News Round Up, April 30 2017

I’m back from my break so the blog is back in action. Many thanks to the readers who sent me information and stories whilst I was away – I’ve got a stack of posts in the pipeline, although it may take me a week or so to catch up with everything. I also have many other leads which will take a bit of background research…

I have been sent a number of links to a story involving a surgeon at Harefield who is currently on trial for the rape and sexual assault of colleagues. There are familiar themes in this story – his offensive behaviour was well-known, women avoided being alone with him, no-one had the guts to formally notify the relevant authorities until one brave woman spoke up only to find huge pressure put on her to go away and shut up, with comments like ‘he does that to everyone’ being made. Of course he’ll have been doing it to everyone, he knew that no-one was going to confront him…

My attention was also drawn to a huge fire at the Christie Cancer Research Unit in Manchester, run by Cancer Research UK. The reader who sent me this story quipped that there may well have been an awful lot of documents thrown into the inferno in the light of my recent posts regarding cancer research, naming a few people who are now very big names in Cancer Research UK. Whilst on the subject of cancer research, I did hear on the radio that there is now an admission that the Cancer Drugs Fund that has operated in NHS England has been a complete waste of money and an ‘ill thought out’ piece of policy. A man called Richard Sullivan appeared on the Today programme fessing up to all this, but stated that he didn’t want to ‘name names’ regarding the people who had lobbied so vigorously for the Cancer Drugs Fund. Well he should name names – anyone who has ever been involved with biomedical research knew that the Cancer Drugs Fund was a con, a number of powerful drug companies knew that they could pressurise weak and unscrupulous politicians to lobby the Westminster Government to fund drugs that were hugely expensive and had very little proven benefit. Everyone involved knew this – the people who didn’t know it were the patients dying of cancer, frightened, vulnerable and desperate, who believed that they would gain a few further months of life. But a few pics of them in the Daily Mail accusing the Government of ‘condemning them to death’ did wonders for the implementation of that policy. Readers will know that I have been very, very critical of Carwyn for ignoring the genocide of mental health patients in north Wales, but to be fair to Carwyn he has been spot-on in refusing to implement the Cancer Drugs Fund in Wales. He repeatedly stated that there was no evidence for it and was roundly abused by everyone. ‘Team Irfon’ from north Wales were particularly vociferous in painting Carwyn as an Utter Bastard. For the uninitiated, ‘Team Irfon’ are the group of people supporting Irfon Williams from the Bangor area who has terminal cancer and were robustly pressing for the Cancer Drugs Fund to be introduced to Wales. At one point Irfon announced himself ‘cured’ and ‘free of all tumours’ after receiving a miracle drug from England – Carwyn commented that it all seemed rather odd. Well it was, it transpired that Irfon wasn’t cured at all, his tumours were rediscovered within weeks and it has now been admitted that Irfon is dying. I would be interested to know who was Irfon’s source of information – Irfon was described as an ‘NHS manager’ in the press. He is actually a mental health professional from north Wales who’s friends and family have mobilised the sort of support for him at a time of crisis that his own patients certainly never enjoyed. Irfon is a relatively young man with small children, so I can understand that he will have grasped at any glimmers of hope – but someone was telling him porkies and was very obviously using him in a political campaign… Would anyone now like to admit that where the Cancer Drugs Fund was concerned Carwyn was right – and apologise for all those damning headlines suggesting that he was singlehandedly responsible for the deaths of cancer patients in Wales? I seem to remember that the Tories were having a field day with such allegations…

There was also an appearance on the Today programme by Richard Torbett, a PR man from ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry), announcing that unless the NHS receives many more billions in funding, pharmaceutical companies and those involved in the ‘life sciences’ industry, would pull out of the UK, precipitating disaster. This was presented as yet another ‘warning’ to the UK Gov’t along the lines of ‘ooh they’ve ignored the Top Doctors, but the ABPI are saying exactly the same thing’. The Today programme should have actually pointed out that the ABPI and the Top Doctors are pretty much the same people – the ABPI Board, the advisory committees of the ABPI and it’s associated companies are choc full of Top Doctors, the Top Doctors are leading the research teams supplying the data to the ABPI and the Top Doctors then prescribe the drugs produced by the ABPI. The whole process tends to be about careers and money rather than developing interventions for the greater good of humanity (please see previous posts). It was mentioned on the Today programme that the products of the ABPI were ‘reviewed’ by NICE, just to reassure us all that there’s nothing dodgy going on. This would be the NICE that has been rash enough to appoint one Professor Jo Rycroft-Malone to Chair one of it’s most influential committees. Enough said. (New visitors to the blog can read all about Jo in previous posts, such as ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board!’)

A number of other stories regarding the NHS In Crisis also appeared whilst I was away. The UK Govt’s Public Accounts Committee have heard evidence that patients in England are struggling to obtain GP appointments because practices are shutting during ‘core’ hours (‘core’ hours being NHS speak for ‘the normal working day’). A report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health stated that children’s hospital units are closing to new patients because of staff shortages. Well, the NHS is a grossly dysfunctional organisation riddled with bullying and corruption and people who’ve gone into medicine for the right reasons are increasingly feeling that they just can’t stomach much of what is going on…

A truly splendid story appeared on BBC New Wales – my old friends MIND Cymru and it’s Director Sara Moseley alerted us all to ‘struggling emergency service workers’ who are now going to be offered ‘support’, such are their traumas. Presumably these ‘struggling’ workers include the Welsh Ambulance Service personnel who are fiddling their expenses, violently assaulting each other and failing to respond to calls from members of the public in serious need (please see post ‘A Longstanding Problem…’). Yet still not a word from Sarah about the appalling abuses of the mental health services in north Wales – she’ll know all about them because her brother Simon Moseley is a clinical psychologist employed by the Betsi….

I heard on the radio an update on the sad story of Alice Gibson-Watt (please see post ‘News Round-Up, April 13 2017’) who died in the ‘care’ of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after experiencing a postpartum psychosis. I note that it was concluded that there was a catalogue of ‘failures’ on the part of the NHS – although no-one managed to explain how Alice sustained a torn liver at their hands, although it was the torn liver that caused the cascade of physical problems that killed her.

A reader informed me that a previous star of this blog, Simon Pyke, a lying, incompetent former mental health services manager with the Betsi went on a ‘Knowledge Exchange Visit’ to the inaugural Indo-European Symposium with one Dr Brian Tehan – a Dr Murali Krishna (formerly a consultant old age psychiatrist with the Betsi) was involved as well. Just to remind readers, it was an elderly mentally ill ward at the Betsi, Tawel Fan, where conditions were so bad that a national scandal followed after a whistleblower made an undercover recording, that caused the Welsh Gov’t to place the Betsi in special measures. Patients on Tawel Fan were crawling naked around a floor covered in urine and faeces and one patient had a broken arm that had not been treated. What on earth would the people responsible for such ‘care’ have to teach anyone attending an Indo-European Symposium? Interestingly enough the link that the reader sent telling me about this is a Bangor University link to the School of Social Sciences. I used to work in that School and when I worked there it was full of, well, Social Scientists, some of whom were very good. But something strange happened just before I left – the School started filling up with psychiatrists from the Betsi and their associates, who certainly didn’t know anything about social science. Presumably this ‘Knowledge Exchange Visit’ was another jolly organised by those psychiatrists and their associates, none of whom have any knowledge to exchange at all beyond how to abuse and neglect patients. I see that the link to this piece of info is broken – has someone at Bangor University woken up to what a PR disaster it’s going to be if anyone actually associates Simon Pyke et al with them? Interestingly enough, other readers have been telling me that when they’ve searched for folks at Bangor University who have featured on this blog, they too have found that the information from the University website has disappeared – and the University of Oxford have removed a few links to dear old Mark Williams’s original ‘mindfulness’ work as well… Have Bangor and Oxford finally woken up to what has been going on? I would imagine that the VCs of these institutions might be very worried indeed, although I am aware that the idiots who were actually responsible for the fraudulent ‘research’ exposed on this blog are still in a sound sleep up there – as ever it’s only dear old David Healy who’ realised that they’re all on borrowed time….

Whilst on the subject of Bangor University removing links to embarrassments, regular readers might remember my post regarding the disasterous Hilary Lappin-Scott and her brief time as PVC for Research at Bangor (please see post ‘News Round-Up, March 16 2017’). After the University divested itself of her services, a lot of us were very entertained to see that all references to Lappin-Scott disappeared from the website within two hours of her departure. The word on the ground was that a trusted IT technician was ordered to cleanse the website – I was told that the University’s experience with Satan-Scott had been so dreadful that there was a concern that she might remove crucial information from databases in an act of sabotage, so security measures were undertaken as well. Satan-Scott of course has re-emerged at Swansea University, where she has caused havoc. The investigative website ‘The Eye’ is really obsessed with Satan-Scott and has been reporting on the chaos that she has been causing at Swansea for months. Their latest update reveals that Satan-Scott has been appointed to a key position regarding the Research Excellence Framework and interdisciplinary research, although she has no expertise whatever in the field. Since leaving Bangor, Satan-Scott has constructed herself as an ‘expert’ on ‘gender’ – Satan-Scott is a microbiologist and knows bugger all about gender scholarship (indeed I was entertained to see that many of the most basic facts and figures relating to the ‘gender gap’ given in a recent ‘international presentation’ by Satan-Scott were wrong), but she has declared herself a gender expert on much the same basis that Leanne Wood has declared herself a feminist – because she’s a woman (hey Hilary, men have a gender too!). According to the Eye, Satan-Scott has been busy ingratiating herself to Dame Athene Donald, the woman who has now offered Satan-Scott the position on the REF committee. Oh well, so we now going to have a brainless bully who tramples on women who are not in a position to do her favours passing judgement on other people’s research that she will not understand. I note that although Theresa May recently visited Swansea University, Satan-Scott was not part of the delegation that met her – presumably someone at Swansea knew damn well that Satan-Scott could not be let loose on the ultimate VIP.

The row regarding weekend death rates in the NHS continues apace – I can’t see anyone ever getting to the bottom of this one, because the figures from the NHS can’t be trusted but neither can any figures presented by Jeremy Hunt. It reminds me a little of a confrontation on ‘Any Questions’ a while ago between Peter Hain and Kirsty Williams, where they both yelled that the other one was lying during a row about nurse to patient ratios in NHS Wales. The reality was that neither of them knew and neither of them had the guts to admit that much nursing practice in the UK NHS is unsafe, so the nurse to patient ratio in such circumstances is not a marker of quality anyway. NHS England are also busy boasting about the number of new nurses that they’re training – it doesn’t matter Jeremy/Theresa, if those nurses have standards they’ll leave, just as thousands of other nurses have already and your staffing problem will remain. There is no shortage of qualified nurses in the UK, just a shortage of nurses who want to work as nurses – and it’s nothing to do with salaries or funding, it’s the bullying and dysfunction that drives them away.

I was struck by a mystery yesterday. The media has been awash with reports of a high profile boxing match (I don’t know between who because I don’t follow boxing), but over the past few years I’ve noticed that boxing has undergone a remarkable rehabilitation. At one point boxing was considered very unacceptable and the BMA campaign to outlaw it almost looked as if it was about to succeed. (I remember a BMA spokesman stating that ‘there is no safe level for being hit on the head’, which must be one of the few honest things that a spokesman for the BMA has ever said.) But the BMA have now gone very quiet where boxing is concerned – what’s happened? Who’s silenced them and how? We are now subjected to media reports telling us how Prince Harry overcame his aggressive urges by hitting people, how it is ’empowering’ for young women to hit each other and how some schools are re-introducing the noble sport of hitting each other in order to keep youngsters away from crime (it worked a treat with Ronnie and Reggie Kray didn’t it) – and not a squeak from the BMA…

Lastly, yesterday I heard the dreadful Esther Rantzen on the radio waxing lyrical about her ‘work’ with charities, particularly ‘mental health’ and Childline. Esther forgot to mention the recent revelations that some children had rung Childline complaining of institutional sexual abuse and had been ignored or the embarrassing claims of the woman who maintains that she told Esther all about Jimmy Savile but Esther never responded. Well when Esther launched her mental health campaign I wrote to her about the abuses taking place in the mental health services in north Wales and Esther never replied to me either. However, this morning I heard that supermarkets are going to start selling wonky looking vegetables again. So I’ll purchase a root vegetable that looks like a penis and send it to Esther – I’ll be guaranteed a reply…

Of course there has been another big story whilst I’ve been away – that of Ian Paterson, the surgeon who carried out unnecessary mastectomies on women and who has now been convicted of unlawful wounding. I’ll be dedicating a whole post to this, because it’s worth exploring in detail…

 

Joint Betsi Board/North Wales CHC Meeting, March 24 2017

This morning I attended the Joint Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board/North Wales Community Health Council Meeting. Regular readers will know that I have long given up expecting to hear any sort of honest discussion at meetings involving the Betsi Board – or indeed the Community Health Council – but it is fascinating to observe these meetings, if only to marvel at the level of denial and the fact that Peter Higson, the Chair of the Betsi, has not resigned yet.

The most noticeable feature of this morning’s meeting was how many people were absent, both from the Betsi Board and the CHC. Peter Higson sent apologies from a list of people – including the delightful Martin Jones – and the Chair of the CHC (I’m afraid that I don’t know her name) noted that they were ‘very light on the ground’. Indeed I think there was only about five members of the CHC present – so much for the ‘watchdog’ that ‘holds the NHS to account’. There was another noticeable absence from the Board though – Jo Rycroft-Malone aka the Racist In Chief. Neither did Higson offer apologies for her absence. Has the dreadful Jo finally gone, having realised that her position was untenable on the grounds of her multiple conflicts of interest alone, yet alone what is passing for the ‘research’ that she is ‘leading’ in her capacity as PVC for Research at Bangor University? We can only hope. However Jo’s mate the equally dreadful Lyn Meadows was present. Another interesting absence was the husband and wife team ‘Independent’ Board member Bethan and her husband, who is Chair of Gwynedd CHC – never mind the conflict of interest, just get your bums on the seats of as many Boards as possible.

