street is the street in Wrexham where the homeless have been hanging out because it’s near the bus station, so they can go in there out of the rain (although it doesn’t provide much in terms of shelter, it’s usually freezing cold in there and the rain does get in), go to the loo, have a wash etc. Because they don’t have a home in which to do that. Mr Nikolic is a heroin addict and after being released from prison on an early release scheme he was ordered not to enter Wrexham town centre. But as his lawyer pointed out, he was homeless, so if he didn’t enter the town centre he had nowhere to wash etc. So he risked it and has been caught and returned to prison. The account of Mr Nikolic’s recent encounters with the Courts and law is fascinating because it makes it clear that this man is repeatedly ending up in prison because he doesn’t have anywhere to live. He is being punished far more harshly for his destitution than he has been for possession of illegal drugs. But then simply being very poor does now lead to people being criminalised. As if to rub in the dismal performance of CAIS where ‘tackling drugs’ is concerned, there have also been media reports of a recent major drugs bust in Llandudno with a number of dealers being arrested and the North Wales Police issuing a statement saying that they expected to make more arrests very soon – this has come hot on the heels of accounts of turf wars between drug dealers in the region, some of which have resulted in murders.

In my post ‘George Osborne Enters The Picture’ I mentioned that a recent initiative of CAIS has been the establishment of a place in Cardiff called the ‘Living Room’. I was puzzled to discover that the Living Room was providing ‘after care’ and ‘sociopsychological support’ to Cardiff GPs and questioned why highly paid Top Doctors were receiving the services of a charity when their own patients usually cannot access such support. I have now been given further information about the Living Room. I have been told that the distressed GPs receiving ‘services’ are actually Top Doctors with addiction problems and are encountering difficulties because, for example, they have lost their driving licences. Now alcohol problems are very common in medical practitioners and drug problems are not unknown, and of course doctors with such problems deserve help and support (although the irony is that certainly in north Wales the Top Doctors loathe people with drug and alcohol problems and usually refuse to treat them; that is how CAIS picked up the remit for providing ‘services’ (please see post ‘The Evolution Of A Drugs Baron’). However CAIS is Chaired by Dr Dafydd Alun Jones and is still very much a reflection of all that he holds dear and follows the model of business that he has followed for decades. And Dafydd has form for ‘helping’ people who have ended up coming unstuck as a result of their addiction problems. This ‘help’ usually simply involves extracting people out of the shit that their addiction has landed them in (at a price of course) rather than tacking the addiction. A nurse who had formerly worked at Dafydd’s ‘nursing home’ for veterans suffering from PTSD, Ty Gwyn, told me that there were very few veterans in Ty Gwyn, but there were a lot of people with addiction problems who had ended up being prosecuted so they had checked into Dafydd’s facility for a few weeks and in return Dafydd would write them a favourable Court report, although he had virtually not seen them at all whilst they had been patients at Ty Gwyn. I was also told by another person that Dafydd’s ‘medical reports’ were equally useful to people who had encountered problems with driving licences and their insurance. Indeed Dafydd is so good at helping people who are in danger of losing their licence as a result of drinking and driving that he attempted to rescue his own son when he appeared in Court on a drink driving charge. The Court were given a real tear-jerker, a story of how Dafydd’s son worked as Dafydd’s chauffeur, enabling Dafydd to pursue his heroic line of work with of course veterans (Dafydd has found that invoking the image of distressed soldiers works wonders), that Dafydd did much of this work free of charge no less and if his son lost his licence the patients would Suffer. The Court didn’t buy it – Dafydd is notorious in north Wales, to be fair to them the more honest local magistrates stopped believing anything that he said years ago – and his son lost his licence. It transpired that this chauffeur who spent his time assisting his dad patch up veterans was actually a student at Aberystwyth University. I seem to remember that it was on this occasion that someone in Court remarked that it was odd that Dafydd had obtained Legal Aid, being a highly paid very wealthy man. But as ever, no-one investigated further. Dafydd bending the rules to selflessly help patients has a long and noble history – sometime in the mid 1990s, a photo of him appeared on the front page of the Daily Post under the headline ‘He Saved A Life – And Got A Fine’. The reality was that Dafydd had been caught exceeding the speed limit somewhere along the north Wales coast – in a big way as well, it was something like 50mph in a 20mph zone – and when he was caught he claimed that he was on his way to rescue a suicidal patient who was standing on the Menai Bridge waiting to jump. It didn’t occur to him to call an ambulance then.

A Story Of Our Time appeared in the media yesterday. Jacqueline Grayson, the manager of ‘Treflys’, a care home in Llandudno, was summoned to a fitness to practice disciplinary hearing by Social Care Wales for sharing Facebook posts that the ‘presenting officer’ for Social Care Wales alleged were ‘anti-Islamic’ and ‘discriminatory’. Social Care Wales seem to have very little understanding of what Islamophobia and discrimination are. Ms Grayson had shared among a group of Facebook friends posts discussing whether the wearing of burkhas should be banned in public areas. Discussions regarding the wearing of full face veils or not are held among many Muslims. Mrs Grayson’s other sin was to share a Facebook post involving a golliwog. Yes, the golliwog originated as an offensive parody of a black person, but most people who were children in the sixties only knew the golly as a toy or a badge that could be acquired by collecting pictures of gollies from Robertsons jam jars. It seems that was the reference that Ms Grayson was making on Facebook. So Social Care Wales doesn’t know the difference between recent cultural history and racism so serious that it questions a social care professional’s fitness to practice. A number of people defended Ms Grayson at the hearing. One was a Romanian colleague who described Ms Grayson as being ‘amazing’ with staff and residents alike. Another one was a Mr Bhusan Ramnath, the proprietor of the care home and Ms’ Grayson’s employer. His wife was a Muslim and he was supporting Ms Grayson. The panel heard that there was no evidence that Ms Grayson had treated any Muslim resident in any way differently to any other resident. The panel concluded that Ms Grayson’s fitness to practice was not impaired but nonetheless her crime was serious that she was reprimanded.

So in a field – the care of elderly people – where bad practice and even abuse is endemic, Social Care Wales have gone to the trouble and effort to haul Ms Grayson up in front of them on the basis of some laughable evidence that did not in any way reflect on her capacity as the manager of a care home. There had been no complaint at all regarding her practice, just a ‘whistleblower’ – who was not identified – who spotted some Facebook posts that she had shared among her Facebook ‘friends’. Llandudno is only a few miles down the road from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. It was at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd that four years ago elderly patients in Tawel Fan ward were sworn at by staff, barricaded into their beds with items of furniture and left to crawl around naked on a floor that was covered in urine and faeces whilst staff discussed their sex lives. One patient was found to have an untreated fractured arm. No member of staff has been disciplined or prosecuted – except for the nurse who blew the whistle on all this who was suspended, arrested after being the subject of malicious allegations and also received threatening anonymous letters. She now works in England. The two inquiries into Tawel Fan have yet to be completed – one has been hindered by the staff refusing to co-operate. I know there to be much bad practice in privately owned elderly people’s homes, but what the Betsi, an NHS Health Board, continues to get away with is breath-taking.

The flagship prison at Wrexham, HMP Berwyn, which so delighted local politicians – just imagine, a warehouse with nearly 2000 people banged up inside, mostly people with mental health or addiction problems, how exciting! – has run into yet more problems. It is in breach of a number of it’s planning conditions eg. landscaping, the providing  of two bus shelters and producing certain certificates demonstrating that various standards have been met – and Wrexham Council are threatening action.

The crisis at Bangor University continues and the Vice-Chancellor has stated that the financial situation is so serious there that there will have to be redundancies and even pay cuts. The unions have hit the roof, have stated that staff will be ‘pushed into poverty’ and one of the union reps has suggested that one way of solving the crisis would be to sell the Vice-Chancellor’s house, which was purchased by the University for him. That house has been a running sore ever since it was purchased – I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill, it’s not THAT posh -and furthermore there was more fuming last year when it was revealed that the Vice-Chancellor’s bedroom had received a makeover and that new furniture purchased from Laura Ashley had been installed. The Daily Post even provided a photo of a Laura Ashley inspired bedroom to feed the readers imaginations, although the photo that they provided was the sort of bedroom that a contemporary Barbara Cartland might have favoured, all in pink. I’m not sure that Professor John Hughes would have exactly the same taste, but you never know. It has not occurred to the union rep that even if John Hughes’s residence was flogged, it would only raise about £1 million, if indeed that. It would last me quite a long time, but it wouldn’t keep Bangor University afloat for long, particularly as they are currently footing the salary bill for great swathes of staff in ‘health and social care research’ or ‘psychology/mental health research’ whose output is very questionable indeed (I have detailed some of this dodgy research in previous posts). There are also a lot of younger modestly paid staff working their butts off whilst more senior people rest on their laurels. Among the senior academics, some are wonderful, supporting students and carrying out first class research – but others should not be in their present jobs and everyone knows it. It is true that there are some very badly paid staff at Bangor – they are the cleaners, the catering staff etc. No-one bothers to fight very hard for them – when I worked at Bangor, the people who consistently made the most noise every time they feared that cuts cometh, were the less productive (in some cases frankly bloody lazy) staff on permanent contracts who had been there years. They didn’t REALLY fear their contracts being terminated either – it is very hard to get rid of academics with permanent contracts no matter how bad they are. In reality, it is the better staff on short-term contracts who get the chop if belts have to be tightened because the useless old farts fight tooth n nail to hang on to their very comfortable existence. This is going on in every university in the UK and it is a very big problem, it’s not just a disease that affects Bangor. However union reps at Bangor do seem to have a history of developing strange obsessions with the way that they imagine Vice-Chancellors are spending money. When I worked there, at one point the UCU rep, one Eileen Tilley, was frothing at the mouth about the money that the VC was alleged to have spent on his office desk – how on earth did she know how much he’d paid for it? I very much doubt that he’d showed her the receipt. When I made comments to this effect, she changed tactic and complained about the style of the desk that he’d purchased. Que??? (It had too much glass in it apparently so it wasn’t suitable.) Tilley continued to make extraordinary allegations – which I suspected were in the realms of fantasy – regarding the VC’s office furniture and I got somewhat pissed off with her, because whilst she was making these allegations she was actually colluding with the truly vile Lyn Meadows, the Director of HR (Meadows is now a member of the Betsi Board), who was breaking employment law regularly and bullying and harassing people. The next allegation was that the VC had hired a chauffeur. No-one actually had any evidence that this had happened and I searched high and low for the said chauffeur and never found him/her. I think that the real story was that discussions were underway regarding the possibility of a chauffeur that would be made available to a number of senior managers – but the backstabbing Tilley was busy making plans for the revolution on the basis of the chauffeur. So I conducted an experiment and told her that I knew all about it, that it wasn’t a real chauffeur, it was a security man dressed up in a special uniform. And a few days later my lie came back to me on the grapevine, so it rather confirmed that none of these people actually knew what they were talking about. The irony was that while the revolutionaries on ‘only’ £40-50k pa grumbled and fumed about glass desks and chauffeurs, me and my ilk were doing their teaching and a good deal more research than them as well for far less. And because we were on short-term contracts we often had no salary at all. I’d have done the sodding chauffeur’s job myself quite happily at that time, at least it would have been a stable income.

Yet another scandal involving the abuse of learning disabled people has hit the London-based media today. An organisation called the ‘Atlas Project Team’ who owned two homes in Devon – which were ‘isolated farmhouses’ has been prosecuted. The founder of the ‘Atlas Project Team’, a Paul Hewitt, has been fined £12,500 with £105,000 costs. Paul Hewitt is described as ‘a well known figure in mental health who helped formulate national policies on caring for people with learning disabilities in the community’. Well that’s pretty much par for the course – this blog has named scores of ‘experts in mental health’ or ‘service user representatives’ who have either colluded with or ignored the most dreadful abuses. It’s how one becomes an expert in those fields. Jolyon Marshall, the Director of Atlas, has been jailed for 28 months for conspiracy to falsely imprison and perverting the course of justice. A number of other managers and staff have received suspended jail terms or other non-custodial sentences. This case has been running for six years, but reporting restrictions have only just been lifted. The fascinating feature of this case is that a number of people have been prosecuted for doing what is almost standard practice in hospitals and ‘homes’ for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, namely locking people in what are euphemistically called ‘quiet rooms’ but what in reality are bare rooms with no bathroom facilities or furnishings except for a mattress on the floor. I am delighted to see someone prosecuted for this and I look forward to hundreds more prosecutions, because this is going on in just about every facility for the mentally ill/learning disabled across the UK. And the rationale for confining people to such seclusion rooms is also very shaky, as it was with Atlas. The prosecuting barrister Andrew Langdon QC stated that a ‘view was taken that residents had somehow learned to behave badly. That behaviour had to be unlearned. If they were kept in their long enough they would learn their lesson and change their behaviour’. This philosophy underpinned all ‘care’ on Taliesin ward in the Hergest Unit and I heard staff articulate this view constantly. Patients were not distressed, they were not ill, they were bad and locking them in a seclusion room (or of course having them arrested) was the answer. Indeed, now that Jolyon Marshall has gone to prison for conspiracy to falsely imprison and perverting the course of justice I look forward to a few arrests of Hergest staff and NHS managers because that is exactly what they did to me – and to a lot of other people.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of CQC, admitted that they ‘should have acted earlier’ over Atlas and admits that concerns had been raised. So once more, the CQC stood by whilst people were abused. But what do we expect – Sir Robert Francis QC is a leading light in the CQC. The Robert Francis QC who, whilst working as a barrister for the MDU, tried to have me imprisoned for ‘harassment’ – because I was writing many letters maintaining that people working in the mental health services in north Wales had illegally imprisoned me and had committed perjury (please see post ‘The Sordid Role of Sir Robert Francis QC’).

Perhaps someone would also like to begin mounting prosecutions in the face of another near universal practice in mental health, that of ‘not stimulating’ people who are deemed to be psychotic. This is going on in the Hergest unit and in the Heddfan Unit and in reality it means providing patients with an environment as bare as possible – not even pictures on the walls. Because patients might become ‘stimulated’. (I really don’t think that there’s much chance of that, as they’re parked in front the TV all day and loaded up with anti-psychotics.) In fact Taliesin ward in Hergest was so keen not to stimulate patients that the staff didn’t talk to them – and they told the patient’s families not to talk to them either. I know this because I knew the mother of a teenaged boy who became seriously unwell and spent a long time on Taliesin ward not being talked to, on the orders of the ‘experts’ who ran that place and presided over the constant suicides there. The staff did communicate with me whilst I was a patient in there though – indeed they shouted at me, they swore at me and on one occasion four of them assaulted me. Presumably it’s only talking to people or looking at pictures that causes over-stimulation.

Jan Tregalles, the Chief Exec of Mencap, and Vivien Cooper, the Chief Exec of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, put out a joint statement stating that Atlas offered ‘specialist care’ that cost up to £4000/week per person and that ‘poor commissioning’ from numerous local authorities and ‘weak inspection’ allowed an abusive culture to develop and sustain itself. Have they only just noticed? Bloggers like Mark Neary, Finola Moss and Sara Ryan have been trying to expose this for years. Indeed Sara Ryan seems to feel about Mencap the way that I feel about MIND – she has always termed them ‘Mencrap’. Mark Neary’s adult son Stephen was removed from his care for a year simply due to the fuckwittedness of their local authority and had Mark not been able to engage in a full scale battle through the Courts he would have lost Stephen for ever. Finola Moss had a similar experience with her daughter. Finola has taken a big interest in the huge amounts of money that are now being made by the private ‘care’ sector for housing learning disabled people in unsuitable, frequently abusive facilities, as well as in the constant supply of ‘expert witnesses’ and dishonest health and care professionals who are prepared to lie in Court in the face of carers complaining and simply accuse those carers of abuse themselves. The really great thing about most of these cases is that because they involve the Court of Protection, no-one can even publish what’s happening – until the learning disabled person dies in the ‘care’ of the ‘provider’. Mark Neary’s blog is doing an excellent job of exposing how this naked abuse and cruelty – and sheer idiocy – is disguised by the language of ’empowerment’, ‘independent living’, ‘service user involvement’ and associated hogwash.

 

 

Failings In Care – But Another Narrative Verdict

The media have reported that a narrative verdict has been returned by John Gittins, the coroner who carried out the inquest on Sgt Lee Johnson who hung himself whilst a patient at the Heddfan Unit, Wrexham Maelor. Yet another narrative verdict in the face of what everyone acknowledges was the suicide of someone who was in the care of the Betsi mental health services. If anyone ever did have any doubts about what has been going on in north Wales, this case makes it crystal clear – inquest verdicts are being manipulated to conceal the size of the problem that is the mental health services in north Wales. It is only two years since Danielle Robinson hung herself in the Heddfan Unit. We were told then that ‘lessons had been learned’ – they haven’t. Anyone familiar with the physical layout of the Heddfan Unit will know how easy it is for staff to check on patients, the building has been designed for that. So how are people managing to hang themselves? Hanging is not a quick or easy method of killing oneself – and a key element of health and safety requirements of mental health units is the identification and removal of ligature points.

Another factor was introduced into the explanation for the death of Sgt Johnson – he had been drinking whilst in the Heddfan Unit and it was known that drink made him suicidal, but staff commented that he was reluctant to discuss this. I noted in my previous post ‘It’s Yet Another Inquest Into Yet Another Death’ that the standard response of the mental health services in north Wales to people with drink problems is to refuse to treat them and refer them to CAIS, a charity shot through with failure and dodgy practice. So that will probably have been why Sgt Johnson was reluctant to discuss this – Sgt Johnson and his wife were/are police officers and Sgt Johnson’s wife mentioned in the inquest that they had previously had dealings with Heddfan professionally. So they will have known about the attitude towards patients with drink problems (it is the police who are called upon to throw the patients with alcohol problems out of the hospitals). I also mentioned in my previous post that the acute mental health units run by the Betsi actually breathalyse patients and searches their rooms if they are suspected of drinking. Unbelievably, John Gittins commented at the inquest that this policy is effective but needs to be made more robust. No this policy is almost certainly what led to Sgt Johnson’s death – the policy on alcohol is so rigid and draconian that people with alcohol problems feel unable to discuss this and resort to sneaking in alcohol if their problem is that bad. The Betsi are carrying out their own version of Prohibition – it didn’t work in the U.S. in the 1920s and it’s not working in north Wales now. The only choice that people with alcohol problems have is to knock on the door of CAIS, an organisation with some of the sleaziest people in north Wales on it’s Board, including a number who concealed a paedophile gang (please see post ‘The Evolution Of A Drugs Baron?’) But wasn’t it concluded that Prohibition failed because it pushed the alcohol trade into the embrace of gangsters?

I notice that once more Dr Stuart Porter, the man who was memorably described to me as sporting a pair of ‘wanker’s glasses’ by a less than impressed patient – who was refused treatment by Porter et al although he was seriously depressed – has been wheeled out as the public face of the Betsi and was referred to as the ‘interim clinical director’. Porter’s previous stomping ground was the Ablett Unit – the Unit that released a patient with no aftercare maintaining that he was ‘feigning illness in order to secure accommodation’. That patient was actually seriously ill and went on to decapitate someone (please see post ‘Homicide Committed By Patient At Ablett Unit’). It was of course the Ablett Unit that hosted the infamous Tawel Fan ward, where elderly mentally ill patients were left to crawl around naked on a floor covered in urine and faeces whilst  nurses swore at them and discussed their sex lives. One of those patients was found to have an untreated broken arm. It was Tawel Fan that led to the Betsi being placed in special measures. So with Porter and his glasses at the helm it’s obvious that the mental health services are heading for the stars…

There is however a long and glorious history of people in the public domain colluding with the appalling mental health services in north Wales. I was reading parts of the Waterhouse Report yesterday in preparation for a future post and I was gobsmacked to read that Rob Evans, the senior manager of Gwynedd Social Services responsible for mental health services, had given evidence to the Waterhouse Inquiry and described the community mental health services as among the best in Europe. He was talking about the Arfon Community Mental Health Team there. Who perjured themselves in order to obtain High Court injunctions against people who complained about them, who perjured themselves again in order to try and have those people imprisoned for breaking the injunctions, who assaulted patients in the team’s office in Bangor and who threatened to assault patients in their own homes. The Arfon Team had done all these things by the time that Evans made that comment to the inquiry and what’s more Evans knew it. Furthermore, not long before Evans was called to give that evidence, he had been responsible for investigating a complaint of mine regarding the constant harassment and aggression that I was receiving from the Arfon Team. The complaint remained unresolved and the aggro towards me from the Arfon Team continued. I now have documents in my possession written by Rob Evans regarding my complaint. He had asked Keith Fearns, the psychopath who was the ‘leader’ of the Arfon Team, ‘what he wanted done’ with me. Fearns had replied ‘lock her up’. Evans had told Fearns that wasn’t possible. Fearns had repeated ‘lock her up’. Evans noted that the situation was unresolvable and that he was leaving his post imminently so he did not intend to pursue this matter further. The best in Europe? Before Evans had been appointed Director of Mental Health, he had been involved in child care. When Evans met me to hold a futile discussion regarding the problem that was Fearns and his gang of thugs, Evans kept stressing that ‘social work practice’ changes with time and what was acceptable at one point may not be acceptable in the future (what relevance this had to social workers lying in court and assaulting their clients I do not know). As an example Evans said that when he used to place children in children’s homes he used to take away their shoes to stop them running away ‘but you’re not allowed to do that now’. When the former residents of the north Wales children’s homes gave evidence at the trials of the men who had sexually abused them, one of them stated that he had tried to run away after being sexually molested. So someone took his shoes away to stop him. I think at the very least, Rob Evans should now be prosecuted for lying to the Waterhouse Inquiry. (Another thing that I remember Rob saying to me was that some children hated him for placing them in the children’s homes but he knew that he’d done the right thing because their parents ‘should look after their kids properly’. Rob thought that they weren’t doing this so he handed their kids over to a paedophile gang. Nice work Rob.) The Waterhouse Report also mentions that Rob Evans’s employment prospects were limited and that he wasn’t a Welsh speaker. So what did Rob do when he stopped being Director of Mental Health for Gwynedd? He became Director of Community Services for Anglesey! The last time that I saw the dreadful Rob he accused me of ‘arrassin’ him because I dared question him about the documents that he compiled about me after he met Fearns in the wake of my complaint. So I ‘arrased him. Well he handed fresh meat over to a fucking paedophile ring.

Rob was not alone in believing that an abusive service imprisoning it’s clients and driving them to suicide was leading the field on a European level. As the closure of the North Wales Hospital Denbigh loomed, Dr Dafydd Alun Jones made regular appearances in the local media and was described as ‘Europe’s leading forensic psychiatrist’. He wasn’t even a forensic psychiatrist. But he was banging up people who had complained about the abuse in the children’s services and mental health services.

What was it about the paedophile’s friends that made them obsessed with their status as Europe’s leading? Couldn’t they have just gone for gold and announced themselves as global leaders? Or were there better facilitators of a paedophile gang somewhere on another continent?

 

It’s Yet Another Inquest Into Yet Another Death

BBC News Wales are reporting on the inquest at Ruthin of Lee Johnson, 45, a police sergeant with West Mercia Police, who was found hanged in the Heddfan Unit, Wrexham Maelor, whilst he was a voluntary patient there. Emma Evans, clinical psychologist, told the inquest that Sgt Johnson had discussed his mother’s suicide, his difficult childhood and his experiences in the RAF and the police. It was said that Sgt Johnson had had some ‘horrible experiences’ at work and was under investigation for alleged misconduct. Dr Evans commented that Sgt Johnson had a drink problem and often felt suicidal under the influence of alcohol, but was reluctant to discuss this. Sgt Johnson’s wife Barbara, who is an officer with the North Wales Police, told the inquest that she presumed that the Heddfan Unit would be a place of safety. Consultant psychiatrist Nafia Hussein described Sgt Johnson as a ‘model patient’ who was quite happy to be in hospital and to engage with anything that he thought might help. Dr Hussein commented that Sgt Johnson was very open about discussing harming himself. Dr Evans last session with Sgt Johnson had been the day before he died and she commented that it was clear to her that ‘it wasn’t going to be resolved overnight’.

It needs to be asked exactly how Sgt Johnson managed to hang himself whilst an inpatient. I know the layout of the Heddfan Unit and it is not difficult for staff to keep an eye on patients. It is quite a new unit and the building was supposed to make it a flagship unit – the physical conditions there are very good. Yet Sgt Johnson is not the first person who has died there. It’s also worth remarking on his reluctance to discuss his alcohol problem. The north Wales mental health services have a very punitive attitude to people with drink problems – if someone is found to have a drink problem they are usually flatly refused treatment and referred to dear old CAIS instead. The problem is particularly bad at the Hergest Unit, where there seems to be a pathological hatred of people with drink problems. There are shades of the same attitude at Heddfan. When I was a patient there some three years ago, a number of patients were livid because after one of the nurses suspected that one of the group had been drinking – none of them had and no-one worked out why they had been accused – the rooms of all the patients in that friendship circle were searched and patients were breathalysed. Yes, a group of hospital patients were actually breathalysed and were told that if they didn’t agree to this the police would be called and they’d be forcibly thrown out of the unit. It is highly likely that Sgt Johnson had got wind of this dreadful view of people with alcohol problems and feared being refused treatment.