Higson continues to look like a very worried man indeed, which is hardly surprising in view of the fact that this Board sinks deeper into the barrel of slurry in which they are obviously drowning as each day passes. In a recent blog post I questioned why Higson was still hanging on, considering that he is past retirement age and has already picked up a pension and an OBE as a reward for his career of ignoring serious abuses in the NHS in Wales. A reader e mailed and suggested that because the previous CEO of the Betsi, Mary Burrows, seemed dangerously determined to try to put a stop to the flagrant abuses that are rife in the NHS in north Wales, when those we know and love finally brought Mary down Higson probably thought that it would be a good idea if he returned to the north to protect the many people whom he had spent his whole career protecting, as they were squealing loudly. This would certainly explain why certain mental health professionals whom I know to have been involved in some very sordid activities were cracking open the champagne at the thought of Higson returning. They have however done so much damage that even the Godfather cannot keep a lid on it any longer.

The meeting kicked off with the usual trawl through the minutes of the previous meeting. There was an extensive discussion concerning the Social Services and Well-Being of Future Generations Act, led by Board member Geoff Lang. He explained that under the terms of the Act the Board’s focus was on ‘individuals with care and support needs’ and that the Betsi were working with the Area Planning Board on issues like substance abuse. This blog had previously documented the extraordinary ‘commissioning process’ that has led to the Area Planning Board and the Betsi giving millions to CAIS, who are very obviously failing to deliver on substance abuse – but did anyone ever really expect a ‘charity’ in which Dr Dafydd Alun Jones and Lucille Hughes play a key part to deliver on anything? What is the point of a grandiose Act when organisations like CAIS are being contracted to deliver ‘services’?

A representative from the CHC called Eryl pointed out that during discussions with the matrons of community hospitals, he had been made aware that the NHS operates ’24/7′, but the Social Services stop at 4pm on a Friday. Eryl has raised a very old problem – mental health patients, even if they were deemed worthy of input from Gwynedd Social Services (which they usually weren’t), have long since found that there is no service on a Friday, no service at weekends, no service on a Monday and no service on any days before 9-30ish and 4pm. A discussion held regularly by mental health patients pivoted around who was actually receiving a ‘service’ if it involved Gwynedd Social Services. There was a plentiful supply of callous, negligent social workers on the books but no-one knew who was getting anything like a ‘service’. After Eryl’s comment there followed a discussion regarding the ‘challenge’ involved in providing care home beds for dementia patients – I think that we are talking crisis rather than challenge regarding this matter.

Gary the CEO then moved on to the matter of the ‘Phase 2 report’ – that is the report that has been compiled in relation to the ‘progress’ (or not) of the Betsi under special measures. Gary rattled on about the many areas that special measures covers – which seems to be just about everything. He maintained that ‘good progress’ had been made, that an ‘awful lot of effort’ had been put in but that there was ‘still an awful lot to do’. Presumably that’s why there’s a suicide, avoidable death or scandal involving the Betsi reported in the local media several times a week.

Eleanor Burnham, the former LibDem AM who is now a member of the CHC, then started giving the Board a very hard time regarding the case of a man who had waited so long for a wheelchair that he had developed sores. She told Gary very firmly that if they can’t even get a wheelchair to someone there is something wrong with the Health Board. Which is of course true, the Health Board is broken – but the north Wales NHS has been grossly dysfunctional for many years and I don’t remember Eleanor making much of an issue out of this when she was an AM. Furthermore Eleanor has a shameful past – she sat on mental health tribunals at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh. This was an institution that illegally imprisoned patients who dared complain and where serious abuse of patients was pervasive. In her role of a member of the tribunal Eleanor will have gained much information about those abuses – perhaps she’d like to start publishing an account of what really went on out there, because it’s about time that someone did. However one of Eleanor’s colleagues also kept quiet about serious abuse and neglect in the mental health services in Wales. This colleague of Eleanor’s was approached by the family of a patient who had killed herself whilst in the care of Powys Local Health Board some years ago. The neglect was appalling – for example two of the staff who were supposed to be ‘observing’ this severely depressed young woman had GONE SHOPPING whilst they were ‘on duty’. At the eventual inquest there were I think 36 points on which Powys had been found wanting. But the AM whom the family of this patient approached refused to get involved, although she had described Powys LHB as a ‘time bomb’. Who was this AM? None other than Kirsty Williams – who, whilst all this was going on, had decided to run for the leadership of the LibDems in Wales, which no doubt was why she wasn’t going to do battle with the dear old NHS. Indeed when the various vested interests in the NHS were attempting to cause havoc for Mary Burrows, Kirsty was happy to share platforms with representatives from that institution riddled with corruption, the BMA. Kirsty is now the Education Minister for Wales and makes regular appearances in her Serious Woman in Power specs lecturing the nation. Pity about that young woman who died at the hands of an LHB that you knew was dangerous wasn’t it though Kirsty.

Gary the CEO then started discussing the Board’s handling of patient complaints. He defended himself robustly, maintaining that ‘we’ve made definite improvements’ and explained that the handling of complaints often involves a ‘meeting’ with the complainant. Followers of the blog will know that I made a complaint to the Betsi about a number of very serious matters before Christmas and my complaint has still not been resolved – on fact I’ve taken parts of my complaint to the Information Commissioner because it doesn’t seem as though the Betsi is making any progress with it at all. Furthermore the only meeting that I’ve been invited to was a meeting to ‘discuss’ this blog with Gary and Peter when they wrote a silly letter to me the other day complaining about the content of my writing here. Eleanor chipped in again refusing to accept Gary’s claims of an ‘improvement’ and reminded Gary that the Public Services Ombudsman ‘whom I know’ had dished out some very harsh words to the public services very recently. Which indeed he had, he had some very damning conclusions – however, once more I ask why Eleanor and her colleagues at the Assembly have done so little about the state of the NHS, particularly as a lot of them do know people such as the Ombudsman.

Geoff Ryall-Harvey, the Chief Officer of the CHC, talked about how the CHC handled complaints. He stated that some people don’t know about the CHC. Well I do know about the CHC and when I approached them with my complaints they variously told me barefaced lies, ran around in circles for months or ignored the complaint. Meanwhile the mental health services that I was complaining about continued to imprison and kill patients.

Eryl from the CHC asked whether special measures was affecting the recruitment of doctors. North Wales has had a major recruitment problem with doctors for years, particularly in specialities such as psychiatry. One only has to encounter some of the psychiatrists and it is very obvious that they are working in north Wales because they have not been able to obtain another job. Thus has been the situation since the days of the North Wales Hospital – whoever would have wanted to work in a place like that? Special measures probably could not make the problem any worse than it already is in psychiatry. The other specialities have long been troubled as well – for years medical students and junior doctors advised each other not to take jobs in north Wales, particularly at Ysbyty Gwynedd. Martin Jones was despised by the staff when he was CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust – he is now the Director of Workforce of the Betsi. Is it surprising that their recruitment events prove fruitless?

A member of the CHC who I think was introduced as Mark raised the matter of the mental health services. He stated that it was not yet evident that the ‘work’ that the Betsi is doing is having an impact on the patients. It certainly isn’t – the tally that I am keeping on this blog regarding the constant stream of deaths of people with mental health problems testifies to this. Gary the CEO admitted that ‘we’ve got a long way to go’ – and you’re not going to get there until you start dismissing the scores of abusive and neglectful staff that you have on board Gary. Andy Roach, the Director for Mental Health, commented that they would be presenting a ‘comprehensive document’ to the Board in April and that ‘they were on a journey’ (a journey that a lot of patients are not surviving) and that they are doing a ‘lot of work’ with service users and carers – well what they have done is pay the bunch of crooks and charlatans at CAIS £1.5 million to deliver ‘service user/carer involvement’. Meanwhile people carry on dying. Gary commented that a number of people are unhappy but don’t complain – that Gary is because they have witnessed the all-out witch hunts of people who have complained. Furthermore that is the purpose of those witch-hunts – to make damn sure that no-one else dares to raise concerns.

The Board moved on to a discussion about the urology service, with which there would seem to be much dissatisfaction. There were allegations flying that patients are being left so long with catheters in that there is a suspicion that this was being done instead of offering surgery. The discussion became incredibly bad-tempered with Eleanor Burnham and Christine Evans, another member of the CHC, shouting at the Board. Christine Evans is of course a retired surgeon from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd who is the former Chair of the CHC. At that time, she wrote a blog in her capacity as a councillor that made it quite clear that her priority was to protect the jobs and empire of her former colleagues. At one point during the urology discussion it was mentioned that the Betsi had ‘lost a urologist’ and Christine Evans stated that ‘I have to say that he will be no loss – I know that’s a rude thing to say’. I don’t know the urologist in question, perhaps he was bloody awful, but when Christine Evans was Chair of the CHC she knew that north Wales was heaving with dreadful doctors who were abusing their positions and she did not utter a word. In fact I happen to know that Christine Evans was the consultant who treated one of the psychiatrists at the Hergest Unit who had busied himself making very serious allegations against me that he knew were baseless in an attempt to ensure that I ended up in prison. But then doctors in north Wales sometimes dispense a rather different style of treatment to each other than they do to the rest of the population…

A discussion about orthopaedic surgery followed and the unacceptable waiting times. Again Eleanor and Christine went into battle fiercely – if only they could feel this passionately about the mental health patients that are dropping like flies. However someone mentioned something that interested me during this discussion – that the Police and Crime Commissioner was previously a member of the CHC. I presume that this was a reference to Arfon Jones, who used to chauffeur Gordon Anglesea to the locations where it was later revealed that Anglesea sexually molested teenage boys and whose ‘oversight’ ensured that Anglesea’s widow ended up with 50% of his police pension although Anglesea died in prison as a convicted sex offender. No wonder that CHC has never done what it should…

I left the meeting at this point after realising that as ever, nobody was going to take Higson to task regarding the horrors that still prevail in the mental health services.

Yesterday’s Betsi Board Meeting – March 17 2017

As promised (please see blog post ‘A Truly Splendid Letter From The CEO And The Chairman Of The Betsi’) I attended yesterday’s meeting of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, despite Gary the CEO and Peter the Chair’s silly letter objecting to the way in which I report these meetings on my blog. So here’s the latest review of at least part of the meeting – as usual I couldn’t bear any more than about two hours worth of these wallies, so I left just before noon. I understand that the meeting continued for sometime after this, so apologies to the Betsi Board if they suddenly geared up immediately after I left and presented detailed plans as to how they were going to extract themselves from the millions pounds worth of debt that they are currently in and prevent the ongoing slaughter of vulnerable people.

I was interested to see that Martin Jones (Director of Workforce and Operational Development) was present at the meeting, I have been missing Martin because he hasn’t appeared in public for a while. I’m glad that he’s back though, presumably someone suggested that he ought to be at least pretending to be making an effort in return for his protected salary of approx. £130,000 pa. Jo Rycroft-Malone (the Board’s Bangor University Rep) has also reappeared after last month’s absence and was having a cosy girly chat with Lyn Meadows (Independent Board Member). These two are prone to this, at a previous meeting Jo was standing protectively behind the dreadful Lyn, stroking her arms. I hate to think what is being cooked up between the two of them – Meadows was previously employed as HR Director at Bangor University and was memorably described to me by one person who had been on the receiving end of her as an ‘evil bitch’. Which was certainly interesting because exactly the same phrase was used to describe her by a member of staff at the Welsh Ambulance Service when Meadows was employed as a manager there. The phrase ‘evil bitch’ is obviously one that springs to mind after meeting Lyn. Rycroft-Malone is the former Head of the School of Healthcare Sciences at Bangor University and is now Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research there – Jo has in the past of course found herself in receipt of research funds from the Betsi as detailed previously on this blog. I’ve never heard anyone describe her as an ‘evil bitch’ per se, but I did hear allegations of serious bullying of students, racism and plagiarism levelled against her. I also had sight of a document that indicated that Jo had done some very interesting things with a research budget after a researcher walked out of a project before it had ended. Presumably by the time of the next Board meeting, Jo and Lyn will have progressed on to a ‘group hug’ in the carefully stage-managed manner of Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Bennet during the last general election campaign. Women do things differently!

The meeting was late starting because there seemed to be a certain amount of disarray in the room, but eventually Jo and Lyn managed to prise themselves away from each other, everyone took their seats and Peter Higson (Chairman) began with a Piece of Good News. The Betsi has won an award! (Of course the Betsi announced that it had won another award earlier this week, but that turned out not to be all it seemed – please see blog post ‘How Did These Two Events Ever Happen?’). Anyway, the Betsi has been named in the Stonewall Top 100 Organisations for the ‘inclusion of diverse people’. Now I’m not sure how the Betsi has managed to achieve this. I know for a fact that Dr Alberto Salmoiraghi, the one good psychiatrist that they have at the Betsi, has been subjected to racism from ‘colleagues’ because he dares to be Italian. I know of one student nurse from Rycroft-Malone’s School of Healthcare Sciences at Bangor University, whilst Rycroft-Malone was Head of School, who was subjected to vicious work-place bullying during his time on placement at the Hergest Unit because he was gay. And I also know of two overseas medical professionals who went to work on projects in Rycroft-Malone’s School, again whilst she was Head, who were both subjected to naked bigotry. One man was so unpopular among his ‘colleagues’ there – on the grounds that he ‘stank’ and ‘couldn’t speak English properly’ – that there was an arrangement to prevent him gaining access to the building by failing to give him the new code to the door-lock. I was told by a witness to all this that the person who dreamt up this particular solution to the problems that Johnny Foreigner was causing was one Jo Rycroft-Malone. I also heard at first-hand from a lady from Kazakhstan who had the misfortune to work there that every time she told someone where she was from, people would start laughing and say ‘ooh like Borat’. She asked me what they meant – I didn’t actually tell her that those particular ignoramuses being ‘managed’ by Jo were referring to an offensive racist parody of someone from Kazakhstan by a British comedian. I can reveal the experiences of these people now because they have waved good-bye to the School of Healthcare Sciences and were probably very glad to have done so.