The mental health services run by the Betsi show absolutely no ability at all to learn from previous disasters – no, the learning has not been embedded – or even observe and listen to patients to gain some understanding of how they feel. Their view of patients has not changed for years – they are viewed as subhuman, devoid of feelings and can only be ‘managed’ by coercion and crude manipulation. Sgt Johnson, in case they hadn’t noticed, was a grown-up and probably had considerably more experience than the staff did of dealing with people in distress – after all, it is usually the police who attend to people with mental health problems in north Wales because the mental health services are so unhelpful. And the inpatient units in north Wales regularly call in the police to throw distressed patients out (the Hergest has a track record of calling the police to taser patients). So where was Sgt Johnson supposed to turn when he couldn’t cope? No wonder he couldn’t discuss his drinking, he probably feared that one of his wife’s colleagues would be summoned and requested to blast a few thousand volts through him. Yes, that has happened to at least one patient in the Hergest Unit.

There’s still another week of the election campaign to go. So Plaid have got seven more days to continue to promise to build a medical school on the foundations of the ‘excellence’ to be found at the Betsi. And all local politicians have seven more days to not mention a word about the two inquests over the past 48 hours on mental health patients in north Wales who have hung themselves whilst on the receiving end of the excellence of the Top Doctors. And of course to entertain the whinging from the Top Doctors regarding ‘pay restraint’ – by my calculations a 1% rise on £100,000k is pretty good going. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Or indeed a few thousand volts through you when you’re so distressed that you’ve ended up in a psychiatric unit.

How Much Do Staff Surveys Really Tell Us?

I’m indebted to a reader from Bangor who has sent me this – as Cyril Fletcher would have said on ‘That’s Life’ in the 1970s, only at this point Fletcher would have made reference to a newspaper cutting with innuendo before the camera cut to Esther banging on about child abuse (and she really couldn’t ever remember that woman who popped up recently in the press informing us that she’d told Esther all about Savile years ago). However my reader has sent me a link to the North Wales Chronicle, which on May 14 published the results of a Betsi staff ‘survey’. Like many such surveys, one only has to have one brief read of the ‘results’ to conclude that it is flaky. The results are presented as a triumph for the Betsi Board – the staff ‘have a higher opinion of their bosses than they did three years ago’ (except that we are then told that a comparison is being made to the same type of survey conducted in 2013, which is more than three years ago). However, despite having a ‘higher opinion’ of their bosses, on all the following categories the staff have ‘far less confidence’ than in 2013: managers listening to employees, involving them in decisions, encouraging them to suggest ways of improving the service and managing change. Which pretty much sums up the role of the managers – so in what way did staff have a ‘higher opinion’ of them? We are not told. We are told however that 3,252 staff responded to the survey. That is a very small proportion of Betsi staff. I read a few weeks ago that they employ 6000 staff in their mental health division alone. So on that basis alone, statistically this survey is meaningless (although it is meaningless in other ways as well, because of the way in which the questions are phrased). Interestingly enough, the survey revealed that 82% of respondents stated that they were encouraged to report errors or incidents. This is not backed up by evidence. This blog hears again and again from staff confirming that the most appalling failings are being concealed and that managers do not want to hear ‘bad news’. The Tawel Fan scandal was revealed by a nurse who made an undercover recording – she did this because she tried to raise a concern internally about a member of staff assaulting a patient but was ignored. After she blew the whistle she was suspended, maliciously reported to the police which resulted in her being arrested but never charged and received anonymous threats. She now works in England. No member of staff reported any of the failings or abuses that I and other patients witnessed when I spent months – completely unnecessarily – in the Heddfan Unit. (Neither was my subsequent complaint investigated properly.) In recent inquests on patients who have died whilst in the ‘care’ of the Betsi, staff have lied in an attempt to conceal failings. Furthermore, a look at the Ombudsman’s website reveals that many complaints have been upheld against the Betsi. None of this would be happening if staff really were encouraged to report errors and incidents. The survey entertainingly tells us that 88% of staff are ‘happy to go the extra mile at work when required’. So 12% of them aren’t – is this not worrying in a care setting where ‘going the extra mile’ might be needed in a life-saving situation? So what if you’re the patient who has the unexpected heart attack when one of the 12% is just going off duty, putting their coat on and leaving? (I did once see a patient having an unexpected heart attack in the Hergest Unit. He keeled over and was in very great trouble. The consultant psychiatrist on duty watched, he actually watched. He then ordered a junior psychiatrist to carry out CPR – and the junior psychiatrist wasn’t sure how to do it. It was a nurse who was summoned by another patient who knew what to do, did it and almost certainly saved the man’s life. As she did her bit, the two psychiatrists strolled off. I presume they were both part of the 12%). Now for another 12%! It is of course the 12% of respondents who claim to have experienced ‘physical violence’ at work from ‘patients, service users, relatives or members of the public’. I do not believe this figure. If it were true, people who have spent time in hospitals – like me and correspondents to this blog – would all have witnessed a number of physical assaults on staff. We haven’t. I have only ever witnessed one ‘assault’ on a member of staff and that was when a confused, psychotic man threw a book at the dreadful Raj Sambhi. And even that might have been avoided if Sambhi had any communication skills. I have asked other patients and they too have never witnessed patients/families/the public assaulting staff – we have all witnessed staff being sworn at and sometimes spoken to very rudely, but not assaulted. However a number of us have been assaulted ourselves (usually in the Hergest Unit) or witnessed other patients being assaulted by staff. A number of us have experienced staff claiming that we had assaulted them when we didn’t. My own medical records contain letters from the Top Doctors own lawyers telling them that they had to stop documenting in affidavits that I had assaulted them because there was no evidence that I had (it didn’t stop the Top Doctors though, they just ignored their own legal advice). When Keith Thomson ad Martin Jones were running the North West Wales NHS Trust, florid allegations were constantly made about patients ‘attacking’ and ‘assaulting’ staff. This was routine if a patient had made a complaint. The system was particularly effective because the RCN ‘rep’ who was responsible for collecting these ‘statistics’ and giving lurid press interviews was a former Hergest nurse who was unable to work through disability but was offered the job as the RCN rep as a deal. He continued to receive a salary in return for concealing the mountain of shite at the Hergest and maintaining that the place was full of nutters launching assaults on the staff. I knew one of this man’s colleagues who was invalided out of nursing with exactly the same physical problem – Thomson and Martin refused to let him stay on. But then he and his wife, who was also a psychiatric nurse, had been honest enough to raise concerns about the standard of care at the Hergest Unit and had stated that the Unit was dangerous. The survey tells us that 17% of staff had experienced ‘harassment or bullying or abuse at work from patients/relatives/members of the public’. This tells us nothing – the Betsi construct patients writing repeated letters of complaint if their complaints aren’t dealt with as ‘harassment’ and psychotic patients swearing as ‘abuse’. Requests from patients that staff ignore are constructed as ‘bullying’ if patients repeat the requests. ‘Harassment’, ‘bullying’ and ‘abuse’ are very much in the eye of the beholder and the NHS uses very elastic definitions of these. However, the survey did state that 30% of staff are unwell due to work-related stress – which, if true, is an extraordinarily high number.

I first began to take an interest in ‘staff surveys’ in the NHS in north Wales when I found out what Keith Thomson and Martin Jones were doing in terms of ‘statistics’ in the North West Wales NHS Trust. But then something else happened that caused me to question very closely all ‘staff opinion’. A man called Gren Kershaw, the CEO of the Trust that was responsible for managing Ysbyty Glan Clwyd before the Betsi was formed, was voted by the staff in (I think) a Nursing Times ‘survey’ as ‘best CEO’ of an NHS Trust in the UK. I knew two people at the time who both knew him. One was a researcher at Bangor University who was a former nurse who had been serially sacked from a number of jobs and who was ‘leading’ a project in partnership with the NHS which subsequently imploded. She described Gren as ‘great’. The other person was a PhD student who told me that the ‘elderly wards’ at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd were terrible and that there was a massive cover-up – his sister was a nurse at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and was advising the wider family not to allow their grandmother to be treated at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. Then I met someone at a seminar whose elderly terminally ill father had been in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd – she described him being dumped on a commode and left there, ending up crying such was his distress, only to be insulted by the nurses. So she complained – and received aggression herself. This lady removed her father from the ‘care’ of Gren’s empire and he was cared for at home – they were fortunately a family who were able to afford to do this. But then there was evidence visible from space suggesting that all was not well in Grenland, despite his accolade. A retired academic from Bangor University, Professor Clare Wenger, was admitted to a ward for ‘older people’ in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd and was truly horrified by what she saw. Clare Wenger was a specialist in old age care and knew bad practice when she saw it. And she certainly saw it at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. She compiled a detailed dossier listing all the gross events that she had witnessed and sent it to over 100 academic contacts so appalled was she. She appeared in the Daily Post and on Radio 4. The main thrust of her complaint was that which she had witnessed happening to other patients – extreme neglect. She did complain about the disrespect shown to herself but she took the view that she was a retired professor and could pretty much defend her own corner but the other very vulnerable patients couldn’t. Yet Clare Wenger was roundly abused and derided for daring to question the dear old NHS. Ysbyty Glan Clwyd entered a state of Complete Denial and constructed Clare Wenger as an insufferable snob who wanted ‘special treatment’ and the media followed suit. She was sneeringly referred to as the ‘lady professor’ who should have ‘gone private’. Now even if she had been the snobbiest old cow on earth, what everybody missed was that she wasn’t demanding special treatment for herself, she had been expressing serious concerns about the treatment meted out to the other patients. Nonetheless she was shot down in flames. Which is utterly bizarre, because not only is Clare Wenger an old age specialist but she has directed a number of major research projects concerned with the care and support of older people funded by the EU, the Department For International Development – and the Department of Health. Yes, the Department of Health paid Clare Wenger to lead a longitudinal study that lasted over 20 years looking at the ageing process and informal support. But when she dared raise concern about the abuse and neglect of elderly patients at Ysbyty Gwynedd that she had witnessed at first hand she was blown out of the water. So Clare was a stuck up cow and Gren was applauded in Nursing Times. And a few years later, the scandal at Tawel Fan broke. A ward for the elderly at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd where patients with untreated fractures crawled around naked on a floor covered in faeces and urine whilst nurses swore at them and discussed their sex lives. Probably the very same nurses who had voted Gren Top of The Chief Execs. No wonder they liked him – he shelled out the salaries and ignored complaints whilst they did sod all.

So what’s happened to Gren since the horrible truth about the hospital that he managed for so many years has become very public? He’s set up a management consultancy of course! Gren Kershaw Consulting Ltd. Registered office: 18 Bryntirion Drive, Prestatyn. Current accounts show £78-05k in the bank – that’s down £30.78k on the previous year, so Gren must have hit hard times. Furthermore, a Mr Grenville Robert Davison Kershaw was a company director from 18 March 2009 until 31 December 2015, whereupon he resigned. But on 31 December 2015, one Mrs Elaine Kershaw was appointed company director and she still is at present. If any readers could enlighten me regarding the scam that I suspect that Gren and his wife are operating I’d appreciate it.

As for the serially dismissed ex-nurse who was mates with Gren – well she has set up an ‘executive coaching’ business and her website boasts a rather untruthful CV. The Betsi have commissioned her to provide ‘training’ for the Top Doctors. I think even the Top Doctors would have seen through that ‘training’.

Post-Script: The Mary Wynch Case – The Details

Since writing yesterday’s post about the ruination of Mary Wynch by the mental health services in north Wales and the collusion of this in very high places indeed, there has been a response to my appeal for more information on the Radio 4 play ‘Penrhyn Summer’. I have been sent a few links – the play was actually called ‘The Penrhyn Summer’, was broadcast in 1986 and was written by Alison Leonard. Leonard’s biography is rather different from what I had presumed – she was not a Bangor student of my generation but was born in the 1940s and studied at the University of Edinburgh. However her biographical note states that she spent a number of years working with deprived and disadvantaged children. Did she possibly spend a stint employed in that field in north Wales? Because whoever wrote ‘The Penrhyn Summer’ had a very good local knowledge, far better than could ever be gleaned by a bit of ‘research’ – it would have needed an ethnographer to produce that – or someone who was working and living in north west Wales… I suspect that whoever wrote that play knew the full horrors of children’s service’s in north Wales and like Alison Taylor knew that abuse was endemic, that the North Wales Hospital Denbigh was being used to deal with awkward customers and probably also knew that a paedophile gang was operating in the region. The author also knew that Plaid politicians were articulating a position of ‘defending local people in Welsh communities’, flagging up the wrongs that families like the Pennants had historically inflicted upon the population but were then deciding to drop a few causes and remain silent about a few things once they thought that they might be within sniffing distance of Westminster. Why didn’t the author write about the dreadful abuse in the children’s services and mental health system that she undoubtedly knew about? Well look what happened to Alison Taylor, to Mary Wynch – and to me. And we were just the ones talking about what was happening to us. And what’s the betting that the dear old BBC would never have broadcast material daring to mention some of the horrors? After all, the highest courts in the land were used to pursue Mary and I – and Alison Taylor was sacked and never worked in social work again. The vile ones indeed had friends in high places. I also suspect that Alison Leonard might be a pen name…

I have received an e mail from someone observing that what was happening to Mary, Alison and me was happening during the same period of time and was known to the same Government Ministers. The phrase ‘corrupt as fuck’ was used in this e mail. Which is interesting, because when Dr Dafydd Alun Jones first tried to bribe me into dropping my complaints in 1987, I remarked to Brown – who was listening in to the phone call – ‘how has he got the nerve to try this?’ and Brown responded with ‘because he’ll have done it before and it will have worked’. Indeed banging people up illegally in Denbigh and bribing the well-educated articulate folk who had discovered the extent of your wrongdoing was probably the MO utilised by that lot on a regular basis and was a well-established method of doing business by 1987. My God, I could have been leader of Plaid if only I’d played ball with Dafydd! After all I fancy myself as a bit of a leftie, I’m a Welsh learner and I could even call myself a ‘strong woman’ if I wanted to rehash tripe from women’s magazines…

However, it wasn’t actually the colluding Plaid politicians who had their hands on the real levers of power during the period of time that Alison, Mary and I found ourselves being shafted at every turn. The administrations ultimately responsible for what was happening in the NHS, the Social Services and the Courts in those days were led by Margaret Thatcher and then John Major. Back to Basics anyone? Or indeed Strong and Stable Government! I will soon be writing a post taking a very close look at the Ministers whom I haven’t yet named (please see previous posts for those whom I have named) who were ultimately responsible for the parts of Gov’t that we were having such trouble with…

I mentioned yesterday that my co-researcher had sent me material from Hansard dated 27 April 1995 relating to Mary’s case. There’s a couple of other things of interest that were documented in Hansard on the same date. A Mr Redmond was documented as asking the Secretary of State for Health ‘when she expects to set up a Department of Health inquiry into the dismissal of Mr Michael Murray from his post as Chief Executive of the Foundation Trust at Stafford and when the findings will be made public’. A Mr Malone replied ‘I have no plans to do so’. So John Major’s administration in 1995 knew that there were problems in Stafford then – but ignored them. The sort of disaster that was revealed at Mid-Staffs more than twenty years later doesn’t happen overnight. Regular readers know that one reason why I loathe Andy ‘I’m a man of the people me’ Burnham is, that along with Alan Johnson, he was told by 81 different people that what was happening in Mid-Staffs was so bad that a public inquiry was needed, but this was refused – New Labour had spent much time and energy ingratiating itself to the health and welfare professions and no way were they going to admit that the NHS was killing people and lying about it. But it looks as though the Tories too years previously knew that something was badly wrong in Mid-Staffs and ignored it. The other thing of interest in Hansard was a question asked of the Secretary of State for Health by a Ms Rachel Squire ie. ‘what decision has been taken following discussions with the Royal College of Psychiatrists to begin research into the deaths of psychiatric patients associated with neuroleptic drugs?’ A Mr Bevis replied that ‘it has been agreed in principle that the remit of the confidential inquiry into homicides and suicides by mentally ill people should be extended to cover the deaths of patients associated with neuroleptic drugs. Further discussions will be held about the arrangements for examining these deaths’. Neuroleptic drugs, commonly known as ‘anti-psychotics’, are still being dished out liberally by psychiatrists although it has been known for years that they are associated with serious side-effects and sometimes death. This is the ‘medication’ that patients often ‘stop taking’ to the chagrin of psychiatrists and newspaper journalists. Under the Mental Health Act, patients can be forcibly injected with these drugs and this blog has previously cited many examples of this, including me when the dreadful Raj Sambhi sectioned me in the Heddfan Unit because I maintained that there was neglect and abuse happening in the mental health services in north Wales and that a paedophile ring had operated in the region. If a patient is placed on a Community Treatment Order, (CTO), which are now very widely used, they can be given these drugs forcibly in the comfort of their own homes. One psychiatrist who argued most forcefully for the introduction of CTOs was one Professor Tom Burns of the University of Oxford. Burns previously worked at St Georges Hospital Medical School and was the first psychiatrist that I was coerced into seeing by Nicky Mitchell-Heggs, the occupational physician at St Georges when I worked there. When I told Burns what was happening in north Wales, Burns admitted that there was a problem in psychiatry because it attracted ‘disturbed people’, that he was not ‘naive’ and that he knew the sort of thing that I was describing in north Wales does go on. Yet I have a copy of a letter that Burns later wrote Mitchell-Heggs saying that he thought that I might have a ‘paranoid personality disorder’ and that he didn’t think that he ‘had anything to offer’ (please see previous posts). No because he had realised that there was barrel of shit up there and by then he probably already had his eyes on a Chair at Oxford and a CBE, both of which he subsequently acquired. More recently Tom appeared at a conference admitting that CTOs had not ‘helped’ in the way that he had expected.

 

 

Those Who Care Are Concerned

Yesterday the Guardian reported that NHS staff were quitting ‘because pay was so poor’ – it was alleged that some NHS staff were using food banks and that some were working stacking shelves in supermarkets. This was attributed to the recent policy of limiting pay awards in the NHS to 1% and it was claimed that this was ‘damaging the NHS’. It was reported that in particular, people with mental health problems were experiencing delays and setbacks. This story emanated from claims made by an organisation called ‘NHS Providers’ which was described as representing almost all of England’s Hospitals, Mental Health Trusts and Ambulance Trusts, their spokesman being the Chief Executive, Chris Hopson. Hopson also turned up on Radio 4’s Today programme with his tale of woe, where again the alleged deleterious effect on mental health care in particular was commented upon. It was said that in recent months, the Medical Royal Colleges, the Health Trade Unions and health charities such as Cancer Research UK have all highlighted the effects on patient care of shortages of doctors, nurses, GPs and paramedics. Various representatives of the Medical Royal Colleges have previously been outed on this blog as having taken part in the neglect and abuse of patients – for example the delightful Professor Rob Poole of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I have also provided details of very bad behaviour – and research fraud – among leading lights in the Cancer Research Campaign, now known as Cancer Research UK. One of the people who starred was Nicholas Wright, who has picked up a knighthood. Furthermore, if doctors and GPs are either stacking shelves in supermarkets or using food banks they will be doing this for reasons other than being short of money – consultants and GPs all hit about 100k pa and many of them earn an awful lot more. Junior doctors and nurses do not earn as much as that but do not actually fall within the category of the ‘low paid’ – now a lot of them are leaving the NHS but talk to them about their reasons for doing this. It is nothing to do with pay. As I have stated repeatedly on this blog it is nearly always because they have standards which they feel are being compromised by the dysfunction, chaos, bullying and poor patient care that pervades so much of the NHS. The traditional get out clause of junior doctors to avoid the bullying and bullshit that rained down upon them was of course to enter General Practice, where they would in the end be self-employed and have some degree of control over their lives. But there were still hazards to be negotiated – one of the most conscientious medical students that I knew when I was young was sacked from his first post in General Practice. He remarked wryly that the main priority of the senior partner in the practice was the state of the carpet tiles and that medicine was far too much of a conservative profession to allow any trainee to disagree. This man was no firebrand – his ambition at school was to practice medicine for a while and then become a Conservative MP. He is now a hospital consultant and interestingly enough a Conservative Councillor who enjoys writing to the Daily Telegraph and Private Eye. His patients also report that he is a very good doctor – but he managed to get sacked. As for nurses – for years, nurses have been leaving nursing for other jobs if they cannot stomach what they are witnessing at work. They frequently move into teaching or lecturing, but some are so desperate to not remain in nursing that they do take up roles outside of the professions. The first person in this category that I encountered was a nurse who in 1984 was working as a waitress – she preferred to do that than participate in what was happening at Ysbyty Gwynedd which was where she had previously been employed. I have since met many more like her. Not one left nursing because of the pay – indeed if you are a nurse it is quite possible to end up on a very high salary if you go into NHS management and many of them do, particularly those with absolutely no principles at all (I’m thinking of one Grace Lewis-Parry here…). There are some very poorly paid people working in the NHS who may well be using food banks or working in a second job as well, particularly if they are the only wage earner in a family with children, but they are healthcare assistants, porters, cleaners, canteen staff and receptionists. They are treated like dirt although they are often playing a key role and I really don’t think that Mr Hopson the CEO from NHS Providers was thinking of them – he certainly didn’t mention them. Another person contributed to the debate as well, declaring the 1% pay restraint policy ‘stupid’ – that was Norman Lamb, the LibDem MP. Norman Lamb in recent months became well-known for his support for Sara Ryan and her family – Sara is the mother of Connor Sparrowhawk, the young man with learning disabilities and epilepsy who died as a result of neglect, along with hundreds of other patients, whilst in the care of Southern Health. Blame was attributed to Katrina Percy, the CEO, along with the rest of a deceitful dysfunctional Trust Board and a lying psychiatrist who simply moved to Ireland to practice after her cock-ups resulted in Connor’s death. Come on Norman, you know damn well that the death of Connor – and all the other patients – were nothing at all to do with pay restraint. The whole bloody lot of those responsible were on enormous salaries. Connor’s mum was a modestly paid academic and on her twitter feed frequently commented that she would have been sacked long ago if she’d been as bad at her job as Katrina Percy and co were – furthermore Connor’s mum had managed to look after Connor herself for most of his life without him dying. That only happened when she left him in the care of ‘professionals’.

One of the final item’s on the Today programme was another mental health related report, featuring interviews with both the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation and a ‘service user’ called Kerry. The report centred around people sectioned under the Mental Health Act being detained in police cells and Kerry was introduced as someone who had endured that experience. Kerry was actually pretty brilliant, she was very articulate, very frank about the horrors and serious deficiencies of the mental health system – but Nick Robinson the interviewer cut her off mid-flow. Because she’d already spoken and they’d run out of time. But the reason that they’d run out of time was that Nick had allotted so much of the time to the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation – who obviously was going to speak for service users, rather than the one very competent service user being allowed to reveal to the nation just how bad the whole system is. I noticed that in the Mail Online yesterday the Mental Health Foundation was also expressing concern about the Serious Problem of Women Drinking Prosecco At Lunchtime. Now if an elderly male Methodist Minister who was temperance wrote an article expressing similar concerns, he’d be publicly pilloried at worst, a figure of fun at best. But if it’s a ‘mental health charity’ no-one comments on how ridiculous and condescending it is. The Mental Health Foundation also stated that ‘1 in 3’ people will suffer from mental health problems – my God, the figure has gone up, the dreadful Paul Farmer and MIND always claimed it was ‘1 in 4’! We’re all going mad, especially women – the only solution is for the Gov’t to part with millions in the direction of the Mental Health Foundation and MIND, appoint them all to Gov’t Advisory Committees and then give them gongs. Meanwhile they will remain completely silent about the serious neglect and abuse of people who really are mentally ill (far fewer than ‘1 in 4’, which is of course why they can be so shamefully treated without an outcry) by the mental health services themselves – people like Kerry, whose opinions mattered less than those of the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation…. And just to show how effective Radio 4 is at raising awareness and combatting stigma, directly after the Today programme Andrew Marr hosted Start The Week and one of his guests described how he’d written a book about a conman who had swindled him who was a ‘bipolar maniac’ who spent huge quantities of money shamelessly. It’s called acute mania, a serious illness which should not be conflated with criminality and a lot fewer than ‘1 in 4’ or ‘1 in 3’ experience it.

All these dire predictions of the consequences of the UK Gov’t not giving mental health professionals even more money than they get already (God knows what they’re doing with it, one look at the state of the nation’s mental health system makes it quite clear that it certainly isn’t being used to benefit patients) has come at a very opportune time. A few days ago I was sent an excellent PhD thesis written by Dr Vicky Long, completed some years ago whilst she was at the University of Warwick and I have been working my way through it. The thesis is entitled ‘Challenging The Public Representation of Mental Illness, 1870-1970’ and it provides much evidence for a number of things that I’ve noticed myself during my various encounters with the UK’s caring sharing mental health services. Particularly interesting is Chapter Two of Vicky’s thesis, which consists of a detailed analysis of how mental health patients were represented within the literature produced by the National Asylum Workers Union. This is a good deal more relevant to present day concerns than non-historical/sociological geeks might imagine. NAWU later evolved into MHIWU (Mental Hospital and Institutional Workers Union), which in turn evolved into COHSE (Confederation of Health Service Employees), whose successor was UNISON, one of the most powerful players in today’s trade union movement, let alone simply within the NHS arena.

Vicky’s analysis very clearly demonstrates that this Union skilfully controlled how ‘mental patients’ were represented in the wider media, which in turn dictated how they were perceived by the general public and that the union nearly always did this in order to improve the pay and conditions of the ‘attendants’ ie. mental health nurses, rather than to improve the care and treatment of patients. Vicky’s analysis and the material that she presents from the late 1920s onwards is striking – we think of this era as being ancient history where mental health care is concerned, but the attitudes and even some of the language still exists in mental health ‘care’ today. As I read Vicky’s chapter, memories of scenarios and phrases used by staff that I had witnessed and heard at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and at Ysbyty Gwynedd came back to me.