So the Betsi is now a Diversity Champion. To celebrate this ‘award’, all the Board members were presented with ‘rainbow lanyards’ to hang around their necks. Some of them did so but not everyone entered into the spirit of things and a lot of the lanyards were simply dumped upon the desks in front of them. So someone – presumably at Stonewall – wasted time and money manufacturing those lanyards and distributing them to the Racist In Chief and her colleagues on the Board. Nevertheless, Higson was delighted with this achievement and led the Board in a round of applause for themselves. (Whilst Higson was doing this, the Daily Post was reporting on two more Betsi-related deaths – please see blog post ‘Two More Deaths, March 16 2017’.)

Higson then welcomed everyone to the meeting and by means of introduction to the first topic said ‘we go straight into special measures’. Which must have been some sort of Freudian slip, because within a few months of Higson ‘taking control’ at the Betsi, they did indeed go straight into special measures. So they started discussing various aspects of special measures, which weren’t explained to the uninitiated observing members of the public like me, but as far as I could work out Gary the CEO had started a conversation regarding ‘Phase 2 milestones’. I presume that this is a reference to the ‘achievements’ that the Welsh Govt wants to see. Margaret Hanson (Vice-Chair) explained that they were still waiting for ‘formal feedback’ and regarding the ‘journey’ of the Betsi Board to come out of special measures, ‘progress was still being made’, although Margaret stated that they were at a ‘little bit of a loss’ as to their ‘progress’. Margaret I think that rather than being at a little bit of a loss, you are all completely clueless – one only has to read the local media to get some idea of the stream of avoidable deaths, scandals and general cock-ups happening in your organisation on a near daily basis to realise that.

Bethan Russell Williams (Independent Board Member, although deeply compromised because she’s married to the Chair of Gwynedd Community Health Council and manages a Third Sector organisation that receives funding from the Betsi), mentioned that there was ‘evidence of great progress’ in the maternity services. (The maternity services at the Betsi were so dysfunctional that part of the mentoring to which they have been subjected was categorised as achieving ‘normality’.) But Margaret had a word of warning – that they must not ‘mark their own homework’. The NHS in north Wales have of course been marking their own homework for years, that is how they ended up in this mess. Complaints were concealed, both by the Trusts that preceded the Betsi and by Higson during the years that he was CEO of Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW). They cooked the books, fiddled the stats and the whole lot of them claimed to be providing ‘excellence’. The reality was that north Wales had dreadful mortality figures and some of the poorest health outcomes in the UK. I suspect that despite Margaret’s warning, they are still marking their own homework – I noted that the fantastic ‘progress’ reported in the press recently regarding Fali Ward was simply an opinion proffered by the Betsi itself, there was no reference to an external assessment (please see blog post ‘Exactly How Bad Was Fali Ward?’).

The Rebel Member, Phil Edwards,  stated that they didn’t just need a verbal update on special measures, ‘we need evidence on paper’. (I’ve got plenty of evidence on paper Phil – evidence of thirty years of criminal activity and wrongdoing…)

Gary the CEO referred to special measures as being a ‘big question’, mentioning the ‘very wide-ranging areas’ that are under scrutiny. (Just about all activities of the Board as far as I can see.) He has noticed that with regard to the mental health services ‘we have a lot of work to get done…we are making good progress…our special measures challenge is the trust and confidence of many people’. Well there are suicides and suspicious deaths as well as a scandal most weeks, so I don’t think Betsi is quite there yet where the ‘trust and confidence of many people’ is concerned.

At this point Higson asked the Board for any declarations of interest. There were none, as usual – although this Board is packed with people who seem to have numerous conflicts of interest (please see blog post ‘Conflicts Of Interest – And Some Very Big Salaries’). The Board then started going through the minutes of the previous meeting.

Marian Wyn Jones (Independent Board Member) drew attention to the Finance Committee receiving approval for the business plan to develop the A&E Dept at Ysbyty Gwynedd. Marian claimed that this will be a ‘great boost’ to the economy in north west Wales. I’m not sure how that works actually – that hospital in a way is sucking the life out of north west Wales. It is receiving huge amounts of Welsh Gov’t money whilst offering a dreadful service. The local politicians dare not say a word about the appalling ‘care’ and malpractice because it is a major employer and one of the few places in Gwynedd that provides well-paid long-term jobs. The staff there really don’t want to join the ranks of most of the rest of the folk in Gwynedd, on incomes made up of low-paid work and benefits, so they lobby furiously to make damn sure that Hywel Williams MP and Sian Gwenllian AM toe the line. It is a rather unhealthy symbiotic relationship. Gary complained about the layout of the A&E Dept at Ysbyty Gwynedd and said that ‘the quality of the building is not what you would want’. Actually Gary, the quality of the staff is not what you would want – please read blog post ‘Two Dangerous Very Dishonest Nurses’ for an account of the conduct of staff at the A&E Dept at Ysbyty Gwynedd. I am not the only person who has had such experiences. Gary did however observe that it was ‘great’ that this bunch of liars and thugs who abuse their patients are going to be given a new building in which to do so.

Bobby Feely (Independent Board Member) drew attention to the shortcomings in the mandatory training in infection control at the Betsi – she was worried ‘about our standing in Wales’. This does rather smack of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, their standing in Wales could not be lower. Marian commented that the level of mandatory training in infection control was ‘down from last year’. Of course the hospitals in north Wales have a long tradition of being rife with infection but not actually telling anyone lest it affects their ‘reputation’. Or indeed their standing in Wales. Please see blog post ‘The Tip Of Yet Another Iceberg?’ for further details of the state of hygiene in units run by the Betsi and some of their rather novel ideas to remedy the problem. Margaret mentioned that they’ll be ‘keeping the pressure on’ regarding training an infection prevention. We’ll expect some more bad news media stories soon then.

Margaret then moved on to a topic central to this blog – matters relating to the mental health services. She stated that assurances had been provided to the Board’s Mental Health Act Committee that there have been improvements in the assessment of young people, ‘but we’re not there yet’. Margaret finds herself making this statement at most Board meetings. However they are ‘in a much better place’ and their duties under the Mental Health Act are being fulfilled. I’d carry out an intensive search of the Heddfan Unit if I were you Margaret, perish the thought that there might be someone in there who has been sectioned for months by Raj Sambhi because they have complained that there is neglect and abuse in the mental health services and that a paedophile ring used to operate in the region…Margaret mentioned that there is a shortage of Section 12 doctors and that they need to look at why that is. I’ll tell you why it is Margaret. It is because for years senior posts in the north Wales mental health services have been log-jammed by the likes of Dafydd Alun Jones, Marie Savage, Tony Roberts, Raj Sambhi et al and no-one wants to work with these vicious, corrupt, dysfunctional people who are exterminating their patients. Indeed, the one good psychiatrist that you have got has been given a really bad time by them – and other psychiatrists who have unsuspectingly taken up posts here have walked away after a matter of weeks, horrified by what they have discovered happening. Margaret mentioned the possibility of ‘getting more GPs on board’ – she’ll find the same problem. The good GPs will not work with that shower – I knew of a number of GPs in Gwynedd who loathed David Healy and Tony Roberts, because Healy and Roberts were just so unhelpful when those GPs tried to refer patients to them. The GPs viewed Roberts and Healy as frankly negligent. And just to chuck a further spanner in the works, Healy and his protégé Richard Tranter – who left for New Zealand in a hurry when people started discovering what he was up to – were busy on Healy’s blog blaming the dysfunction, chaos and cruelty in the mental health services on everyone but themselves, advising other people not to work at the Betsi. I can heartily recommend any patients who have experienced the insanity of the Hergest Unit to read the piece on Healy’s blog entitled ‘Richard’s Story’, it’s a real tear-jerker. The tale of a Hergest Unit that attracted Nobel prize winners no less (yes, honestly, that is one of the claims made), that provided excellent care for patients, that was an innovative unit providing the best care in the UK until that wicked witch Mary Burrows came along – except that it’s all a pack of lies, about as honest as the ‘research’ that was being carried out by those we know and love in the mental health services.

The Board then held a long discussion about Wales’s ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’. This Act is providing a very useful smokescreen for the state of the public services in Wales. Like a lot of things emanating from the Welsh Govt, the idea is good but it cannot actually work because our public services are so troubled. I have two friends in England who are very starry-eyed about this Act and are of the opinion that the Welsh Govt are leading the way. But how can one even begin to talk about the well-being of future generations when we have a health and welfare sector riddled with corruption and malpractice?

There were some prize contributions to this discussion from Board members. Rycroft-Malone claimed that ‘we in the university…are trying to pay attention to it…giving consistent messages about what we expect from students in training…’ The main ‘messages’ those students get from you Jo is that you have a very big problem with overseas students and colleagues and that if students witness malpractice on placement there’s no point reporting it because it usually won’t be dealt with. Margaret commented that it wasn’t just a matter of box-ticking, it was adopting a ‘hearts and minds’ approach. In view of the various catastrophes occurring in that Health Board I think it’s rather a matter of ‘shock and awe’ than ‘hearts and minds’. Then came Lyn’s contribution – the ‘evil bitch’ adopted her best old lady from Liverpool manner and asked ‘are we aware or do we have a measure of how our staff understand the legislation?’ Which was particularly rich coming from a woman who, in her capacity as Director of HR at Bangor University, bent the rules so often and to such a degree and showed such an ignorance of all relevant legislation regarding bullying, harassment and discrimination that most of us wondered whether she really did have a law degree as she claimed. Geoff Lang (Executive Director of Strategy) wisely stated that if a straw poll was carried out, the staff probably understood ‘very little’ regarding the legislation. I have sympathy with the staff on this point – if they’re any good, they’ll be so busy trying to care for patients in the midst of chaos, dysfunction and aggressive management that considering esoteric legislation will be the least of their concerns. Peter Higson suggested that an online survey be e mailed to all staff  – they’re going to love you for that Peter, you’re already running an organisation full of staff going off sick with stress and depression who are consistently reporting burn-out and bullying from managers… Bethan then chipped in with the extraordinary comment that ‘a lot of agencies in the Third Sector’ that are commissioned by the Health Board are ‘achieving a great deal’. So who do you have in mind then Bethan – CAIS and MIND perhaps, who seem to be running some of the biggest scams imaginable, as previously described on the blog? Bethan stressed the importance of ‘monitoring’ these Third Sector organisations – I wish someone would, including Mantell Gwynedd, the Third Sector organisation that Bethan herself runs, some of us have wondered for years what services they are providing and to whom. Bethan stated that the sums involved in commissioning these organisations are ‘small’ – this blog has described how CAIS has recently received £1.5 million for ‘service user/carer involvement’ and nearly £5 million for ‘substance abuse services’ (which CAIS are very obviously not delivering on). £6.5 million might be cat’s piss to you Bethan, but if the Board gave that money to me I bet I could do a better job than CAIS. Bethan maintained that ‘a lot of the Third Sector bodies are measuring social value and doing it in quite a sophisticated way’. Is this Third Sector speak for ‘we are visibly not making a blind bit of difference, so we’re going to pretend that our critics are too daft to understand our ‘sophisticated’ ways of measuring ‘social value’? Meanwhile CAIS will continue to rake in millions for providing shelter and detox services, whilst towns like Wrexham fill up with homeless drug users. And from what people contacting this blog are reporting, no-one is actually managing to get a service out of ‘Parabl’, aptly described by one reader as ‘the love-child of MIND and CAIS’.

Gary the CEO gave a little spiel about all the e mails and letters that he receives ‘every week’ no less from patients bowled over by the Betsi. Presumably he just ignores the e mails – such as mine – who tell him when things are going dreadfully wrong. He also mentioned the ‘nutrition and hydration’ week, which featured on this blog recently, one of the ‘events’ involved being a ‘multi-disciplinary team’ of senior staff who were going to observe a ‘service user meal experience’ – translated this means that a collection of managers were actually going to watch someone eat their dinner. Lest anyone ever thought that even the Betsi couldn’t possibly do this, I’m glad to say that they did. Gary reported back to the Board and mentioned that ‘I appeared out of the blue, people didn’t know about it, they were surprised’. I imagine they were completely gobsmacked Gary, you’re paid something like £200,000 pa and you’re watching someone eat their pudding. Gary then moved onto other matters such as infection control and storage of medicines and commented that there are ‘other Boards doing better than us’. That’s why you’re in special measures Gary.