Vicky analysed in detail the journal of the NAWU as this was the forum for representations of mental illness among asylum attendants. The NAWU was formed in 1910 as a reaction to the poor working conditions of the attendants and it focused on the gulf between the privileges and pay enjoyed by the asylum Medical Superintendents (Gwynne Williams the lobotomist and Dafydd Alun Jones in the case of the North Wales Hospital, although of course they were Medical Superintendents later on in the century) and the very poor pay and conditions of the attendants. Very early on in the NAWU’s history, it seems that the working conditions of the attendants were so bad that they did actually have a lot of fellow feeling for the ‘lunatics’. However this didn’t last. Vicky’s analysis highlights other phenomena that can still be seen among mental health professionals – battles between different unions, the influence of gender and fights over status between nurses and social workers. The NAWU journal was strongly socialist and working class and viewed membership of the rival Asylum Workers Union as an act of class betrayal. The whole thrust of Vicky’s argument is that the living conditions of the patients were only scrutinised when the situation of the staff improved.

The usual strategy of the NAWU to obtain improved pay and conditions was to focus on the unpleasantness of the patients. In 1912 there was a reference to the ‘antics of deluded and degraded ‘mental deficients’ and ‘moral perverts’ and nurses are frequently described as having to ‘manage’ difficult patients. Vicky notes that in the main text used for training asylum attendants, the terms ‘nursing’, ‘management’ and ‘control’ of patients are used interchangeably. (My actions in complaining about the north Wales mental health services are referred to on a number of occasions in my medical records as ‘antics’ and the records are dripping with references to the ‘management’ of me, as well as yes, the occasional reference to the need to ‘control’ me. Because I was writing letters of complaint – about criminal conduct on the part of mental health professionals.) In 1929, as part of the description of the job of a mental nurse, it is stated that ‘patients may be unpleasant, abusive, filthy in habits and language, or ungrateful, suspicious, unwilling and resistive….sympathy, kindliness and tact must be abundant to overflowing for the mental patient…’ Again, I have heard many of these words used by mental health professionals to describe patients. I was constantly viewed as a problem for being ‘suspicious’ and ‘unwilling’ – although the staff using such descriptions for me were detaining me illegally in the North Wales Hospital after Dr Dafydd Alun Jones had concocted a ‘deal’ with a corrupt police officer at Bangor Police Station – the nurses had documented all this in detail on my records and had also stated their unhappiness with being dragged into the ‘deal’. Yet I was pathologised for being suspicious of their motives and not wanting to waste my time in their prison. Again and again I have heard staff complain about patients who swear – indeed, at the ‘hearing’ held by Robert Bluglass into the investigation of my complaint about the North Wales Hospital (which didn’t actually cover most of my complaint or the most serious aspects of it), as part of his rationale for labelling me ‘mentally ill’, Jones maintained that I’d used ‘foul and abusive language’ in front of his young children and that anyone who does this is not mentally normal. (How I managed to swear in front of his children I do not know – I did not at the time know that he had children and had certainly never met them. But Jones was not required to provide evidence of any of it – he said that I did it, so obviously I did.) Bluglass agreed that my language was indeed shocking. Bluglass has a daughter Amanda, who fancies herself as an avant garde artist. A few years ago she took to displaying her creations on the internet. One of them was a sampler of a county cottage, below which was embroidered ‘Happy Fucking Holidays’. Interestingly enough, in his final report in which Bluglass avoided commenting on many of the gross things that had happened to me at the hands of Dafydd et al although there was documentary evidence of these things, Bluglass summed up by stating that ‘doctors and others are caring individuals’ – these were people who had illegally imprisoned me, assaulted me, repeatedly lied about me, threatened me and then when that didn’t work tried to bribe me. Oh and they were concealing the activities of a paedophile ring as well. But their goodwill and patience had no bounds…. Another reference from an early edition of the NAWU journal represents patients as ‘alien, foreign, devious and different from normal people’. The SEN in Denbigh who eventually assaulted me, Stephen Rose, at one point described me as ‘scheming and devious’ (it was never explained why) – and in another reference to my alleged ‘abnormality’, on one occasion Jones lost his temper with me (because I didn’t succumb to the threats and bribery) and he yelled at me ‘any normal woman would have some respect’.

Again and again in the NAWU journal severely ill patients are represented as anti-social and violent and this was repeatedly used to justify better wages and conditions In 1928, the journal dealt with allegations that patients were being brutally treated and abused by attendants by alleging that it was the patients who were violently attacking the staff. Arguments were mounted that attendants deserved better pay and conditions not because they were skilled and professional but because they were managing dangerous violent individuals. Accounts are based on conjecture – a ‘seemingly quiet patient’ may suddenly become ‘violent to themselves or others’, ‘another blow’ from a ‘violent patient’ ‘could well have been fatal’. On one occasion a patient less dishonoured than others – a soldier with shell-shock – published in another journal an account of the violence and abuse that he’d witnessed being dealt out by the staff in an asylum. The NAWU responded by stressing the unreliability of patients accounts. This is all very familiar. At the North Wales Hospital and at Ysbyty Gwynedd, again and again I and other patients made representations about staff assaults on ourselves and other patients that we had witnessed. Throughout the course of thirty years the response from the NHS authorities was the same – either it was the patients who had attacked the staff, or the patients ‘had misunderstood’ the situation, or the patients were all mates and were colluding with each other. On the occasion that staff injured me whilst I was a patient in the Hergest Unit, my injuries were not documented and I was not released from a locked ward until the injuries had healed. When I tried to telephone both the police and a friend to report the assault the telephone was disconnected. The assault upon me was never investigated. Despite all the allegations of ‘violent’ patients made by the north Wales mental health services and the constant stream of scare stories and confected statistics regarding ‘attacks’ on staff that the north Wales mental health services have placed in the local media, I have only ever witnessed one assault upon a member of staff, which was when a very psychotic disorientated man detained on a locked ward threw a book at a psychiatrist. That has been the sum of it. Staff are sometimes assaulted by patients, but it is not a regular occurrence. Furthermore, one of the more robust pieces of research that has been done into assaults on staff by patients in psychiatric units – there has been virtually no research conducted into abuse of patients by staff which is extraordinary really, it can only be that it just doesn’t happen! – concluded that in every case, the assault had been precipitated by staff being extremely aggressive or rude to patients. As for ‘quiet’ patients being suddenly ready to launch into terrifying violence – again, another allegation that was levelled at me. When people outside of the mental health services volubly stated that the lurid allegations made about me by mental health staff were inconsistent with what they knew of me, they were told that they ‘didn’t know’ what I was like, or that I had ‘fooled’ them or best of all that I was ‘charismatic’. Only the mental health services could see my black, black heart. But interestingly enough I have recently obtained documents from my lawyer which include letters from the lawyers that the mental health services were using themselves telling them that there was no evidence that I had ever assaulted anyone and that they had to stop saying this in affidavits. Not that it stopped the ludicrous allegations, the psychiatrists concerned then progressed to stating that they thought that I was going to kill them. No evidence at all, although a lot of evidence that they had repeatedly lied about me, even on oath – but nonetheless I could murder the whole lot of them in their beds, they just knew it.

The journal of the NAWU also contains information very reminiscent of the way that psychiatrists today describe patients who allegedly have ‘personality disorders’: ‘…cannot support themselves…cannot resist criminal impulses…not actively dangerous but are a menace to the community…no idea of…social obligations…a danger to women and children…anti-social tendencies and habits of this kind are not be cured…’ or indeed the ‘social failure’ of an individual. This could have all come from a present day psychiatric textbook.

One Claude Bartlett was elected President of the NAWU in 1926 – and he stayed in that post until 1962 no less. Throughout this time he remained a mental charge nurse and with the exception of his time as Chairman of the TUC in 1959, he restricted his activities to the field of health care. Bartlett was one of the most vocal calling for the amalgamation of the health services trade union into COHSE and he was a member of the Royal Commission whose recommendations were incorporated into the Mental Health Act of 1959. In 1959 Bartlett was stating that he was pleased with the large advances made by the Union regarding the representation of mental nurses as professionals. He commented that ‘I often wonder whether some of my trade union colleagues are not trying to break down barriers which have long since ceased to exist. It is a far cry from the lunatic attendant of less than 50 years ago to the trained and qualified psychiatric nurse of today. I am naturally proud to have played some part, small perhaps, in raising a once lowly occupation into a skilled and honoured vocation’. That was in 1959. During the 1990s a nurse at the Hergest Unit who was one of the best staff there, who really was skilled and professional, was regularly ORDERED by Dr X and Dr David Healy to telephone the police to complain about distressed patients. On one of those occasions, it was because a patient had said that he was so suicidal that he felt like chopping a gas pipe. He ended up in Walton prison on remand, although all charges were eventually dropped against him. None of those grandiose, arrogant psychiatrists saw the nurse’s role as ‘a skilled and honoured vocation’. And that nurse did not feel able to challenge any of them, although she saw the consequences of their actions. Interestingly enough the same nurse, after she retired, told me that she never applied for a position as a lecturer in Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences because in north Wales she witnessed the very nurses who did not have good skills with patients applying for jobs there – her perception was that they didn’t actually like looking after patients and weren’t actually very good at it, so they became nurse tutors instead.

In 1959 and the early 1960s, COHSE’s allegedly patient centred view was undermined, suggesting that once more, the main concern of psychiatric nurses was their working conditions. At the 1959 conference, the new Mental Health Bill was debated and a conference resolution expressed concerns that there was inadequate funding for the proposed measures and the hope that mental nurses skills would be utilised in the new community care system. Psychiatric nurses were well aware that other professions might usurp their roles and threaten their careers. COHSE tried to protect nurses by framing themselves as crusaders for the users of the mental health services and leaders of public opinion. Theresa May has of course announced that a new Mental Health Act is to be passed, which will lead to far fewer people being detained against their will and will also enable them to refuse ‘treatment’. This has of course come hot on the heels of scandal after scandal in the UK mental health services, of numerous accounts of neglect and abuse and of course deaths of patients in the care of the mental health services. Have perhaps the mental health professions realised that they are about to be cut out of the picture and made redundant – because patients certainly aren’t going to agree to the shite abusive treatment that is forced upon them at present if they are given a choice – and is that why they are all busy reminding us at the moment of how they only have the concerns of patients at heart? And that the patients are Suffering because mental health professionals aren’t being paid enough? Oh, by the way, in the late 50s/60s when COHSE were worried about their jobs and pay, they organised demonstrations and pickets. Stand by Theresa, there’ll be a March through central London to show us all how much they Care – all the usual culprits will be there, the BMA, the RCN, the Royal Colleges, MIND and Paul bloody Farmer, Peter Beresford and Rachel Perkins and poor old Jeremy Corbyn will be completely taken in by the whole lot of them and will join in, thinking that he’s helping people who Care. Meanwhile psychiatric patients will continue to be tasered whilst sectioned in hospital, suffocated to death whilst being ‘restrained’, prescribed ‘medication’ that harms or even kills them etc etc. In fact I think I heard on the Today programme that a National Health Action Party has been established to field candidates in the forthcoming election. The Top Doctors must be in trouble then, is there a scandal on the way? Has one of them been arrested for doing something that they shouldn’t have, perhaps removing perfectly healthy bits of the body after telling the unsuspecting patient that they had cancer a la Dr Ian Paterson? Or has another Harold Shipman been discovered?

As for Claude Bartlett’s claims in 1959 that asylums and the mental nursing profession had been transformed, well I think that needs to be taken with a very big pinch of salt. After a visit to the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, the Health Minister Enoch Powell was so appalled by what he saw that he is reputed to have told the assembled ‘professionals’ that he would not allow them to do this to people – Powell returned to London and announced the proposed closure of 75,000 psychiatric hospital beds over the next 15 years. (Of course when Powell witnessed something terrible, Gwynne the lobotomist was Medical Superintendent at Denbigh. Presumably Gwynne was so used to imprisoning, neglecting, abusing and indeed killing people that he had become complete immune to the idea that some people would not appreciate what was going on, hence he felt able to proudly throw open the doors of Denbigh to the Health Minster. Obviously the result of years of cap-doffing and toadying from small town society who could rely on the hideous Gwynne to deal with anyone who was a bit of a nuisance to them. COHSE really freaked out at Powell’s proposals and resurrected the spectre of the dangerous patient (they forgot their user-friendly bit) and wanted nurses paid danger money. COHSE were particularly irked with Powell’s proposals to only place psychiatric patients in Rampton, Broadmoor and Moss Side as a last resort. They also maintained that Powell’s policy of discharging patients on prescription would lead to a nation of drug addicts. Once more psychiatric patients were represented as violent criminals and Vicky Long suggests that this stemmed more out of the fear of the threat to the jobs, future and status of the mental nursing profession than any concern over more outpatient care. Again, I saw something similar when I was a patient at the North Wales Hospital in 1986/87. At the time the UK Gov’t were making much noise regarding closing down places like Denbigh and transferring patients into community care. All the nurses at Denbigh were raging about this, stating that the facilities in the community weren’t there (which was to be fair completely true) and that some of the very vulnerable patients would never cope (which again they didn’t). But the same nurses were concealing and colluding with the most appalling wrongdoing on the part of Dafydd Alun Jones et al – they KNEW that patients were in there illegally banged up, never having been assessed by anyone but had simply been arrested because they’d crossed the path of Jones or one of his mates. They KNEW that some of those patients were not ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘deluded’ as was being diligently documented. And one of those nurses, Iola Edwards – who was one of those who expressed such concern regarding the fate of the patients once Denbigh had shut down – actively stopped a young woman from telling me any more, when she heard the young woman begging me to help her and claiming that she had been abducted, held in an attic ‘by a doctor’ with a group of other men and molested. (Would you know anything about this perchance Dafydd, after all your mistress was named in the Waterhouse Report as having colluded with a paedophile ring whilst she was Director of Gwynedd Social Services). That young woman disappeared within hours – Iola Edwards obviously knew what had happened to her and must have been instrumental in flagging up to someone in authority that the young woman had told me what had happened to her, so they got her out of there quick. I bet they didn’t let her go though, or take her to the police. And of course the community care provided after Denbigh eventually shut was dreadful – because it was managed and staffed by the same people who ran and staffed Denbigh. Did anybody really imagine that their values and standards would suddenly change just because someone gave them offices and clinics in a different building?

The NAWU dwelt on some other familiar themes as well. In the 1930s their journal carried reports on the experimental use of leucotomies and ECT and the Government’s Athlone Report stated that ‘medical staff now require highly skilled mental health nurses to assist’. Although the historian of nursing Peter Nolan argues that physical treatments threatened to erode nursing skills by reducing nurses to doctors assistants, COHSE’s predecessor was enthusiastic about the ‘new therapies’. During the 1940s and 50s there was a reconceptualization of the image of the psychiatric patient as that of a client or guest. By 1961 glossy photos showing the luxurious aspects of public hospitals were displayed monthly in the journal and hospitals were described as if they were hotels. But when the Hergest Unit was built at Ysbyty Gwynedd there was much excitement and boasting about the new facilities – of course they were very much better than what had been on offer at Denbigh, but huge cracks soon appeared in the service, which still contained the former staff and managers from Denbigh.

The NAWU also reflected two other ideas concerning psychiatric patients that were expressed by some professionals – that either sterilisation or euthanasia would be a good idea. In 1929 the Gov’t considered sterilising ‘mental defectives’ and they were depicted as an economic threat to sane ratepayers. In 1934 Prof JA Berry, Director of Medical Services at Stoke Colney, Bristol, argued that some in his care should be killed, a ‘kindly euthanasia’ being the ‘only really kindly treatment’. A Dr EGL Goffe, a Kingston physician, suggested no other alternative for ‘idiots’ than the ‘lethal chamber’ as ‘such people should not be a drag on the community…a waste of money and energy keeping them alive…’ Many doctors wrote in favour of sterilisation – however one Dr Neil Montgomery showed an acute awareness of class power abuse issuing from doctor to patient, commenting that it tended to be the poor who should be recommended for sterilisation and at the same time expressed sentiments of duty to the patients which were not expressed by the working class members of the NAWU. (Remind anyone of the current Tory Govt’s new policy that people claiming tax credits for a third child can only do so if they can demonstrate that the child resulted from rape?) In July 1935, the cartoonist for the MHIWU journal (as it had then become) depicted the Board of Control Chairman’s view – a full page image of a physically deformed figure whose featureless ‘shadow’ fell menacingly over Britain. The figure was represented with palms outstretched, recalling the belief expressed in the journal by doctors, judges, Poor Law guardians and the Board of Control that ‘mental defectives’ were socially inefficient and an economic drain on the resources of the ‘normal’ population. Obviously a bunch of shirkers and skivers like all those people that George Osborne seemed to know of…

In 1963 an editorial in the journal commented that if the Lord Chancellor and Lunacy Commissioners were anxious for the welfare of the patients, the very first thing that they should turn their attention to is the conditions of asylum services to attract and retain the best types of men and women. Sounds familiar – here comes a nurses pay claim, just after revelations that patients were being treated dreadfully. By the end of the ‘60s, the situation of the patients had not improved. Barbara Robb’s famous expose of the appalling treatment of the mentally ill in hospitals, ‘Sans Everything: A Case To Answer’, elicited personal attacks on Robb and COHSE complained of a ‘witch-hunt’ atmosphere and parodied Robb’s expose as ‘Knock Everything’. COHSE was not the only body representing psychiatric nurses – the RCN did as well and in 1970 their conference attacked psychiatric nurses conditions of work. The Chairman of their Psychiatric Committee suggested the patients posed the main limitation to nurses work. Once more a dire representation of your average psychiatric patient was constructed, with it being claimed that being spat at, kicked, scratched and bitten was all in a day’s work and that nurses spent much of their times separating patients who were fighting or warding off assaults on themselves.

The journal of the NAWU also reflected the gender battle that took place within it’s own ranks. From the 1920s onwards there was much opposition from male asylum attendants to women nurses working on male wards. Sick patients were portrayed as violent anti-social misfits whose violent and sexually depraved behaviour would only increase at the hands of kindly female nurses – a similar argument was used at the Hergest Unit as the rationale for their callous treatment of those whom they labelled ‘personality disordered’. Indeed, a suicide attempt by one such patient was constructed by Dr Dafydd Alun Jones as being the result of ‘ire’ of all things. Yet Nursing Times, a journal dominated by women, opposed the NAWU, pointing out that ‘not a single complaint of any kind has been made by the female nurses’ – furthermore, a female nurse was quoted as commenting that constructing all ‘mental cases’ as ‘depraved’ was an ‘insult’ to many patients. This depiction of patients as violent and sexually perverted diminished when it was no longer in accordance with the image that the Union was trying to establish. This turnaround confused members – there is written evidence from one male nurse demonstrating that he was puzzled as to how the Union could have ‘forgotten’ what patients were like.

Throughout the twentieth century, the journal of the NAWU repeatedly published articles on themes that are still pursued at present. An article in the 1940s written by a patient, ‘David’, was the first time that the journal has offered any degree of respect to a patient’s account. David was completely uncritical of his treatment and maintained that it could only have been bettered if the asylum staff were paid more. This is startlingly reminiscent of much discourse from present day ‘service user involvement’. Two of the biggest figures in the UK in this field are Peter Beresford and Rachel Perkins. Beresford is a former social worker and this is very obviously still a major part of his identity and Perkins is the former clinical director of Springfield Hospital. Perkins oversaw a disaster, including a number of murders, and Springfield was subjected to damning comments at a subsequent public inquiry. Neither Beresford or Perkins have ever spoken out about serious abuse and neglect in the mental health services, criminal activity on the part of the ‘professionals’ or the problems of dishonest expert witnesses in psychiatry. Their concerns tend to revolve around ‘discrimination’, ‘stigma’ and the need for more funding and higher staff pay. Some years ago I received a series of very angry e mails from someone who had completed a PhD with Beresford, demanding to know why I would not ‘come out’ as an academic who was a ‘service user’, telling me that Peter Beresford could ‘help’ me. I have made it clear in my publications that I do not hide my involvement with the mental health services but I find the ‘service users movement’ for the most part strangely deradicalised, denatured and institutionalised and I explained this to the person who e mailed me. They became angrier and angrier and made it clear that I was some sort of traitor by not joining the merry band who remain silent about serious wrongdoing but who campaign for higher pay for the people involved in this.

Another article in the NAWU journal from the early middle years of the twentieth century concerned the activities of a charity dedicated to the after care of discharged asylum patients, supposedly committed to their economic and social reintegration. The charity’s President had commented that the work of the charity assisted the state by producing good citizens. Does this sound familiar to you Paul Farmer?

Another article published in the 20s stressed the important of asylum attendants completing the Certificate of the Medico-Psychological Association, in order that the work would be seen as highly skilled and professional. Nurses these days are encouraged to go for postgrad education, because nursing is ‘highly skilled’ and ‘professional’. Some years ago I was forwarded an e mail from a ward manager at the Hergest Unit which frankly declared that he didn’t want to do an Masters because he’d found completing a Bachelor’s degree very difficult, but his boss, the nursing manager Lena Henry, had told him that it would make the Hergest Unit look good if he did enrol for a Masters. Meanwhile patients died.

Again, as far back as the 1920s, the NAWU’s journal was maintaining that the general public only saw the worst side of mental hospitals and that if the public were allowed to enter such hospitals they would receive enlightenment. I witnessed two such Tours of North Korea myself, one in the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and one at the newly opened Hergest Unit. Local dignitaries were guided around the best parts of the building by the nicest members of staff. At Denbigh it occurred on Christmas morning when the Mayor and his entourage paid a visit. They were all very friendly, but of course patients clamoured to desperately tell the Mayor et al what was actually happening to them in there. The accompanying nurses used obviously tried and tested techniques to deflect the conversation onto other matters, such as the Christmas presents that the staff had given us that morning – they did give us thoughtful presents and they gave us a good spirited Christmas dinner as well – but a lot of the patients that the Mayor met had been detained illegally, although he wasn’t told that. The nurses did tell me that the Mayor visited the hospital every Christmas morning – ah, so they knew that he would be coming then! When the doors of the newly opened Hergest Unit were thrown open to some local councillors I took the opportunity to tell them that one of the psychiatrists there was having sex with the patients. A sharp-witted nurse interjected with ‘that man does not have any beds in this hospital’. No, but they let him in every Tuesday to hold outpatient’s clinics…

In 1969 COHSE’s journal concerned itself with the struggle for status between psychiatric nurses and psychiatric social workers. The social work profession made it very clear that they considered themselves superior and expressed concern that nurses would ‘muscle in’ on community work. Interestingly enough, I know a psychiatric nurse who trained in the 70s who considers that social work training is too political, concentrates too much on the identity and place in the world of the social worker and does not pay enough attention to the concept of duty to one’s clients. This nurse believed that this was what lay behind so many of the problems that patients experienced with the Arfon Community Mental Health Team – whether she knew that some members of that team were doing the bidding of people who were facilitating a paedophile gang I do not know. I note that Chapter Three of Dr Long’s thesis is concerned with the development of psychiatric social work. I look forward to reading her account of the evolution of the profession of which Hywel Williams was such a proud member.

Reading Chapter Two of Dr Long’s thesis one can only conclude that very little has changed – unions representing mental health staff in the UK have been very much more concerned with the pay and conditions of their members and have been prepared to denigrate the people that they are paid to care for to achieve this, ruthlessly manipulating public opinion. Was it really All A Very Long Time Ago and that Things Are Different Now? Well when I was in Denbigh a nurse called Bob reminisced about how he used to ‘manage’ the patients in his earlier years – he told me that the nurses had to make the patients more frightened of them than they were of their hallucinations. Bob told me that in 1987 – he may still be alive. As many of the older Denbigh nurses are. It is indeed informative to go on the website of the grandly titled North Wales Hospital Historical Society, which is actually a forum for former staff. There are a number of threads where staff have been chatting to each other – those poorly paid nurses who were constantly in danger from patients are certainly enjoying retirement. They discuss their exotic foreign holidays and one of them has a yacht that he talks about. Whilst I was in the Heddfan Unit a former Denbigh nurse who used to pop in there to do a bit of agency work told me that he owned a property in Florida and he spends his time between there and his place in north Wales. By the way, as mental health workers, all these people were entitled to retire at 55 yrs old with a full pension. Tory Cuts anyone? I know of someone else in north Wales who is both a psychiatric nurse and a psychiatric social worker. This man told me years ago that as a student, he was one of those who exposed the Ely Hospital Scandal – he claimed to have punched a nurse whom he saw assault an elderly man before he mobilised the students. Yet this man sectioned people in Denbigh, he knew about the horrors of Prestwood homes, he knows exactly how bad the mental health services are and he watched highly inappropriate people qualify as social workers when he worked in social work education at Coleg Menai. He has never spoken out about any of it. He now has a leading role in MIND in north Wales. Do you fancy punching a few other people Geoff? Starting with your senior colleagues at MIND who pay your salary and are doing such damage…

Bring on the protests then. Of those who are only protesting because they Care.

 

 

 

Another Death – May 4, 2017

BBC News Wales is reporting the death of Matthew Jones who was found dead in his flat in Rhyl in April, three weeks after being discharged from the Ablett Unit. Matthew suffered from severe depression and alcoholism and three days before he was discharged from the Ablett was on 15 minute observations so high was his risk of self-harm. Matthew’s mum has given an interview to the BBC stating that her son was ‘crying out for help’. She has explained that conditions in the Ablett were dreadful, with Matthew having to sleep on a sofa at one point, furthermore a sofa on which someone had urinated upon which had not been cleaned properly. She has also revealed that at one point Matthew had been housed by the ‘services’ above a pub – a man known to have an alcohol problem. The Betsi are taking refuge in their usual vacuous outpourings, promising an ‘investigation’ and stating that all ‘service users’ are consulted about their ‘care plan’ on admission.