Then Martin spoke. This was certainly illuminating to someone like me who has some knowledge of how Martin conducted business in his previous incarnation as CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust. The fact that Edwina Hart felt obliged to abolish that organisation and undertake a massive rebranding exercise in the (vain) hope that we’d all forget what happened there, hasn’t however prompted any inner reflection on the part of Martin. Martin started talking about staff performance. This is the man who literally terrorised staff at the North West Wales NHS Trust, the man who removed the beds from junior doctors rest rooms because he wasn’t going to pay them to lie down – even though these were junior doctors who were working extremely long shifts – and of course the man who was part of the management Board of a Trust that achieved fame when they purchased custom-made crockery for many thousands of pounds embossed with the Trusts ‘logo’, for their personal use. Meanwhile patients died – in great numbers. Martin hasn’t changed. He opened with the phrase ‘MY staff’, with the emphasis on the ‘my’. Not ‘our team’, but ‘MY staff’. They are not your staff Martin, you all work for the NHS. But this was characteristic of managers in the North West Wales NHS Trust. Their risk manager, John Bowles, actually used to refer to ‘my subordinates’. Martin then unveiled his latest Regime of Terror. After mentioning ‘staff health’ and stating that there’s a lot that can be done to ‘help staff adjust’ and build ‘resilience’ (resilience to Martin’s aggression, that’ll take some building), Martin stated that he was going to ‘discuss with people how they are progressing’. God, can you imagine what that will entail. Martin explained that there was going to be ‘an increase in the number of training days’ and that this ‘will result in staff being excluded without pay if they fail to attend’. Now I heard the details of the ‘training’ that was ‘offered’ at the North West Wales Trust when Martin was CEO. The staff were seething, because they maintained that it was very obviously not ‘training’ at all, it was always a tick-box exercise on a computer that trained no-one in anything and furthermore everyone maintained that there was only one purpose to this ‘training’ – so that in the event of complaint, litigation or even tragedy, Martin could maintain that the staff had been ‘trained’ and that member of staff would therefore be deemed fully responsible and would be hung out to dry by Martin in order to protect the wider organisation and of course Martin himself, from scrutiny. Furthermore I was told that because there were many more staff required to do the ‘training’ than computers available for use, it was often impossible to complete the training. These were of course the same computers that staff had to use for clinical work, to update patients records etc. I was told that the ‘training’ was sending the Trust into chaos and preventing people from seeing their patients. And Martin is doing it all over again – this time accompanied by a threat to withdraw pay (would that even be legal?). The Betsi Board recently hit the headlines when it was revealed that staff were refusing to co-operate with the external investigation into the Tawel Fan scandal, in which elderly mentally ill patients were found to have been seriously abused and neglected on Tawel Fan, a ward in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. No-one mentioned withdrawing their pay. But if anyone sticks two fingers up to Martin’s dodgy ‘training’ or even just isn’t able to find a computer… Martin then announced to the Board that he of course had been ‘compliant with my management training’ and began to talk about the computerised system that is so easy to use – staff just have to log on and away they go. No excuses!

As Martin has learnt absolutely nothing despite having ‘his’ Trust abolished and being removed from his previous job, may I suggest that someone at the Betsi starts carrying out DBS checks on ALL staff. When Martin was CEO of the North West Wales NHS Trust, I was told that criminal record checks were not being carried out. This resulted in the employment of at least one person with previous convictions for assault in a role with direct patient contact….

I left the meeting after hearing Martin explain his latest plans to ensure that the recruitment crisis and breakdowns among staff at the Betsi will continue for some while yet. As I left, I spent a long time pondering on why the Betsi Board are actually putting themselves through this. They cannot run the Board, things are getting worse by the day and now they’re getting touchy about my comments on this blog. Higson looks like a bag of nerves, Martin spent the whole meeting staring downwards at the desk in front of him – even when he was unveiling his plans for the Great Terror – and Phil the Rebel Member had the distinct appearance of a very guilty man facing a police investigation for serious crimes. Which is odd because Phil is the former Police Federation chief for north Wales. Phil doesn’t need to be on the Betsi Board, he will have a generous police pension, even Gordon Anglesea’s widow received one of these, thanks to Arfon Jones, the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner. Higson is past retirement age as well, he will have a state pension as well as a gold-plated pot from his many years concealing wrongdoing in the mental health services and I bet that he’s paid off his mortgage by now as well. If anyone knows why Higson has not sailed off into the sunset on a Saga cruise, please do let me know.

‘We Control All The Outcomes’

Whilst browsing around on the internet this morning, I discovered some adverts for positions as ‘dementia support workers’. After the horrors of Tawel Fan became public (please see blog posts ‘The Tawel Fan Scandal’, ‘Update On Tawel Fan Scandal – September 16th 2016’ and ‘Another News Report Regarding Tawel Fan’), I’ve started taking an interest in what passes for dementia care in north Wales, particularly since I discovered that dear old Bangor University recently held a conference regarding ‘Finding New Wales of Living With Dementia’, organised by the Bangor Institute of Health and Medical Research (BIHMR), an institute in which Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board member Jo Rycroft-Malone is a leading light (please see blog posts ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board’ and ‘Conflicts of Interest – and Some Very Big Salaries’ for more details on Rycroft-Malone).

I discovered that these ‘dementia support workers’ positions were being advertised by an organisation called ‘Carers Trust North Wales Crossroads Care Services’. I hadn’t heard of ‘Carers Trust North Wales’ before, but many years ago I remember an organisation in north Wales called ‘Crossroads’, which used to maintain that it was ‘caring for carers’. My main memory of ‘Crossroads’ was that it was yet another organisation that knew all about the dreadful happenings in the north Wales mental health services but was keeping very quiet. Then a friend of mine – an experienced counsellor and carer – applied for a job with them. I remember her relating an account of a rather bizarre and unprofessional interview process and she then heard no more. In an attempt to discover the outcome of the interview, my friend telephoned ‘Crossroads’ twice and spoke to a different person on each occasion. One of these people claimed that they had no knowledge of my friend’s application, whereas the other one let slip that my friend’s application had been ‘destroyed’. My friend later gained information that all this seemed to be related to the fact that my friend’s address was also the address at which I lived (we shared a house together) – this was at the height of my troubles with the Hergest Unit, at the time that they were trying to stitch me up for a serious crime and were refusing to investigate my complaints (please see blog post ‘Interesting Happenings In The Legal System’).

So I googled ‘Carers Trust North Wales’. Yes, it’s the new name for ‘Crossroads’, who seem to have undergone a rebranding exercise (their website also stated that this involved making the organisation ‘leaner’ – so I wonder who lost their jobs and why). I note that ‘Carers Trust North Wales’ are boasting that they are providing services for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and the Betsi’s logo appears on their website. Furthermore, on the section of the website entitled ‘Community Groups’, there is a big notice stating that the Betsi wants people to ‘get involved’ – this is one of the very few adverts that I’ve seen from the Betsi regarding stakeholder/public/service user  engagement. However earlier this morning I discovered that Dr Seren Roberts (a former Denbigh nurse) is involved in running a ‘service user’ group at Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences (the previous Head of School was Prof Jo Rycroft-Malone). Another person named on the Bangor University site as being involved with ‘service user perspectives and experiences research’ is one Siobhan Tranter https://www.bangor.ac.uk/healthcaresciences/research/service%20users.php.en

Siobhan Tranter is married to Dr Richard Tranter, a psychiatrist who formerly worked at the Hergest Unit – Siobhan and Richard emigrated to New Zealand a few years ago after a number of patients discovered that Richard had been doing some rather odd things (I will be blogging about this soon). Before emigrating, Siobhan was known to be ignoring the concerns of nursing students who were telling her that they’d witnessed neglect and abuse of patients whilst on placement at the Betsi. One student was so distressed at what she’d witnessed that she withdrew from the nursing degree. The last thing that Siobhan Tranter said to her was ‘do remember to tell everyone how supportive I’ve been’.

But back to ‘Carers Trust North Wales’. I had a look at the names of the people listed under ‘Our Team’ but I didn’t recognise any of them. However I note that there are no details at all on the website regarding these peoples biographies or CVs. So I looked up the Board of Trustees ‘who freely give their skills and experience to ensure Carers Trust North Wales is expertly led’. Read about them here  http://www.nwcrossroads.org.uk/meet-the-team

Readers will notice that Rita Jones, the Chair, is also Chair of Flintshire Community Health Council. That’s one of the CHCs that never seem able to bring themselves to speak publicly about the dreadful mental health services run by the Betsi. David Brydon, the ‘Hon Treasurer’ is the ‘retired Senior Financial Manager at the Business Service Centre for Local Health Boards’. Rita and David were also Trustees of the predecessor to ‘Carers Trust North Wales’, the notorious ‘Crossroads’ http://opencharities.org/charities/1119142

I can only wonder if David was a Trustee of ‘Crossroads’ whilst he was still the Senior Financial Manager at the Business Service Centre for Local Health Boards. And with reference to ‘Business Services’ I note that ‘Carers Trust North Wales’ runs ‘Gwalia Care’, a ‘chargeable service’, through which people can pay for a care package or add additional hours to a funded care package. Because of course dementia care offered by the Betsi is frankly crap, I imagine that a lot of people might need to buy services from ‘Carers Trust North Wales’. Particularly as the CHC does not speak out regarding the appalling quality of services and ‘service users’ who have been abused, neglected or damaged (or the carers of people who have died) seem to have such a hard time getting their voices heard through ‘stakeholder/public engagement/service user’ channels – ie. Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences, ‘Carers Trust North Wales’ or ‘Caniad’ (please see blog post ‘Introducing ‘Caniad’!).

One of my friends used to make frequent references to a fictional future society horror story in which the phrase ‘We Control All The Outcomes’ was used. It certainly seems to be an appropriate description of what is happening regarding a network of people involved in health and social care in north Wales.

 

The Betsi Board Are Fundraising…

My blog post ‘The Wales Audit Office Cometh – Yet Again’ details how a ‘charity event’ involving Awyr Las/Blue Sky, the charity run by the Betsi, seemed to function as an effective way of siphoning money from the Betsi into the coffers of a business in Cardiff. A lot of bad publicity ensued and the Wales Audit Office were called in to investigate. I was previously aware of Awyr Las, but I was never sure what it actually did and it’s website isn’t that informative, so when I saw that a public meeting of Awyr Las Trustees was due to be held today I thought that I ought to go along and find out more.

I attended the meeting this morning but left before the meeting ended – however I did hold out for two and a half hours before leaving, so I have gained a bit of information.

Prior to today’s meeting I discovered that the Trustees of Awyr Las were none other than the Betsi Board, so I was expecting to see some familiar faces today. However Peter Higson (Chair) opened the meeting and then announced that Cheryl Carlisle, Bethan Russell Williams, Morag Olsen and Andy Roach (Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities) had sent in apologies because they were ‘ill’ and one of the stars of this blog, Martin Jones (Director of WOD), ‘had other commitments’. Nonetheless a few others that we know and love were in attendance. Higson was looking quite beleaguered and Grace Lewis-Parry (Board Secretary) positively glum. Happily though Jo Rycroft-Malone was in good spirits and spent a substantial part of the morning sniggering and giggling with a woman unknown to me who was sitting next to her and at one point turned around to laugh at me. Jo usually makes no contribution to meetings at all and merely stares blankly ahead of her, so presumably this performance was to demonstrate that she’s not worried that her many gross conflicts of interest have featured in my recent blog posts (please see ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board!’, ‘Conflicts of Interest – and Some Very Big Salaries’, ‘Time To Talk?’ and ‘The Biggest Expert Of The Lot’). Well do have a good laugh while you can Jo – as someone who seems to have bagged themselves a first class seat on the Titanic when you finally wake up to reality you’ll be looking as glum as Grace.

Before the meeting began I had been approached by someone called Kirsty Thomson who seemed a good deal more human and transparent that I am used to from people that I encounter at Betsi Board meetings. Kirsty explained that she was Head of Fundraising for Awyr Las and that at todays meeting there would be a ‘workshop session’ with an ‘independent consultant’ called Jon Scourse.

The meeting kicked off with a request for any declarations of interest. There were none. Why was I not surprised when someone with Jo’s track record is one of the Trustees?

A lady called Helen then presented the Annual Report and Accounts for Awyr Las for 2015/16 which had been signed off and it was explained that a subsidiary charity also existed, North Wales Cancer Centre. It was explained that there was a wide remit whereby Awyr Las could receive funds and that it made a ‘real difference’ to the delivery of ‘safe and effective healthcare’. So presumably if it were not for Awyr Las, services provided by the Betsi would be in an even more dire state. We were told that over £4 million had been spent by Awyr Las (yes the Betsi Board, having demonstrated that they are completely unable to manage the Board’s own funds are also in control of the millions in Awyr Las) and that a Linear Accelerator for £1.7 million had been purchased. The north Wales NHS is always impressed by such machines that go ping – just before the North West Wales Trust met its end, Martin Jones (CEO) and Elfed Roberts (Chairman) appeared in the local press having purchased a machine that went ping, although I was told that they could not afford the staff needed to operate it. I was also told that due to the financial arrangements in place at the time, Martin and Elfed only had a limited amount of time in which to spend funds before their empire vanished, so they decided to purchase a machine that went ping.

It was also explained that the refurbishment of Alaw Ward had been approved and that a key area of expenditure was the purchase of software for patients with dementia. Now in the right hands, this software could no doubt be useful, but the Betsi is of course currently in special measures because of the Tawel Fan scandal – which involved patients with dementia being abused and neglected. No members of staff involved in the abuse and neglect have been disciplined and staff are refusing to co-operate with the investigation into the abuse. So how useful this software will be I do not know. However we were told that there is an advisory group which scrutinises each bid over £5000.