There is not one aspect of this death that is unfamiliar. Again and again mental health patients in north Wales have been found dead shortly after being discharged. Again and again people close to them have maintained that anyone could have identified them as being in deep distress and still in need of help. Again and again days before discharge the patients involved had been assessed as being at high risk of self-harm or suicide. For years now patients and relatives have commented on the dreadful physical state of the Ablett Unit – yet we are constantly reassured that it has been ‘improved’. I visited a friend there some four years ago and even I was gobsmacked – it was completely unsuitable for any inpatient. My friends’s room had no door – it had been ripped off and never replaced. There was a bright light immediately next to where the door had been which remained on throughout the night – my friend was given a bollocking by a night nurse for not being asleep, yet she refused to switch this light off. Matthew reported the presence of a sofa that had been urinated upon – well one of the things that my friend found most intolerable about the Ablett was the failure of anyone to clean up after a particularly disorientated patient who defaecated everywhere. When I went to visit my friend there was nowhere at all for visitors to sit – the only place for the patients themselves to sit was the grand total of two chairs, positioned directly outside of the nurses station, so no privacy there.

As for the housing of Matthew, a man with a serious alcohol problem, above a pub – for years now, it has been a consistent feature of the mental health services to house mental health patients in locations in which they are frankly in danger. The whole of Bethesda witnessed an alcoholic housed next door to a pub some five years ago – he was dead within months. When I first started writing this blog, I received a detailed communication from a member of mental health staff at the Betsi describing the many ways in which patients were being neglected – she too mentioned alcoholic patients housed above, or next door to, pubs. It had happened to one of her own patients although she had personally flagged up the danger involved in the location of this accommodation – her concerns were ignored. I witnessed a vulnerable man with a psychotic illness housed in Bethesda in a house of multiple occupation in which two other residents were dealing in class A drugs. They terrorised this man and within a month he had left the flat – only to be told by the glorious Arfon Community Mental Health Team that he had ‘voluntarily’ left the flat, so they wouldn’t be ‘helping’ him again. Their relationship with him was so poor that he never told them that he’d fled a gang of hardened criminals, although if he had have told them that particular ‘team’ would not have given a damn. I know of another woman with mental health problems and learning disabilities who was housed by the mental health services in a flat in Bangor owned by the North Wales Housing Association – there was even increased rent being paid for her on the grounds that she would receive extra ‘support’ from some sort of warden/disability officer. She too was being terrorised by a drug dealer who lived upstairs from her – this continued until he was arrested and imprisoned after a police raid a few months ago. Her friends knew what was going on and persuaded her to bring the matter to the attention of the ‘officer’ who was supposed to be offering her extra ‘support’ – his response was to reply sarcastically that it was ‘a shame’ that she was being bothered by her neighbour and to then fail to visit her again. Her friends were so worried about her that they advised her to apply to the North Wales Housing Association for a transfer – the ‘support officer’ wouldn’t even advise her on this process. The worst case that I am aware of however was of a man with serious mental health problems who was housed by the Hergest Unit in a shared house with another patient on a notoriously tough council estate. The man whom he shared the house with had Korsakoff’s syndrome, a form of very severe memory loss caused by serious alcoholism – this man had been in hospital for years because he had lost so much memory that he could not even remember that he was in hospital, he would look at his surroundings and try and work out where he was. On the second day of the ‘house share’, the man with Korsakoff’s syndrome put a pie in the oven – and forgot about it, causing a fire in the kitchen. Within three weeks, the other man in the ‘house share’ had been targeted by self-appointed ‘paedophile hunters’ (although he wasn’t a paedophile – he just looked unsavoury and said unacceptable things) and was beaten up. He was then relocated to other unsuitable accommodation and within a few months was found dead in his room, having choked to death. He was supposed to be observed every twenty minutes but somehow his body remained undiscovered for several hours. I know of another mental health patient from the Hergest who was housed on the same estate and had been there a grand total of three weeks before someone threw a brick through her window.

None of this is helped by Hergest staff who tell the neighbours of Hergest patients that they are ‘dangerous psychiatric patients’ – I know of at least five cases in which this has happened. None of the patients concerned were in the least bit ‘dangerous’ and there was absolutely no evidence at all suggesting that they had ever been ‘dangerous’, although a number of them had complained about the mental health services. This happened to me many years ago when I was living near Bethesda – I was ruthlessly harassed by two other people in the village, two charmers called Denise Baker and Malcolm Fox, who it transpired had done this to other people. At the time I just attributed the grief that I was receiving to these two being a pair of sociopaths – which indeed they were – but I was told by another neighbour some years later that the delightful Denise and Malcolm had connections with the local social services and that I had been of mutual interest to them. Indeed a couple of years later, Denise married a social worker and then began working in mental health herself – I was told that she was fired from at least one position after being identified as a danger to the vulnerable women that she was working with. I would be most interested to know how Denise Baker ever landed a job in mental health and how she continued to work in the field for some years – at one point even with Prof Louis Appleby’s ‘flagship’ team at the University of Manchester – when her conduct was so well-known. Appleby was, at the time that he employed Denise Baker, the Government’s Director for Mental Health. Appleby is a very big name indeed – he is a non-executive director of the Care Quality Commission and has led the National Inquiries into suicide as well as into homicides and suicides committed by people with mental health problems. So who on earth was writing references for Denise Baker? And why did Appleby not flag up her unsuitability for healthcare positions, because he undoubtedly knew that she was unsuitable – she landed yet another job after her stint with Appleby. Another thing of interest that I discovered some years after experiencing the dreadful Denise and Malcolm, was that there was a man living in the same village as me who was a close friend of Denise and Malcolm who had served a prison sentence for child sex offences and was on the sex offenders register. The social/mental health services will have known all about that – so why were they, assisted by Baker and Fox, actively circulating rumours regarding my alleged ‘dangerousness’ when a sex offender was afforded complete privacy (which of course he should have been; I’m relating this anecdote to demonstrate that there were some very odd practices at work).

As for the claims of the Betsi that ‘service users’ are ‘consulted’ about their care plans when they are admitted – no they are not. When I was admitted to the Heddfan Unit I made it clear after two days that I did not want the dreadful Raj Sambhi as my consultant. I was ignored. My friends raised their concerns about Sambhi’s attitude and competence. They were ignored. My lawyer wrote three letters over a number of weeks to the Betsi pointing out that there was no therapeutic relationship between Sambi and myself and that we were no longer even communicating. My lawyer was ignored. Then a Mental Health Tribunal no less recommended that Sambhi should be removed as my consultant. They were ignored. Sambhi remained my consultant for months, misdiagnosed me – and no doubt the rest of his patients – loaded me (and everyone else) up with anti-psychotics although his relationship with me and others was so poor that he wasn’t even paying us a visit before wielding the prescription pad. I was not consulted about ANY aspect of my ‘care’ at all, until Sambhi went away for two weeks and a much saner – and nicer – locum turned up, had one conversation with me and observed that I should not be on a locked ward. I was immediately transferred to another ward where I encountered Dr Alberto Salmoiraghi – who consulted me about everything and even took the trouble to meet my friends, the friends who had spent months banging their heads against a brick wall trying to alert the Betsi to what was actually happening on Sambhi’s ward. Sambhi has now been given a role in ‘training and education’ at the Betsi. Dr Alberto has been subjected to racism because he has the temerity to be Italian and was accused of the dysfunctionals at the Hergest Unit of ‘bullying’ them when he suggested that their standards should be raised.

We are now in the middle of an election campaign. Will any local politician have the guts to comment on the death of Matthew Jones? Or will Hywel et al continue their campaign for a medical school in Bangor based on the ‘excellence’ that they maintain infuses the regional NHS? We’ll brace ourselves for all those photo opps with local NHS staff accompanied by text telling us how the culprit is ‘supporting’ the NHS and all that is needed to stop the genocide is a few more billion…

News Round-Up, April 13 2017

The blog has also recently covered the sorry state of perinatal mental healthcare for women (see posts ‘The Sad Story of the Heidi Humphreys Unit’ and ‘Articulate Middle-Class Woman’ ‘Intimidated’ Healthcare Professionals’). It now seems that another middle-class woman – an expert of the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ – has been killed by the public services after suffering postpartum psychosis. Alice Gibson-Watt died days after being ‘restrained’ after she developed ‘delusions so severe’ that she believed that her baby was telepathically communicating with her. There are a number of inconsistencies in the story as there tends to be when a mental health patient has been killed by those who ‘help’. The police officer who ‘restrained’ Alice – she was pinned down by police and strapped down to a stretcher by paramedics – has given a lurid account of Alice screaming and thrashing around. Well she was probably terrified. It was reported that Alice had tried to bite them – well you’d fucking well tied her up hadn’t you, what else could she do, even symbolically? Yet another witness account describes Alice as having had an ‘anxiety attack’ because she feared that the baby had died. After being tied up and terrorised, Alice was taken to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where a psychic psychiatrist noted that her conversation seemed normal, but guess what, they knew that there was a psychosis underneath! Now it is incredibly common for new mothers to fear that their baby has died – they are charged with keeping this little creature that they don’t yet know very well alive and babies do weird things like holding their breath, making snuffling noises and turning odd colours. Nearly all new mothers, at some point, have a fleeting fear that the baby has died. Alice’s mistake was to panic too loudly about this. It is also very common for people to believe that they are so in touch with the feelings of someone close to them that they are telepathic. If such an idea is expressed by a mother whom a healthcare worker encounters who has not been labelled psychotic, it is usually taken to be a sign of ‘bonding’. Days after Alice was tied up and carted off to the Chelsea and Westminster, she was found to have a torn liver, which subsequently killed her. Those involved in the ‘restraint’ all maintain that they did nothing at all that could have possibly caused this. The psychic psychiatrist suggested that someone psychotic could have injured themselves and not felt any pain! (Presumably in the same way that black people were believed to be biologically suited to slavery in a way that white people weren’t a few hundred years ago…) So we have a possible scenario of a new mum having a panic attack being assaulted by either a police officer or paramedics so seriously that she sustained a torn liver. As the inquest continues we will no doubt hear a lot more about Alice’s ‘violence’ and superhuman strength as she fought tigress-like – well that liver has got to be explained away somehow…

A recent post on the blog described how babies are dying because midwives frequently are not taught how to read foetal heart monitors – see post ‘News From The Betsi’. Yesterday Jeremy Hunt announced an investigation into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust after a spate of deaths of babies – because staff didn’t know how to read the foetal heart monitors. The Trust has defended itself by maintaining that their track record regarding this is no worse than other Trusts – which is probably true, this has been a substantial problem for years and as with other circumstances causing patients to regularly die when they shouldn’t it has all been concealed.

Dear old MIND are doing one of their regular impersonations of an organisation concerned about the welfare of people with mental health problems. They have produced a report maintaining that people discharged from psychiatric units are not receiving appropriate follow-up care, which is increasing their risk of suicide. The usual suspects have all climbed on board, Prof Louis Appleby, Norman Lamb, the Care Quality Commission and ‘an opposition spokesperson’. All these people – and MIND itself – have been fully aware of this problem for years. They are also all fully aware that patients, whilst they are in psychiatric units, are sometimes assaulted by staff, wrongly diagnosed, forcibly given medication which sometimes kills them, ‘restrained’ in such a way that they choke to death, or are tasered by the police. Even if they avoid these more extreme hazards, their lives are frequently destroyed by the time that they have left hospital. They have often lost tenancies and are therefore homeless, usually no-one has managed to deal with their finances whilst they are in hospital – remember, if they are sectioned it is very likely that they will not be allowed out to deal with such matters – so they have built up debts and they are pretty much unemployable, because no-one going to employ someone who’s been sectioned or has been in hospital for several months (and it’s not necessarily to do with ‘stigma’, it is simply that employers fear that if the person concerned is that fragile then they won’t be fit for work). We do not hear about any of this from MIND – and it is for these reasons that people tend to kill themselves when they leave hospital. Interestingly enough, after the dreadful Dr Raj Sambhi sectioned me in the Heddfan Unit for the best part of a year on the grounds that I was ‘severely mentally ill’ because I was maintaining that there was neglect and abuse in the north Wales mental health services and that a paedophile ring had operated in the area, when I was finally released – and I had to find my own accommodation as well, but unlike a lot of other patients I had a network of well-heeled middle class friends to help me – I was visited by a vey nice CPN. After obtaining my medical records relating to this recently, I discovered that this CPN had documented that my risk of suicide was ‘high’ because I had realised what ‘I’d lost’ as a result of my very serious illness. Of course, as I have now revealed on this blog, I have been conducting my ethnographic study of the UK mental health services for quite some time now – and had I not been a sociologist preparing for publication but the person that Raj Sambhi et al assumed that I was, yes I’d say it was highly likely that I would have killed myself – because Sambhi had made every effort possible  to completely destroy my life. Indeed, Professor Catherine Robinson et al of Bangor University’s ‘Centre for Mental Health and Society’ thought that he had – which might be why they co-authored with him…

A Letter From Gary Doherty, The CEO of The Betsi

I have received the ‘final response’ from the Betsi’s CEO Gary Doherty regarding my very serious complaint (the full text of my e mails to Gary Doherty and Peter Higson, the Chairman, can be read in previous blog posts). To describe Gary’s letter as inadequate is an understatement. Previous blog posts have described the numerous inaccuracies and serious unsubstantiated allegations documented upon my medical records, the inclusion of confidential information relating to other patients among records sent to me, the passing on of confidential information relating to me to someone in England who has contacted me, the admission by a member of staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd that certain records were removed from my file many years ago without my knowledge and the failure of the Betsi to release over twenty years worth of records to myself.