During 2015, Awyr Las received almost £3 million from donations and legacies. It was stated that ‘legacies are a testament to staff on the ground’ and that most legacies come from cancer patients – they certainly wouldn’t be from mental health patients. £2.9 million was spent on equipment and buildings and there was a target of £3 million for reserves. The investment advisors used by Awyr Las include Rothschilds and it was stressed that there were no investments in tobacco or alcohol companies. I’m not sure that these attempts at ethical conduct are going to convince anyone though – Rothschilds are hardly paragons of virtue and considering that criminal and unscrupulous conduct on the part of some people involved in the NHS in north Wales has been completely ignored I think that boycotting tobacco and alcohol firms is neither here nor there.

Then we heard about the inevitable – the ‘challenges’. The last 12 months have been ‘difficult’ and a time of ‘reflection and learning’ – I thought that they might have been. The embarrassment that was the ‘Lap of Wales’ was discussed (please see blog post ‘The Wales Audit Office Cometh – Yet Again’) and it was admitted that there were ‘internal weaknesses that we needed to discuss’. There certainly were – more than £150,000 was raised, but only approx. £1,500 ended up in the hands of the ‘good cause’, which was actually a completely unnecessary ‘good cause’, but over £30,000 (at least) was paid to a Cardiff company which was chaired by the person who organised the ‘charity event’. However Helen reassured the Trustees that steps will be taken to prevent a further occurrence.

Marian Wyn Jones then assured everyone that ‘lessons have been learnt’. The Betsi Board spend an awful lot of time learning lessons – one wonders why they continue to find themselves embroiled in so many scandals…Gary the CEO maintained that ‘great stuff’ was being done. A lot of things in Gary’s world are ‘great’, he reminds me of the young executive character in the ‘Rise and Fall of Reggie Perrin’ who maintained that everything was ‘great’ no matter what disaster was befalling everyone or what hare-brained scheme was being proposed – all we need is another Board member following up Gary’s ‘great’ with the word ‘super’ and we’ll be transported right back into the heyday of the 70s TV sitcom…

Despite the Lap of Wales business and the involvement of the Wales Audit Office, Higson reminded everyone that Awyr Las was a very active and very well-run charity. And that they had learnt lessons from the Lap of Wales. However, Higson claimed mitigating circumstances – ‘we weren’t alone’. (This was a reference to the fact that two other organisations had been conned as well.) Higson also maintained that the fact that they had called in the Wales Audit Office themselves showed ‘an open approach’. Presumably this ‘open approach’ is why the Betsi still haven’t handed over copies of my medical records and why Higson still hasn’t dealt with my e mail asking why one of his staff admitted that some of my medical records had been ‘removed’ from my file ‘many years ago’…Higson stated that it would be useful to have a press statement about today, so I’ll look out for that.

The Head of Fundraising, Kirsty, then told the Trustees that ‘today is about the responsibility that you have as Trustees’ and that NHS staff across north Wales should be ‘huge passionate advocates’ of Awyr Las. Well try talking to some of the staff Kirsty – some of the most abusive ones are in positions of responsibility and the others are so demoralised and alienated that they’re not in a position to be huge passionate advocates of anything. Kirsty then showed a video that featured the machine that goes ping.

It was stated that local people should be encouraged to support the 70 plus charities supporting healthcare across north Wales. Presumably this includes CAIS and MIND that have played a major role in colluding with the abysmal state of the mental health services and who seem to enjoy a very cosy relationship with the north Wales NHS and some of its employees past and present. Kirsty maintained that peoples urge to ‘give back’ was always related to the care that they’ve received – so that’s why no-one on the receiving end of the mental health services ever feels like ‘giving back’ then – and today was about finding out about engaging better with staff. Er, well the Betsi could stop promoting ruthless bullies to management positions and weed a few similar people out of the Board itself…

Following on from this, Jon Scourse, an ‘Independent Consultant’ who is retained by the Association of NHS Charities, gave a presentation and emphasised that the day was about the Trustees ‘legal responsibilities’. If I was one of those Trustees I’d take heed – ‘legal responsibilities’ sounds ominous and who knows how many landmines are lurking in Awyr Las. The Board certainly haven’t been any good at preventing explosions in the Betsi. Jon mentioned that engagement with management and staff was critically important and that the Trustees had ‘quite a lot of challenges’ (yes, in their incarnation as the Betsi Board they are loathed by most of the staff). Jon then talked about causes ‘close to peoples hearts’ and the ‘importance of the Health Board to north Wales’. Does John know of the reputation that the Betsi has acquired locally?? Jon followed on with a discussion regarding techniques used in fundraising and discussed the possibility of ‘local people’ giving ‘large donations’. Would these be the local people who are on salaries far, far lower than most of the Trustees themselves? Higson on £65,000 plus, Martin on £130,000, Grace topping £100,000 and Gary on a no doubt ‘great’ salary of £200,000…Jon then talked about ‘tribute funds’, set up in the memory of people who have died ‘tragic deaths’ (like a few of the suicides that have taken place in the acute mental health units run by the Betsi perhaps). Jon also curiously stated that there are far too many charities in this county and we don’t need any more – which would seem to be an own goal…

Jon continued to tell the Trustees that their profile is ‘very high as a Health Board’ – it certainly is, there’s a major scandal on a weekly basis – and ‘this is an opportunity for you’. I was rather puzzled by this logic, particularly when Jon went on to say that with ‘so many hospitals now in special measures’ (I’m sure that resonated with the Trustees), there might be ‘opportunities for charity growth’. Sorry, I don’t follow – patients are dropping like flies, the Betsi is nearly bankrupting the Welsh Govt so dire is their financial situation, so this is going to prompt people to hand over dosh to a charity whose Trustees are the same people that constitute the Betsi Board? Jon explained that Awyr Las ‘deserves preference’ above other charities who ‘can dominate’ and that donations to other charities represent money leaking out of Awyr Las (which raises further questions regarding why the Betsi seem to do so many favours to CAIS and MIND). Jon then mentioned that ‘your brand is great’. Que??? The Betsi and everything associated with it is toxic.

Jon explained that where a patient has a good experience, they will be ‘utterly committed’ and ‘that a lot more people out there could be cultivated to that level of commitment’ – not with the current standards of care they couldn’t. Jon mentioned the importance of keeping the charity in the public eye (well they featured in the Daily Post regarding the ‘Lap of Wales’ saga) and generating goodwill in the community…Under ‘risks’ he mentioned adverse NHS publicity – at which the Betsi excels. Jon maintained that ‘in a period of adverse NHS publicity it can be very helpful to have a charity conveying a positive message’ – but what if the Trustees of that charity are the very same people generating the adverse NHS publicity Jon?

Questions from the Trustees then followed and Bobby Feely suggested a campaign for staff to donate every month – no mention of a similar campaign for those highly paid Board members to donate. Kirsty, Head of Fundraising, suggested that other charities providing healthcare services should be seen as friends – they already are Kirsty, the Betsi seem to be doing an awful lot of favours for CAIS and MIND. Jon mentioned that ‘social care and mental health are very hard to fundraise for’ – CAIS and MIND are obviously exceptions.

Jeni Dean suggested a staff lottery to support staff in hardship and mentioned that some staff were using foodbanks. I can believe this – there are some very modestly paid jobs in the NHS and if someone has a family making ends meet can be difficult. So maybe Martin and Grace could show a bit of goodwill and donate a sizeable chunk of their ten year protected salaries to such a lottery to boost the funds available…

Just before I left the meeting, Margaret (Vice-Chair) remembered to declare an interest….

Throughout Jon’s presentation, he talked a lot about fundraising in NHS charities generally and mentioned a few well-known examples like Great Ormond Street and Addenbrookes. All I could think of was that most famous and successful one of all – Stoke Mandeville and all the tireless work that dear old Jimmy Saville put in.

After I left the meeting I had a quick read of the promotional material that had been distributed there. This included the Awyr Las Newsletter for Winter/Spring 2016. Among the news items in the newsletter was a piece about Elen’s Fund by Rhys Meirion (well he was associated with the disasterous Lap of Wales) and a ‘Thank You for supporting people living with dementia in North Wales’. This item asked ‘why has dementia care become such a big issue’? Possible answer – because dementia patients were subjected to terrible abuse in Tawel Fan and no-one has been held to account…The question ‘what more can be done to ensure patients with dementia receive the very best experience and care when they’re admitted to hospital?’ was also posed. How about ‘you could sack and prosecute abusive staff’. Then most entertainingly, there was a page in the newsletter urging readers to ‘help us improve mental health care across North Wales’. Where on earth do we begin? (I note that on this page, it was stated that ‘we need your help to fund’ ‘exercise equipment…in mental health units’. Well there is some fantastic gym equipment and a sports hall in the Heddfan Unit but when I was held prisoner there by Raj Sambhi because I kept insisting that neglect and abuse were happening in the north Wales mental health services and that there’d been a paedophile ring operating in north Wales (please see blog posts ‘A Tale Worthy Of Enid Blyton’ and ‘Five Dig Further Into The Heddfan Unit’), I and the other patients were hardly ever allowed to use it because Sambhi wouldn’t let us go down to the gym or sports hall…

I notice that I was the only public observer at today’s meeting. Before I went to this meeting a number of people were making quips to me regarding the foolishness of anyone letting the Betsi Board loose with a few million of charity cash. So I’d better take an interest in Awyr Las. Particularly as Jo Rycroft-Malone, who it seems aspires to be the Queen of Conflicts of Interest, is one of the Trustees. Perish the thought that dosh from Awyr Las might find its way into her research account…

The Biggest Expert Of The Lot

Previous blog posts have described my concerns regarding the activities of some people associated with the north Wales mental health services and the way in which they have constructed themselves as ‘experts’, despite the dire state of the services with which they are associated (please see blog posts ‘Experts In Suicide Prevention??’,  ‘More Experts and Their Expertise’,  ‘Compassion, Intelligent-Kindness and Shame’ , ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board!’ and ‘Its’ Those Experts From The Betsi Again!’) One of these ‘experts’, who is employed as a psychiatrist at the notorious Hergest Unit, Dr David Healy, has become internationally famous for ‘bravely taking on’ Big Pharma. But no-one seems to have looked at what has been going on in the very unit in which Healy works.

There is however another ‘expert’ who is probably even more well-known – certainly to lay people – who now has achieved an international reputation for fashionable ‘pioneering’ work and who maintains that he began this work when he was Professor of Clinical Psychology at Bangor University. That is Professor Mark Williams of ‘mindfulness’ fame. Mark Williams has previously featured on this blog in the post ‘Experts In Suicide Prevention??’ However it was with mindfulness that Mark Williams really hit the big time.

Long, long ago, when the North Wales Hospital Denbigh was still in operation and when the Hergest Unit was newly opened, I first heard about mindfulness. There was a psychiatrist in the Hergest Unit, who, in about 1992-3, was telling his patients – including me – that a Professor Mark Williams was interested in something called mindfulness which was based on a Buddhist meditation technique and had been used in America for patients with chronic pain. This psychiatrist suffered from chronic pain himself and found that the painkillers normally prescribed were making him sleepy which was causing him a problem at work, so he was trying to use mindfulness to live with the pain. He told me and some other patients that Mark Williams was interested in using mindfulness with patients suffering from depression and he gave me a copy of Jon Kabat-Zin’s book ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ to read – Kabat-Zin was the man whose work had inspired Williams. After I read the book I was invited to try out mindfulness with a group of other patients. We were all herded into a communal room, along with a few staff who wanted to try mindfulness as well, and we were taken through the introduction to mindfulness that will be familiar to anyone who has undertaken a mindfulness course – the exercise of ‘mindfully’ eating a raisin. We didn’t ever see or meet Williams himself, this particular ‘class’ was taken by a woman who I think was an occupational therapy assistant. Most of the other patients hadn’t read the Kabat-Zin book and very obviously didn’t understand the philosophy behind mindfulness, but had gone to the group in the same spirit as they went to other activities, such as cooking, yoga etc – to do something with their friends. (In those days the Hergest Unit still had a day centre which offered activities.) I noticed the woman leading the group didn’t give a very clear explanation as to the rationale behind mindfulness either, so most patients were a bit mystified as to why they were chewing on a raisin. Although I was told that Williams was interested in using mindfulness with patients suffering from depression, I noticed that this group consisted of a collection of patients with a whole range of different diagnoses (a bit like the research’ conducted into Seasonal Affective Disorder with the light box that I described in my blog post ‘More Experts and Their Expertise’). I should stress here that the diagnoses that the Hergest Unit arrived at were often quite questionable – people would be given three or four different diagnoses over a period of time and they were frequently given completely different diagnoses again if they sought advice from psychiatrists outside of north Wales. There was very little consistency. These mindfulness sessions were supposed to take place weekly ever a period of I think it was six (or eight) weeks. The attrition rate was very high and most people – including me – gave up after three weeks or so. There was very obviously no structure to these sessions and no encouragement to continue or explanation of what was supposed to be achieved. Had I not read the Kabat-Zin book I would have been completely in the dark.

I didn’t return to any more mindfulness groups at the Hergest Unit, but I was aware that they continued. Most patients couldn’t really understand what was behind it all and the most commonly heard comment was ‘well we all had to eat a raisin but very slowly’ – some patients were clearly baffled as to why they were being fed raisins. This suggested to me that most patients weren’t really getting beyond the first session. It very obviously made no sense to most of them. However, there was one group of people who really enjoyed mindfulness, embraced it wholeheartedly and even started going on little mindfulness ‘retreats’. That was the staff – but then the staff weren’t struggling with severe mental health problems whilst on low incomes whilst being on the receiving end of a chaotic, neglectful and abusive service which criminalised them if they complained…

I continued to hear rumblings about mindfulness, although I took very little notice of it. I did not ever meet another patient at that time who told me that they practised it or that it had helped them. I noticed that the psychiatrist who had been so enthusiastic about mindfulness continued to struggle, both with chronic pain and depression, and he eventually took early retirement. By the time that he retired, his relationship with his colleagues had become so sour that he requested that only patients attend his leaving party, not staff. By this time the Hergest Unit was obviously in trouble and staff relationships were clearly very dysfunctional (please see blog post ‘The Hergest Unit, Ysbyty Gwynedd’).