Gary only fesses up to two crimes. He admits that there is no evidence that I have ever ‘sexually molested a psychiatrist’ or ‘held a nurse hostage’. Gary has apologised for these entries on my records and has told me that this information will be deleted. Gary does not offer an explanation as to how such horrible allegations came to be made about me and there is no mention of an investigation or disciplinary action against the staff who recorded this ‘information’. Gary has failed to deal with any of the other numerous inaccuracies and slanders on my records – indeed he hasn’t even made reference to most of them. I complained about staff of the mental health services alleging that I had assaulted them and was ‘known to assault members of the public’ when this is not true. Gary’s response to this is that ‘there is factual evidence within the notes of a number of aggressive incidents, no inaccuracy recorded’ – this ‘factual evidence’ refers to the lies written by mental health staff. I have no convictions for assault on anyone. But my medical records maintain that I have attempted to stab people, attempted to throttle people, assaulted staff again and again and attacked members of the public. Neither has Gary mentioned why it was recorded that I had ‘absconded’ from the Heddfan Unit when I had been illegally detained there and the ward manager had told me that I was free to go.

It would appear that more than twenty years worth of records concerning me have completely disappeared. Gary tells me that records from the North Wales Hospital Denbigh have been archived and the archives have been searched but no information relating to me was found. He tells me that there are no records from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. He tells me that records from the Hergest Unit dating from 2002 have been released to me and that a ‘few letters’ dating from 1986 have been found but no ‘detailed notes’. He has sent me a copy of a letter that Martin Jones sent me when he was CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust admitting that a number of records from my attendances at Ysbyty Gwynedd A&E cannot be found – well of course they can’t, it was admitted to me that they’d been removed from my files. So where have they gone and why were they removed?

So virtually all records relating to me from 1984 to 2002 have disappeared. My request to Gary was partly experimental. It has been common knowledge that for a number of years now I have been stating my intention to one day publish my experiences at the hands of the mental health services and that is why I began this blog. I actually have a copy of the records between 1984 and 2002 that Gary claims don’t exist because in 2005 my lawyers summoned Keith Thomson, the former CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust, in front of a judge in the High Court and he was forced to hand those records over, something that he had previously refused to do. (However there were a number of documents compiled by a staff whistleblower that Thomson did not hand over – he signed an affidavit testifying that all records had been released so Thomson perjured himself on that occasion.) My lawyer has now returned my records to me – I’ve got the lot and have been using them to write this blog. So why can’t Gary find twenty years worth of records that document staff wrongdoing and law breaking? Have they been unlawfully destroyed? Or is Gary telling porkies?

Gary has made no mention at all of the fact that confidential information about me has been released to someone else. He states that he has found ‘one page’ of information among my records that refers to another patient. Well actually Gary, among the records released to me by the Betsi a few weeks ago, there are at least five pages of information relating to another patient, I’m looking at them now. And among the documents returned from my lawyers – documents that you say don’t exist – there is information relating to 18 other patients. Among the documents that Gary says don’t exist is also the document which alleged that I have been in prison for attacking someone with a knife – in his reply to me Gary simply says that there is no such allegation upon my medical records. There is, but Gary has either lost or destroyed so many of the records that he’s lost or destroyed that particular allegation.

To summarise. The staff at the Betsi will knowingly write the most damaging libellous comments on patients medical records and will refuse to remove them on the grounds that staff lies are ‘factual information’. They will pass confidential information about one to other people and fail to address this issue if one raises it in a complaint. Furthermore they will release large quantities of confidential information relating to other patients to one and will simply deny that they have done this. There will be no investigation or disciplinary action undertaken even in relation to the wrongdoing to which they are prepared to fess up. So this is Gary’s idea of ‘resolving a complaint’. (And I didn’t even bother to complain about Raj Sambhi sectioning me for months on the grounds that I was alleging serious abuse in the mental health services and that there had been a paedophile ring operating in the area – those months of my life have gone and I cannot bring them back. I was hoping however for a bit of humility from Gary, an admission that things had – AGAIN – gone badly wrong and a remedy to the scores of fallacious allegations documented about me.)

Gary, I can hear the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales calling…

The Real Story Behind These Figures…

The Daily Post online is running a shock horror feature based on figures that they have accessed via an FoI request claiming that thousands of staff over the past few years at the Betsi have been ‘assaulted’ by patients. The NHS in north Wales has a history of claiming that the region is packed with aggressive nutters who regularly launch unprovoked attacks on selfless NHS staff. This impression is reinforced in the areas of the local hospitals which are accessed by the public which are now liberally covered with posters screaming at the patients about ‘zero tolerance’ and what will happen if they ‘assault’ staff.

Now if this were actually happening I’d be completely sympathetic to the presence of these notices and to the presence of the security guards and police officers that now populate NHS buildings. However after three decades of ‘using’ (although very often not by choice) the NHS services in north Wales – and the mental health services at that, the site of so many of these alleged incidents – I have never witnessed a patient assault a member of staff. I have witnessed patients shout and swear at staff, but these have usually been disorientated, distressed people who were deemed to have been sufficiently so that they’d been detained under the Mental Health Act. The nearest to an ‘assault’ that I have seen in thirty years was when the dreadful Raj Sambhi imprisoned me in the Heddfan Unit for months on end because I was daring to maintain that there was serious neglect and abuse in the mental health services and that a paedophile ring had operated in the region. At one point Sambhi strutted onto the ward in his usual manner and a patient – who was obviously very disorientated – threw a book at him and it hit him in the face. But that patient threw things around constantly – he threw a scalding hot cup of tea over me when I was standing in the lunch queue and I bet that hasn’t appeared in any statistics. I was asked if I wanted to prosecute him – of course I didn’t, I wanted the ward made safe. That didn’t happen and when I pointed out that patients were not safe in that ward I was told ‘well you didn’t want to prosecute him’. What good would prosecuting a psychotic sectioned man have done? He needed better care and the ward needed better staffing and organisation. And Sambhi needed to get to know his patients and make appropriate decisions, not just to appear on the ward once a week for twenty minutes and have no idea of who and what he was dealing with.

However what I have witnessed in the last thirty years is staff assaulting patients. I have been assaulted by staff myself on a number of occasions at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and the Hergest Unit and I have witnessed it happen to other patients. I have also been told by patients that they have witnessed assaults on other patients by staff as well. On every occasion, these incidents were followed by staff claiming that it was the patients who had assaulted them and that they had then ‘restrained’ the patient and it was documented as such. The staff are compiling the records, so it is hardly surprising that incidents of them assaulting patients are documented thus. In Taliesin Ward, the locked ward of the Hergest Unit, patients were denied access to the police if they wanted to make a complaint against staff who had assaulted them and even visitors were prevented from entering that ward until the patient had effectively agreed to stop maintaining that they’d been assaulted. Injuries to patients inflicted by staff were not documented. The ward manager of Taliesin at the time was a woman called Alison Parry, who used any excuse possible to jump on top of patients and pin them to the ground. The patients on that ward were being abused by the staff and everyone knew it. Keith Thomson, the CEO of the North West Wales Trust at the time, admitted in writing to my lawyer that complaints of aggression against staff were ‘common’. There was obviously a very big problem with those staff rather than the patients. Furthermore I now have documents that demonstrate that one senior nurse in the Hergest Unit, Anne Ward, altered paperwork in the wake of an ‘incident’ involving me to grossly exaggerate the ‘incident’ after I had made a complaint. Full details of the aggression and misconduct of staff on Taliesin Ward can be read in my blog post ‘Who Is In Need Of Restraining?’

I note that a spokesman for the Betsi has stated that ‘we employ our own security staff’. Exactly – the security staff are employed by the Betsi and they are capable of being as dishonest about the staff’s conduct towards the patients as the staff are. The security staff can also behave appallingly and they are never questioned. Some years ago there was a report in the local media concerning a member of security staff who had been on duty at A&E in Wrexham Maelor. This man had made comment about the disgraceful behaviour of the patients in A&E who had failed to help a man who had died in the waiting area. However, the story contained a number of clues as to what had actually happened. The security man had been ‘on duty’ and had watched the man who had later died ‘slumping’ in his chair. He had ordered him to stop slumping. The man had then slumped over completely and had nearly fallen off his chair, so the security man had got hold of the man and pulled him upright. The man was found to be dead shortly after. So a patient died in an A&E waiting area, in front of a security man who had manhandled him as he was dying. Where were the staff? And why didn’t the security man call the staff for urgent help? Yet all this was blamed on the other patients. It is hardly surprising that the other patients didn’t intervene – there was an aggressive bastard of a security man on duty whom they had all witnessed manhandling someone. They also probably believed that as they were sitting in an A&E dept, staff would be attending to patients in need – isn’t there a thing called a triage system?

The Betsi have told the Post that ‘many areas are covered by close circuit TV, which acts as both a deterrent and a source of evidence should events take place that lead to criminal charges’. When Ysbyty Gwynedd was still managed by the North West Wales NHS Trust, I was accused of threatening staff in the A&E dept, by a senior nurse called Stephen Gallagher, who had actually threatened me and refused to treat me. CCTV recorded the whole incident. My lawyer wrote to the then CEO of the Trust, Martin Jones, to request the CCTV evidence so we could establish whether it was Gallagher or me telling the truth. Martin Jones wrote back and stated that the CCTV footage had been destroyed. My lawyer established that the footage had been destroyed after I complained that Gallagher had threatened me. I was threatened by another senior nurse at Ysbyty Gwynedd on the same day, one Alan Roberts. Again Martin Jones maintained that I was the problem. My complaint against Roberts was never investigated because Martin refused to co-operate with the investigation. Some years later Alan Roberts hit the local media because he had ended up in court – he had assaulted a patient, an old lady in her 80s. Further information about the conduct of the dreadful Gallagher and Roberts can be read in my post ‘Two Very Dishonest and Dangerous Nurses’.

The Betsi have told the Post that ‘we employ a Violence & Aggression Case Manager to support and assist staff who have been subjected to threatening or aggressive behaviour. Where a serious assault has taken place we always support staff who wish to bring a prosecution’. So staff wishing to make allegations against patients have a whole infrastructure to assist them. Patients wishing to make complaint have no-one and are denied access to the police.

The Betsi do admit however that ‘it must be remembered that significant number of incidents reported are not gratuitous but can be a result of patients’ conditions, for example following anaesthesia or when suffering an acute episode of a chronic illness.’ So ‘significant numbers’ of these incidents are not actually patients being wilfully aggressive at all.

There is something else that should be remembered regarding the Betsi  statistics regarding ‘assaults’ on staff. These figures include ‘verbal assaults’. In other words, not an assault at all but someone speaking to a member of staff in a way that they do not like. It’s the staff compiling the records, its the staff who decide whether they have been subjected to unacceptable rudeness, so a ‘verbal assault’ is pretty much in the eye of the beholder, the member of staff. So this is how we get to hear that there have been thousands of assaults on staff…

I am not the only person who has noticed all this. Since starting this blog I have received correspondence from other people who tell me that very serious allegations were made about them by NHS staff when they had made complaint. Some of these readers have published their experiences in the ‘comments’ section of the blog.

So we have a situation in which staff – particularly mental health staff – seem to routinely make allegations that it is they who have been assaulted if ever a patient dares to complain about staff aggression and misconduct. And there are some ‘nurses’ employed in the region who are to be frank, thugs. One more thing. Even if staff lies don’t stand up in court – as in my case when the Hergest Unit tried and failed to have me imprisoned for ‘threatening to kill Alun Davies’, the manager of the Hergest Unit – there are yet more tactics that can be resorted to. Certificates of indictment can be forged and the PNC interfered with, as happened in my own case. The North Wales Police Legal Division are currently investigating – full details can be read in my posts ‘Interesting Happening In The Legal System’, ‘Even More Confusion Regarding Those Legal Conundrums’ and ‘An Update On Those Legal Conundrums’. By the way, despite enormous efforts, the mental health services did not ever succeed in their attempts to imprison me. I do however know of other mental health patients who have ended up in prison on the ‘evidence’ of NHS staff. Interestingly enough they claimed that staff had lied. Some of those patients died in prison and are not in a position to access their documents and blog about it all.