Mindfulness next touched my life in about 2002. A friend in a hill-walking group worked as a doctor for the North West Wales NHS Trust and his office was located in the same building as the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice that had now been established by Mark Williams at Bangor University. This friend was very worried about the activities of the mindfulness devotees and felt that mindfulness was being so ruthlessly promoted that it was almost like a cult. I remember that he was particularly irked that leaflets promoting mindfulness were being left around his part of the building, although he was nothing to do with this group. This friend was one of the many who found working for the North West Wales NHS Trust very difficult and he left his job after a period of serious depression and relocated to south Wales.

About a year and a half after this, I had a truly extraordinary experience with Judith Soulsby, one of Mark Williams’s colleagues, who was initially employed as a research officer by Williams and since then has been heavily involved in the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice and still is today. Judith is a regular at the mindfulness retreats at Trigonos in Dyffryn Nantlle and I think she is classed as a mindfulness teacher or trainer, but I had never heard of her when I first encountered her. She has co-authored a number of papers with Mark Williams and others. At the time, I was recovering from a truly dreadful stay in the Hergest Unit during which I was assaulted by staff; my usual psychiatrist and key worker had been ordered off my case against their and my wishes by the awful Dr Tony Roberts, I had been discharged with no aftercare and was then arrested for ‘threatening to kill Alun Davies’, the manager of the Hergest Unit (please see blog post ‘Interesting Happenings In The Legal System’). I was then refused all care and treatment and Roberts also intimidated a number of other practitioners into not treating me. I could not get treatment anywhere, despite experiencing severe depression. My friends were incredibly supportive and kept me going, but I spotted an advert placed by a Judith Soulsby, for mindfulness for anxiety and depression. I remembered the mindfulness from the Hergest Unit from years ago and the Kabat-Zin book and wondered if I should give it another go – particularly as there was no other treatment options open to me. So I rang the number supplied in the advert and got through to Judith. A bizarre exchange followed. I explained to Judith that I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was interested in trying mindfulness. I told Judith that if she wanted corroborating details of my condition she was welcome to speak to my former key worker from the Hergest Unit (that was the whistleblowing occupational therapist mentioned previously on this blog – he was sufficiently horrified by Dr Tony Roberts’s actions and Hergest’s attempt to stitch me up for a serious crime that he had stayed in touch with me as a friend). Judith asked if I was a Hergest patient. I explained that I had been but wasn’t any longer. She then said ‘oh I’m afraid we don’t accept Hergest patients on this course’. I was gobsmacked – after all, some ten years earlier, mindfulness had been robustly promoted to every patient in the place. I asked Judith for her reasons. She simply replied that mindfulness wasn’t suitable for Hergest patients. She was then kind enough to tell me that she hoped that I would find what I was looking for (whatever it was it clearly wasn’t going to be forthcoming from Judith and the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice). I got the impression that Judith might as well have said that they didn’t take nutters. I rang the whistleblowing occupational therapist to relate this encounter and it transpired that he knew Judith. He told me that she had previously worked with the notoriously abusive Arfon Community Mental Health Team (please see blog post ‘The Arfon Community Mental Health Team’) and all he could remember about her was that she spent an awful lot of time off sick. I had never heard of Judith, but I presume that either she had heard about me from her delightful colleagues in the Arfon Community Team or that the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University indeed didn’t accept nutters.

When I later began my PhD I met people who were very cynical about the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice – it seemed that it did not have much credibility with a lot of people, but I heard that they were running Masters degrees. It transpired that one didn’t actually need any formal qualifications to register for their Masters degree, so I decided to take an interest. I found that the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice was growing and that Mark Williams had recently departed for a Chair at Oxford University but was still very involved with the Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice. I then read one of Mark Williams initial books on mindfulness  – ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy For Depression’; Segal, Williams and Teasdale (2002) – an account of how they’d developed MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). Although John Teasdale was based at Cambridge University and Zindel Segal was based at the University of Toronto, it was explained in this book that it had all started at Bangor and I also noticed that Keith Fearns of the Arfon Mental Health Team was mentioned in the acknowledgments. I was gobsmacked – here was a technique derived from meditation, being promoted as successful with depressed patients and involving such worthy sentiments as compassion, yet it seemed that Fearns, who was once described to me by a former social worker as ‘the most abusive professional that I have ever met’, was involved. There were also acknowledgments to Sheila Jenkins, another deeply unpleasant member of the Arfon Team, and of course to Judith Soulsby, who had refused to allow a former Hergest patient to join a mindfulness group. So a form of therapy was being promoted that had grown out of the chaos, neglect and abuse that was/is the north Wales mental health services and the Arfon Community Mental Health Team.

I wondered who had been in the original clinical trials. Had the trials been carried out at the Hergest Unit? If such success had been achieved, why had I not heard about it? I knew scores of patients who had been involved with the mental health services but I’d never met anyone among them who had been in a clinical trial for mindfulness or even said that they had benefited from mindfulness and practiced it. (Although by this time, I had become friends with someone who did practice mindfulness – but she had never passed through the mental health system. She was a member of a Buddhist Sangha and had spent a lifetime involved in alternative communities and had met Jon Kabat-Zin some years before.) I continued to wonder where the original clinical trials for MBCT had been carried out.

One of Mark Williams’s early publications regarding the success of MBCT, ‘Prevention of Relapse/Recurrence In Major Depression By Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’; Teasdale, Segal, Williams, Ridgeway, Lau and Soulsby, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2000, 68 (4): 615-623, tells us that three sites were involved in a randomised clinical trial, the sites being Bangor, Cambridge and Toronto. 145 patients were recruited – it was stressed that at the Cambridge site, no members of academic staff or students from Cambridge University were recruited. The inclusion criteria state that patients met DSM-III-R criteria for a history of recurrent major depression. The exclusion criteria were, among other things, patients with a history of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, current substance abuse, eating disorder or OCD, organic mental disorder, pervasive developmental delay, or borderline personality disorder and dysthymia before the age of 20. Read the paper here teasdaleetal

I note that the patients at the Bangor site were described as being patients of a community mental health team in Bangor. So that would have been the notorious Arfon Team then, which would explain the acknowledgments to Keith Fearns and Sheila Jenkins. (Many years later, after numerous complaints against them, the Arfon Team were investigated for neglecting patients and a number of them, including Keith Fearns, were removed from their posts.) Now for all I know, Mark Williams and his colleagues may have carried out such a randomised clinical trial and may have achieved the results that they published. But people who were familiar with the practices of the Hergest Unit and Arfon Mental Health Team at the time remember the very elastic diagnoses that patients were being given and the very poor care which sometimes constituted neglect and abuse. There is a very real possibility that patients in this trial would have received a different diagnosis – or indeed a number of different diagnoses – before or after the trial. For example, during the period that I was involved with the mental health services in north west Wales I received at different times all of the following diagnoses: depression, personality disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, paranoid personality disorder, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. I concluded back then that these people simply had no idea what they were doing, but over the past few days I have been reading documents from my medical records that I have only recently acquired and what strikes me is that the diagnoses tended to depend on whether and to what degree I needed discrediting at the time, or whether the ‘service’ needed to find a reason not to treat me. I was by no means alone in north west Wales in my collection of different diagnoses. So where does this leave the inclusion and exclusion criteria used in this trial, at least for the Bangor site? And if there was a new treatment available in Bangor for relapsing/recurring depression why did this news not spread like wildfire? I didn’t hear a thing – the mental health services continued to be dreadful and the suicide rate in north Wales remained one of the highest in the UK. One would have thought that if Bangor had been an experimental site with enthusiastic committed practitioners, the mental health services would be of the highest quality. But no-one seems to have noticed this.

In the years that followed, mindfulness generated enormous interest. Mark Williams established the Oxford Mindfulness Centre within the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University. Patrons included one Lady Lavender Patten of Barnes aka Mrs Chris Patten. Chris Patten aka Lord Patten of Barnes was then and still is Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Mark Williams has now retired and the website of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre has recently been revamped, listing different Trustees. One of the current Trustees is Chris Ruane, a former Labour politician from north Wales who was the driving force behind alerting Parliament to the miracle of mindfulness. Chris Ruane too would have known how bad the mental health services were in north Wales. He went to school in north Wales and for many years his constituency was the Vale of Clwyd, just down the road from the notorious North Wales Hospital Denbigh.

At one point some three years ago a friend and I found a You Tube clip of Mark Williams explaining that he wanted to establish a foundation to ensure that mindfulness would continue for generations and generations to come – what was he planning, a Thousand Year Reich? Mark Williams was also very keen that MBCT should acquire recognition from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) as an effective treatment for depression. There was an awful lot of research being done by then in the field of mindfulness generally, but a lot of the research and analyses on MBCT and whether it was effective had been done by Mark Williams and his colleagues or people whom he had trained or who were networked with him – ‘true believers’. At this point I’d like to introduce readers to a paper from the British Medical Journal that I came across recently, ‘Conflicts of Interest and Spin In Reviews of Psychological Therapies: A Systematic Review’; Lieb, van der Osten-Sacken, Stoffers-Winterling, Reiss and Barth, 2016, BMJ Open http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/4/e010606.full

This paper raises some important issues which seem to have been largely overlooked and is worth reading in full. Conflicts of interest involving researchers receiving funding from pharmaceutical companies are extensively discussed even in the lay press, but Lieb et al raise the issue of a different sort of conflict of interest – researcher allegiance regarding psychological therapies, ie. the belief of a researcher in the superiority of a psychological therapy when reviewing outcomes of this therapy. Allegiance may be due to a special training in one specific psychological therapy, the involvement in previous efficacy research about this psychological therapy or the involvement in development of aetiological models via basic research. Williams and his colleagues developed MBCT, published the initial research into the efficacy of MBCT and his co-authors like Judith Soulsby and Rebecca Crane had received special training in MBCT. Lieb et al maintain that empirical studies show a strong impact of researcher allegiance on outcome in psychotherapy studies…

Mindfulness has truly taken off in the last few years and after Chris Ruane – whilst he was still an MP –  vigorously promoted it to colleagues in Westminster, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group was established and in October 2015 their report ‘Mindful Nation’ was published http://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/images/reports/Mindfulness-APPG-Report_Mindful-Nation-UK_Oct2015.pdf The Preface to this report mentions that the Parliamentary group heard from ‘some of those who experienced the transformational impacts of mindfulness’. The Parliamentary Group were deeply impressed by mindfulness and wax lyrical about the near-miracles that they seemed to believe that it can achieve  – among many other things, they recommended that MBCT should be commissioned in the NHS in line with NICE guidelines for patients with recurring depression and funding made available to train mindfulness teachers. The Parliamentary Group’s whole-hearted embrace of mindfulness is so uncritical that it is worth readers taking the time to read this report themselves. But I am interested in who contributed to this All-Party Report. Firstly, Jon Kabat-Zin – he writes the foreward to the Report. But read the Appendix 1, List of Expert Witnesses – there are some very familiar names here from familiar institutions. Again and again people who already have what could only be described as vested interests in mindfulness were relied upon as ‘experts’ – there are names of people who have been part of Mark Williams’s network for years, including a number from Bangor University eg. Sharon Hadley, Rebecca Crane and Jo Rycroft-Malone. Sharon Hadley is the Manager of Bangor University’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice and Rebecca Crane is a mindfulness trainer, has been a leading light in Bangor Mindfulness for many years and is now Director of the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. Jo Rycroft-Malone has featured on this blog before (please see posts ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board’ and ‘Conflicts Of Interest – and Some Very Big Salaries’) She sits on the Betsi Board and in 2103 received a grant of £448,000 from the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Service and Delivery Research Programme to investigate the ‘accessibility and implementation in UK services of an effective depression relapse programme: Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy’. Her collaborators on this project were William Kuyken (then at Exeter University, who has now succeeded Mark Williams as Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at Oxford University and who is a long-standing collaborator of Mark Williams and his team) and Rebecca Crane. I note with some surprise that Jo’s Bangor University web page also describes her as the Director of the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Service and Delivery Research Programme, ie. the body that funded her research into MBCT https://www.bangor.ac.uk/healthcaresciences/research/people/jorm.php.en

So a number of the ‘experts’ that the All-Party Group relied upon stood to personally benefit in a substantial way should mindfulness find its way into Gov’t policy. As for the All-Party Group recommending that MBCT should be recommended by NICE – well Jo Rycroft-Malone is Chair of the NICE Implementation Strategy Group. I believe that MBCT has now been recommended by NICE…

The mindfulness bandwagon continues to roll on. Mark Williams has developed an enormous international network and his books on mindfulness have been translated into many languages. Interestingly enough, his ‘life changing best-seller’ ‘Mindfulness, a Practical Guide To Finding Peace In A Frantic World’ was co-authored with Danny Penman, who is a former Daily Mail journalist, rather than an academic psychologist. This book – and Williams’s work on mindfulness – received a further boost when endorsed by Ruby Wax (who had previously endorsed the charity ‘Kid’s Company’….). Ruby Wax has famously undertaken the Masters in mindfulness at Oxford University with Mark Williams. At one point Wax was stating in interviews that she had a Masters in ‘brain science’ from Oxford University but I see latterly that she is describing it as a Masters in mindfulness – presumably a real ‘brain scientist’ contacted her and pointed out the difference. I have also heard Ruby give interviews in which she stated that she had no previous qualifications and had always believed that she was stupid until Oxford University accepted her on a Masters course. One assumes then, that as at Bangor University, one does not need any formal qualifications to enrol for the Masters in mindfulness. Mark Williams obviously spotted Ruby’s huge potential.

Mark Williams has now retired and has almost vanished from Oxford University’s  Oxford Mindfulness Centre website (Chris Patten’s wife has also disappeared). But he is still listed as a Principal Investigator of one of the Wellcome Trust funded research projects that the Centre is running, a project promoting mindfulness in schools, again based on MBCT. The website boasts that the Centre has netted research funding of nearly £7 million.

I know of people at Bangor University who worked with Mark Williams many years ago who are not particularly complimentary about mindfulness or Williams’s management style – but many of them until recently still used him as a referee for research funding or had previously co-authored with him. These people also knew the reality of mental health care in north Wales. But no-one has breathed a word…

More recently, I know of one man in Snowdonia who followed one of Rebecca Crane’s mindfulness courses ‘in the community’ after experiencing terrible problems with prescribed anti-depressants and who became very interested in mindfulness and wanted to follow it up after the eight week MBCT course. I was told that although the promotional literature advertised that follow-up would be available, he did not find this to be true. However he persisted, followed up himself and became very committed to mindfulness meditation and practice, gaining much experience. I would have presumed that this man would have been a brilliant ‘advert’ for – and addition to – Rebecca Crane’s Centre in Bangor and I asked him if he had ever thought of trying to get a job as a trainer or teacher with them. He told me that he had approached them but gained the impression that paid work at the Centre was the preserve of a small clique.

Mindfulness has gripped much of the western world, but voices of dissent can now be heard. Academic critiques are being published and some people with a longstanding commitment to Buddhist meditation are raising concerns regarding what has been done in its name. Whilst casually perusing google scholar last year I came across extracts from a highly critical edited volume, which included a chapter by a practising Buddhist. This man maintained that he had attended a mindfulness course at Bangor University led by Mark Williams and had been ostracised by the rest of the group for daring to question Williams. He also observed that he gained the impression that the version of mindfulness meditation that Williams was promoting seemed to have been developed with a view to gaining research funding.

There is undoubtedly a group of people who do enjoy mindfulness meditation and maintain that it is indeed transformative, but they tend to be well-educated, with a previous interest in ‘alternative’ medicine or spirituality. Interestingly some of these people are also very uncomfortable with what is now happening – they do not feel that mindfulness should be ‘sold’ to the US military establishment or  to global corporations to improve workers’ productivity. But then the beauty of mindfulness as devised by Williams et al is that neoliberalism can use it to prop up toxic work environments or support the retraction of welfare services. A dreadful employer only has to give staff twenty minutes a day to practice mindfulness and the employer can thus show their enlightenment and ‘compassion’ as well as tell the staff that they should be able to cope with their work environment – after all, it’s their reaction that is the problem not the environment. And I was interested to hear Ruby Wax interviewed on Radio 4 recently in which she plugged one of Mark Williams’s mindfulness volumes as being the book that changed her life. Towards the end of the interview, Ruby spoke about how she had spent years consulting mental health professionals but hadn’t found the solution to her problems, but the good thing about mindfulness was that you don’t need anyone else – ‘cure yourself!’ Yes Ruby, that is the only choice that so many people in north Wales have been left with for so long – but they aren’t millionaire celebrities, so their lives and options are somewhat more constrained than yours.

Somebody recently drew my attention to an article in the Guardian in which Rebecca Crane was quoted as expressing concerns regarding the quality of some mindfulness training and the quality of some trainers. Well this is a fairly obvious consequence of the large scale rolling out of a business model that involves charging people to undertake a Masters degree requiring no previous formal qualifications that then qualifies one as a mindfulness trainer/teacher, enabling the said trainer/teacher to transform the world and resolve any personal problems – and of course to then charge others to do the same. I think it used to be called ‘pyramid selling’.

Even if one accepts that some people find mindfulness helpful and that Mark Williams and his colleagues may have genuinely believed that MBCT was an effective ‘treatment’ for recurring depression – and I fully accept that there are problems with medications used for depression and that many people have been and are prescribed these medications when they do not want them and do not find them in the least bit helpful – I cannot help but wonder at the claims now being made regarding mindfulness by Williams et al. They are maintaining that a mindful approach has the potential to transform virtually every area of society. Did no-one think to look at what was happening in that cradle of mindfulness, the mental health services in north west Wales, in particular the Arfon Mental Health Team and the Hergest Unit? These services have remained highly abusive and neglectful, patients continue to die and the Betsi, the Health Board concerned, is now mired in scandal and in special measures – and one person acknowledged in Williams’s initial work was later removed from his job under after an investigation into patient neglect. (I note that references to Keith Fearns et al have disappeared from Williams’s later books and the second editions of the early books.) Yet the language of mindfulness is that of compassion. Readers of this blog will be well aware that there was and is very little of that to be found in the Hergest Unit or in the Arfon Mental Health Team. Mark Williams was working as a clinical psychologist at Bangor University whilst the mental health services were centred around the North Wales Hospital Denbigh and he remained there whilst the Hergest Unit descended into madness and chaos. He has remained silent about all this and clearly was not able to use mindfulness to bring about any sort of transformation at all in north west Wales. What he did do was escape to Oxford University and leave it all behind….

There is one very sad  individual story among all this. Readers may remember that at the beginning of this post, I described how there was one psychiatrist at the Hergest Unit who was enormously excited about mindfulness, who had begun using it himself, who lent me the Kabat-Zin book and who was encouraging his patients to use mindfulness. Did it work for him? I don’t know what his thoughts on this were because after he retired I lost contact with him. Some four years ago I was told that he had killed himself.

I have been musing over all this with my friend Brown recently. What fascinates me is why Mark Williams ever went to Bangor in the first place. He arrived there in 1991 from Cambridge University. The north Wales mental health services were so bad that they constituted a major political embarrassment (nothing has changed) – Dafydd Alun Jones and Denbigh were notorious throughout Wales. I wondered if perhaps Mark Williams really knew nothing about what was happening there. I think before he worked at Cambridge University he had worked in Newcastle. Maybe he didn’t know Wales at all. But then I found out something very interesting. John Teasdale, Mark Williams’s close colleague and co-author of the MBCT work who worked with Mark Williams when they were both employed at Cambridge University, had previously worked as a clinical psychologist in Cardiff, at the University Hospital of Wales. Teasdale will have therefore known about north Wales. I had a friend who was a medical student in Cardiff University in the 80s and in 1984 as her cohort were all beginning their clinical placements she told me that they all dreaded being sent to Bangor because the tales that returning medical students told were just so grim. And that wasn’t even Denbigh. I think it very unlikely that Teasdale had not mentioned the appalling reputation of the north Wales mental health services to Williams when Williams was offered the Chair at Bangor University. The first thing that anyone does when they apply for or are offered a senior position in a university or the NHS is to ask all their mates and colleagues what they know about the place and the people that they will be working with. Why on earth would a promising young psychologist already establishing himself among a network of credible people leave a highly regarded unit in Cambridge University to come to a service dominated by Dafydd Alun Jones? North Wales has of course always attracted a group of people who come here because they are Welsh and want to return home, or because they are keen climbers/outdoor activity enthusiasts or ecologists. Mark Williams is none of these – and it seems that people in Bangor University knew a long time ago that Mark Williams’s ultimate goal was a Chair at Oxford University. North Wales was not an obvious career move. The only thing about Mark Williams and his interests that fits in with people attracted to north Wales is the ‘alternative spiritualities’ bit – the Bangor area, along with mid-Wales, since the late 60s/early 70s, has been a magnet for people seeking alternative lifestyles. The region is full of ‘old hippies’ and there were many communities of people with interests in things like alternative medicine, Buddhism and meditation. I know some of these people and a lot of them know about and have been very impressed with the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University. Most of these people are originally from middle-class backgrounds and are usually quite well-educated but few of them are academics or have received an education in science. Mark Williams’s attraction to a Chair at Bangor University remains a puzzle. But Brown – as he so often does – pointed out something very salient. On arriving at Bangor University, Williams would have found that the most senior posts in the region were log-jammed by people like Dafydd Alun Jones and if Williams had really had his ear to the ground he may even have heard that a paedophile ring was operating across north Wales in Gwynedd and Clwyd Social Services. Opportunities for advancement would have been very limited and he would have realised that Dafydd Alun Jones et al had such a grip on the region that they were not going to go anywhere and were very difficult to negotiate around. Patient care was appalling and was obviously going to remain so all the time that Dafydd et al were in place, so there weren’t going to be any improvements there.  But Dafydd et al knew nothing about research and weren’t interested anyway – and I bet there was no research governance in place. So mental health practitioners claiming an interest in research would be able to do pretty much what they wanted, publish it as well and there would be nobody to question what they were doing or ask for the evidence. What an opportunity! I only know one person who has ever questioned Mark Williams about his research. That was a former Hergest Unit patient who, along with so many of us, was having terrible problems with both the Hergest Unit and the Arfon Mental Health Team. He was at one point referred to Mark Williams because of his serious self-harming. He has always described his encounters with Williams in very negative terms and maintained that Williams’s techniques ‘didn’t work’. These were not mindfulness techniques, but techniques to supposedly deal with self-harm. Sometime after he decided to stop seeing Williams, this man told me that Williams published his book ‘Cry of Pain’, an investigation into self-harming and suicide. After reading this book, this man became convinced that Mark Williams had used him as research for this book without his consent. I have no idea why this man believed this, but about four years ago this man called in all his medical records via lawyers, and like me, found the most extraordinary things had been documented by staff at the Hergest Unit and the Arfon Team. He then wrote to Mark Williams and cc’d his letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, asking Williams if he had ever been part of a research project and would Williams be willing to give him access to the original research data. Williams wrote a very polite letter back, assuring this man that he had not been part of any research project, but saying that he could not give him access to the data because he no longer had it. Which is interesting because even I still have most of my research data and I haven’t held successive Chairs, established research institutes and built an international reputation on my data. In my experience, people keen on writing do tend to keep their data, because you never know when it might come in useful for another publication or follow-up project. Shortly after my friend received Williams’s letter, a notice appeared on Williams’s Oxford University profile announcing that he had retired and would not be accepting anymore PhD students.

Whilst searching for Mark Williams’s early work on mindfulness in the library the other day, I came across a book written by David Healy in 1993, ‘Images of Trauma’. David Healy published some work with Mark Williams years ago and Williams has also published with Helen Healy, Healy’s wife. ‘Images of Trauma’ contains an eccentric but fascinating piece under ‘Acknowledgments’. Healy describes this book as a ‘joyride’ and ‘as with any joyride there is a certain disregard of convention’. He reminds readers that a reviewer of his last book ‘complained about the cavalier approach to references and facts’. Healy quips that ‘as regards the references, the approach here may be less than a law-abiding Sunday driver might like’. He was ‘happy enough with the reviewer’s qualms about my brushing up against the red reference cones on the edge of the motorway’ and had ‘announced beforehand that some disregard for established facts seemed inevitable’. Healy compares the plot of this book to progress along a multi-laned motorway and that ‘switching from lane to lane inevitably make drivers who stick to one lane nervous’ but he states that ‘it is difficult to know what to make of appeals to stay in lane’. David Healy then goes on to state that ‘as in most cases of joyriding I have had passengers in the back. Some have been hijacked; these include Ian Rickard…’ (Ian Rickard was formerly a senior nurse at the Hergest Unit, one of the many who failed to investigate my complaint about Dr Dafydd Alun Jones trying to bribe me into dropping an earlier complaint about him. Brown heard the telephone conversation in which Jones tried to do this and wrote to Ian Rickard. When I received no reply, Ian Rickard told me that he ‘hadn’t received’ Brown’s letter. A few days ago when I received some newly released documents regarding my medical files, there was a copy of Brown’s letter to Ian Rickard. Ian Rickard more recently has joined the disgraced Keith Fearns on the committee of the North West Wales Branch of the BABCP, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies.) David Healy continues ‘Others have been there before and have come along again for the ride, perhaps partly out of a fascination at the possibility of disaster…they have individually or collectively screamed from the back seat….Another group of back-seat passengers have been the patients…The book is in many ways an apology for my/our abiding inability to get them much further towards where they want to go than they could get under their own steam.’

Many years ago David Healy was prosecuted and fined for dangerous driving in Menai Bridge.

So whilst Mark Williams established himself as a guru and David Healy carried on revelling in joy-riding despite listening to the screams of other people, I nearly went to prison for something that everyone knew that I didn’t do. And a great many people died.

 

Time To Talk?

My routine scanning of the Daily Post online has led me to notice that they are running a piece about a young woman from St Asaph who is now at Cardiff University who has made a video concerning the ways in which people can spot signs of mental health problems in others http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/watch-denbighshire-womans-vital-video-12518552  The young woman concerned, Naomi Lea, is reported as having spoken at the National Assembly this week. Naomi has commented to the Daily Post that it doesn’t always require a ‘professional’ to help someone and the CEO of the charity that helped Naomi make the film has observed that they are not ‘experts on mental health’. Readers of this blog will know that in north Wales, ‘professionals’ or ‘experts’ are actually very often the last people to help someone with mental health problems. Naomi’s desire to help other people who might have suffered the isolation that she describes experiencing when she struggled with mental health problems when she was younger is worthy, but I notice that her video ends with a bit of free PR for MIND and the Samaritans, both organisations who, in north Wales at least, are certainly not doing what they tell people that they are doing. Previous blog posts have detailed how MIND has actively colluded with abuse in both the statutory and private sector, as well as the close links between people involved in MIND and people who have worked in the statutory mental health sector that has let people with mental health problems down so badly. The blog has also previously described how the Samaritans in Bangor actively refused to help a suicidal patient who had been neglected and refused treatment by the Hergest Unit.

Naomi’s experience of being invited to the National Assembly to speak was no doubt a good experience for her – but I suspect that if she begins to take an interest in what politicians are actually doing in the face of the appalling mental health services and constant stream of deaths of people with mental health problems in her home region she’ll soon become as disillusioned with them as I am. Because none of them – with the exception so far of Darren Millar – are still mentioning a word in public about what is happening. Janet Finch-Saunders (Con) savaged the Betsi Board again earlier this week, but that was regarding waiting times for orthopaedic surgery. A quick scan of some of the Welsh politicians tweets over the last few days is revealing. Leanne Wood (Plaid) tweeted that she visited a mental health charity in Newtown – all good PR to show what a caring sharing politician she is – but not a word in any reported public statement about the carnage in north Wales. You’re lining yourself up as an alternative First Minister Leanne – you’ve even agreed to compromise your well-publicised republicanism and toady to HM the Queen should you achieve this aim – have you really no knowledge of what is going on up here? And as the self-styled leader of the opposition in the Senedd would this not be the ideal opportunity to demonstrate a major failing of the Welsh Govt? But then Leanne’s colleagues in the north are, as usual, keeping schtum too. Liz Savile-Roberts (Plaid) retweeted a ‘Time To Talk’ message from the ‘Time To Change’ mental health campaign – the irony being that Liz herself does no talking at all about the severe neglect, abuse and deaths of mental health patients in north Wales. Then I took the opportunity to have a look at Rhun ap Iorwerth’s tweets. Rhun is Plaid’s spokesman on health. I have not noticed him make any public statements regarding the state of the north Wales mental health services. However, Rhun recently tweeted enthusiastically that we must get the Wales Dementia Strategy right. Accompanying this tweet was a tweet from Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences, telling the world that they were looking forward to seeing Rhun at their conference. Further investigation revealed that this was a conference on dementia that the BIHMR (Bangor Institute for Health and Medical Research), part of the School of Healthcare Sciences, was holding. If interested readers look up the details of BIHMR, they will see that it is in a ‘partnership’ with the Betsi https://www.bangor.ac.uk/healthcaresciences/research/index.php.en

That’s the same Betsi that is in special measures because of the Tawel Fan scandal (which involved patients with dementia) and whose staff have not been dismissed or disciplined and who are now failing to co-operate with an investigation into Tawel Fan; the same Betsi that is running the other dreadful unsafe mental health units in north Wales and failing to care for legions of people with mental health problems who are dying in great numbers. And who is a leading light in the BIHMR? Step forward Prof Jo Rycroft-Malone, member of the Betsi Board! (please see blog posts ‘An Expert On The Betsi Board!’ and ‘Conflicts of Interests – and Some Very Big Salaries’ for more background on Jo). I wonder if Tawel Fan was even mentioned at this conference? And if wasn’t, why Rhun hasn’t been mentioning it himself. A dementia conference – run by a ‘research institute’ completely entangled with the organisation that was responsible for the biggest dementia-related health scandal that there has been in recent years in the UK…

I have a friend who has lost so many friends of hers with mental health problems in north Wales to suicide and had so many dreadful experiences at the Hergest Unit herself that she routinely refers to the NHS as the ‘National Holocaust Service’. Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day and the nation’s politicians made much of attending Holocaust Memorial Services and signing books of condolence. One of the cohorts that the Nazi’s exterminated was the mentally ill.

And still no-one says a word. Time To Talk perhaps?

I await the next scandal or death involving the mental health services in north Wales.

Conflicts of Interest – and Some Very Big Salaries

Regular readers of this blog will by now have gained some idea of the wrongdoing, cronyism and mutual backscratching that is rife within the NHS in north Wales and other associated organisations and sectors. So at this point I will take the opportunity to introduce the following document to readers, the Betsi’s Annual Report and Accounts, 2015/16 http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/documents/861/BCUHB%20Annual%20Report%202015-161.pdf

Some of the information is now slightly out of date, due to the departure and arrival of various Board Members, but it’s worth reading this document. Take a look at pages 46-47, the Register of Director’s Interests. It is certainly illuminating.

Prof Angela Hopkins (now retired) was the Director of Nursing, Widwifery, Therapies and Health Sciences. It was on Angela’s watch that the disaster in Tawel Fan brewed and exploded – and Angela was one of those previously employed by the North West Wales Trust who failed to investigate complaints of nurses threatening me and abusing their positions. Recent blog posts of mine have described what passes for ‘therapy’ in the Betsi. And Bangor University recently withdrew midwifery students from certain placements in the Betsi due to serious problems, although the precise nature of those problems was not widely known. So Angela has not really excelled. Yet Angela was ‘Director in Wales with the Royal College of Nursing’, a ‘Member of the National Cultural Alignment Group, sponsored by the Royal College of Nursing’ and was awarded an honorary Chair at Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences in 2015 (by that time, everyone knew about Tawel Fan). So this woman, who presided over gross failure and naked abuse, held influential positions within her professional body and was rewarded with a Chair – a Chair in the School of Healthcare Sciences, which was previously headed by Jo Rycroft-Malone, who now sits on the Betsi Board after previously receiving research funding from the Betsi! I used to wonder why the Betsi was picking up awards from the Royal College of Nursing despite the horrors that existed there…

Bernie Cuthel (no longer sitting on the Board, but I think she still works for the Betsi), but former ‘Interim Director of Primary, Community and Mental Health Services. So she didn’t do too well in improving those services then during her time as Interim Director. Bernie of course arrived at the Betsi amid much media coverage, due to the enormous cloud under which she seemed to have left her last position as a senior manager in the NHS in England. Allegations of bullying and mismanagement swirled around and questions had been asked in the House…So Bernie is obviously the ideal person to be a member of the ‘Governing Body of Nugent Care’, a Third Sector organisation providing services to vulnerable adults and children. Bernie has a family member working in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

Dr Peter Higson, OBE. Peter and his activities past and present have featured prominently on this blog – he’s the Chairman of the Betsi. But look – he’s also a Council Member at Bangor University (which seems to be dishing out funds and Chairs to people involved with the Betsi who often seem rather undeserving of these Chairs and funds). Peter’s sister is Ruth Hussey – until last spring, she was Chief Medical Officer for Wales. Ruth was recently awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Bangor University. Peter also has a finger in the Third Sector pie, he is a Trustee of Cartrefi Cymru, an organisation providing residential homes for people with learning disabilities. Not sure that his track record suggests that he’ll be much use in that role.

Prof J. Rycroft-Malone. ‘Independent Board Member and University Representative’. The only interest that Jo declares here is that her spouse is an employee of the Betsi. But read my previous post an ‘Expert On The Betsi Board!’ and it is clear that Jo and people that she directly works with clearly enjoy a very cosy relationship with the Betsi and seem to have benefited from substantial funding from the Betsi.

Mrs B. Russell-Williams. ‘Independent Board Member.’ She’s also Chief Officer of Gwynedd County Voluntary Council aka Mantell Gwynedd – which receives funding from the Health Board (I’m becoming very familiar with this arrangement). Mantell Gwynedd is infamous to those of us who are familiar with north west Wales; no-one ever worked out what it did or what is was for, there were constant allegations of nepotism and cronyism in terms of who actually landed paid positions with Mantell Gwynedd and it was widely perceived to be a Welsh language equivalent of the Abbey Road Centre/MIND in Bangor, another Third Sector organisation which seemed to be achieving very little and dishing out jobs to friends. But look – Bethan’s husband chairs Gwynedd Community Health Council. For the uninitiated, the CHC advertises itself as the ‘watchdog’ that represents patient’s interests in the region. The CHC is notorious for having kept completely silent about the state of the mental health services in north Wales. I see that on her Board Member profile, it is stated that Bethan is ‘passionate’ about the Third Sector ‘particularly about the future role of the Third Sector in the delivery of public services in Wales’. I bet she is – ‘co-production’ is now Welsh Govt policy and the gravy train clearly cometh, particularly now that Bethan is on the Betsi Board.

Mrs L. Meadows. ‘Director at Bangor University’. Lyn Meadows is well-known to me and has featured previously on this blog, in relation to her unprofessional behaviour whilst she was HR Director at Bangor University, her activities when she was on the Board of an NHS Trust in the north west of England and her ‘previous’ at the Welsh Ambulance Service. (Please read, for example, my blog post ‘The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’.)

 

I have only highlighted the very dodgy connections and potential conflicts of interest that are obvious to me upon scanning this document. If I did a bit more research who knows what I’d dig up – readers of this blog may have spotted a lot more than I have. I do accept that people who work together often marry each other and that people with similar interests or working in similar fields get to know each other and build up networks. If these people were self-sacrificing geniuses, working for the good of the wider public in north Wales and involved in genuinely ground-breaking research and initiatives, such a network would be fantastic. However they are clearly not doing that and the evidence is an effectively bankrupt Health Board in special measures and deaths of mental health patients that are so frequent that I’ve found it worth my while keeping a tally on this blog.

Now scroll down to page 51 of the document and get some idea of what this bunch of charlatans are being paid (before expenses, allowances and other jollies that is). Gary the CEO: full year equivalent salary £200,000-205,000. Angela Hopkins was on £130,000-135,000. The dreadful Martin Jones (on a protected contract for 10 years after being recycled into the Betsi following his disasterous ‘leadership’ of the North West Wales Trust) is receiving £130,000-135,000. Grace Lewis-Parry (on a 10 year protected contract after being recycled into the Betsi following her previous lacklustre performance as CEO of the Local Health Board) nets £100,000-105,000. Higson, who can’t even answer an e mail and ‘cannot recollect’ when he has been told about the most serious abuses in the mental health services, is pulling in £65,000-70-,000 for ‘Chairing’ this catastrophe, after he retired from his failings at Health Inspectorate Wales. Even ‘Independent Members’ like Bobby Feely, Meadows and Bethan from Mantell Gwynedd are receiving £15,000-20,000.

How can this be justified in the light of the neglect and abuse in the NHS in north Wales? North Wales – and Gwynedd in particular – has swathes of people on benefit, in casual minimum wage jobs and some of the lowest incomes in the UK. Snowdonia hill farmers only manage to stay in business because of agricultural subsidies. But get your foot in the door of the NHS (or ‘Third Sector’), refuse to resign even in the face of public outrage when your failures are made public and you’ll be among the highest paid people in the region – even though the people on the receiving end of your ‘service’ will be dying.

The phrase ‘snouts in the trough’ comes to mind. Or, for a more literary reference, we can paraphrase George Orwell – ‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again, and from Gary to Martin to Peter to Lyn to Jo, but already it was impossible to say which was which’.

 

 

 

An Expert On The Betsi Board!

I have long been interested in the presence of Prof Jo Rycroft-Malone on the Betsi Board as an ‘Independent Board Member’, but that is because until recently she was the Head of the School of Healthcare Sciences at Bangor University and at that time I was told by a number of nursing students training in the School that they had tried to raise concerns with tutors there regarding bullying and bad practice whilst they were on placement with the Betsi but their concerns had been ignored. It was admitted at a Board meeting last autumn that nurses who had trained at Bangor University were leaving the area to work in England. Jo Rycroft-Malone remained completely silent throughout this discussion.

However, Rycroft-Malone has recently been elevated to the position of ‘Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Impact and Director, National Institute for Health Research’s Health Services and Delivery Research Programme’. Read all about her research here https://www.bangor.ac.uk/healthcaresciences/research/people/jorm.php.en

Readers may have spotted a few interesting things. Jo’s declared research interests include ‘knowledge translation research including how or why evidence or knowledge do or do not get used in practice’. Jo has been a member of the Betsi Board since 2014. So since 2014, that Board has had a member who is allegedly an ‘expert’ on knowledge transfer and evidence based practice – what exactly has Jo been doing during her time on the Betsi Board? It is quite clear that ‘evidence based practice’ plays very little part in the ‘care and treatment’ given by the Betsi – surely Jo should have been busy for the past two years addressing this?

I see that Jo has even managed to get herself appointed as Chair of the NICE Implementation Strategy Group, as well as to a few other prestigious positions. Do any of the people who appointed Jo to any of these positions know about the chaos and carnage happening on her patch? NICE are of course the body who advise the NHS on which treatments are approved on a nationwide basis – and one of those advisors is a member of the dear old Betsi Board…

Readers are also encouraged to have a look at the table provided that helpfully shows Jo’s funded research – she was awarded a couple of grants from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in 2012 and 2010. (I note that the grants awarded were for ‘end of life care’ and ‘management of chronic conditions’ – neither of which the Betsi is currently excelling at…) When I last accessed the register of Board Member’s declared interests, as far as I can remember, Jo didn’t declare previous research funding from the Betsi, but I seem to remember that she did declare a personal relationship (it might have been marriage) to another employee of the Betsi. (I’ve been unable to access this register this morning to check this.) So the Betsi provided the funding that has contributed towards Jo’s current status as an ‘expert’ in knowledge-translation and evidence based practice – but as with so much of the other health research going on in north Wales, it doesn’t look as if any patients are benefiting from this putative research and expertise at all. If readers really want to be entertained, click on Bangor University’s School of Healthcare Sciences and read what they are saying about their Bangor Institute for Health and Medical Research. How are they getting away with this – look at the state of the Health Board that they proudly boast about being ‘in partnership’ with.

So can we add Jo Rycroft-Malone’s name to that list of people in north Wales who are ‘experts in their field’, but seem to have ignored some truly terrible things happening under their noses?