Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Over the course of the past months, who could help but feel a plethora of emotion as the horrors of Winterbourne View have unfolded before our very eyes: Absolute disgust that an organisation could get to the point where such blatant institutional abuse becomes a part of daily life, anger at the systems in which we work as they are revealed as insufficient to protect the most vulnerable in our society or perhaps a heart-wrenching empathy towards the vulnerable and a passion that things have to change and something done… but what?

It will hopefully have challenged us all as a professionals.  Is it just possible that as we go about our business there is a very real danger of becoming complecent unless we keep on out toes and remain true to our professional standards and ethical practices?  I’ve been reminded how very important the role of those who commission services and the need for greater accountability when choosing services for individuals who can’t choose for themselves.   Are we pressured into choosing the cheaper option even when we know in our heart that it isn’t the most suitable?  Do we sigh a sigh of relief and accept without question when we find a service that will accommodate the individual with particularly challenging behaviour knowing that the option will be limited? Do unrealistic case-load sizes prevent us from spending time to think outside of the box and identify the very best service and then think how it might be achieved? Do we have a professional relationship with providers when a less formal relationship can be so much easier? If we become too familiar those so important boundaries can become distorted and increase the risk of poor practice or even abuse going unnoticed or being excused.

I started my social care career working in a residential home for children with autism and it must be said that in my experience the majority of carers are decent caring people who go the extra mile.  Most don’t get paid heaps, have to work shifts but still turn up at work asking how they can make the next 8 hours the best they possibly can for those they have come to work for.  However, there are some for whom that isn’t the case and over the past couple of weeks we have seen 11 photos that will probably remain imprinted on our minds long after the media frenzy has died down.

I’d really like to hear how recent events have perhaps challenged you as a health or social care worker as you strive to help deliver the very best services to those who need them. I also look forwards to hearing how the Department of Health is going to drive service commissioning, delivery and safeguarding forwards.  What is agreed upon is that there needs to be a radical overhaul of social care; what doesn’t see so clear is what that will look like.

 

A Culture of Care?

I can’t help it but I’m somewhat unimpressed and uninspired by claims that Castlebeck’s transformation is nearly complete (As reported by The Guardian).  I’m sure Mr Sullivan has done a sterling job in dragging the remains of homes such as Winterbourne View towards acceptable standards but the very fact that such poor standards of care are evident in contemporary care is a shameful indictment on our society.

It riles me not only that such abuse took place in the first instance, but that it wasn’t picked up by the care provider.  Would the abuse still be happening if it were down to Castlebeck to identify it and take action?  I shudder to think that the answer might be a resounding “Yes”.  Also to think what else may be happening within care homes across the UK where vulnerable adults don’t have the benefit of family involvement or carers with the insight to blow the whistle on abuse … or Panorama!

 Having worked with numerous residential and nursing homes, it is not hard to see how totally dependant some vulnerable members of our society are on those paid to provide good quality care:  Care that is monitored and regulated and where safeguarding policies are in place to ensure that those who can’t speak up for themselves are protected from abuse… Really?

I can’t help but recalling one particular home, the manager was sitting in a very well equipped, spacious office when I arrived congratulating herself at the marvel that were her new, glossy brochures. Showing prospective families just exactly how decent the home was with its ample garden blooming with flowers and general good cheer.  Carers smiled on the front cover in a manner that exuded quality, person-centred care from more carers than one could possibly need whilst care-free residents tucked into their gormet meals.

Sadly, the reality was very different:  Insufficiently trained carers that didn’t have the time to answer a call-bell that had been rung for the umpteenth time as the room’s occupant continued to lie in urine soaked sheets.  Then there was the missed opportunity after missed opportunity to spot pressure wounds that were silently getting progressively worse – out of sight, out of mind.  All the time, the owner continued to congratulate herself and confidently sell the homes’ services to prospective new residents and their families.  Oblivious to the reality that was unravelling the other side of her plush office door.

Of course, such business’ need to be well run but when business comes before quality of care something needs to change.  Whole cultures need to change because if the underlying ethos of a home’s manager is developing a thriving business, how can the ethos of carers within that home be anything different … such as caring perhaps.  Whilst I’m all for serious case reviews and learning from past mistakes, I’m not convinced my ministers’ exclamations that, “We must learn from this so that these things must never happen again!”   I fear that they will happen again … and again until the whole culture of care changes to one of … well, care.

I can recall perhaps just a handful of small care homes where the managers rota themselves on shift so they know what’s going on and can identify any training needs.  Where more money is spent on care than on prtraying a good image to prospective new residents.  They may not be glistening with a new coat of paint every 6 months or benefit from TV advertising but they are run with an underlying ethos of care and respect and reflect far more the brochures that are displayed elsewhere, but they don’t have their own glossy brochures.  All they have is a good reputation which gets them by more than adequately.

Winterbourne View – The Serious Case Review

Yesterday the Serious Case Review written by Margaret Flynn about Winterbourne View Hospital was published. It catalogues the series of circumstances which led to those scenes seen on BBC’s Panorama programme and it makes important and salutary lessons for everyone involved in health and social care.

It is a well-written, detailed report which catalogues a series of holes in the process of provisioning, commissioning, managing and monitoring a long stay hospital for people with learning disabilities but the most important lessons can easily be extrapolated out to many other areas of residential, nursing and long stay hospital care.

In summarising my own reading of the report, I have added some of my own thoughts as I go but I do recommend going to read the full version. No doubt I’ll be reflecting on it more over the next few days/weeks.

Introduction

This sets out the background to the airing of the programme on 31 May 2011 and the scope of the serious care review (SCR) which covers the period between January 2008 – when South Gloucestershire Council received their first safeguarding referral to 31st May 2011 when the Panorama programme was aired.  It explains the terms of reference of the report and some of the specific incidents seen on Panorama which caused concern.  This included illegal restraints procedures and

‘notions of a hospital, nursing, assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and support were emptied of meaning and credibility’

The Place and the Personnel

Winterbourne View opened in December 2006 after a ‘feasibility’ study by Castlebeck Ltd which had assessed that there was a need in that particular geographic location for this kind of service. As seen in the programme the placement of a hospital on a business park seems unbelievable but according to the ‘Statement of Purpose’ quoted in the report, there was local access to ‘amenities and a main bus route’ – one does wonder how much this was important to those in the hospital as opposed to those working at the hospital.

Families were not allowed into the bedrooms of those living there which rings many alarm bells to those of us in the sector but may not have been seen as something unusual if you don’t know how these things should operate.

Learning disability nursing and psychiatry were the only disciplines employed in the so-called ‘multi-disciplinary’ teams. The report explains the structure of the service and staffing which was heavy on support workers, which in itself isn’t surprising however a ‘hospital’ employing no occupational therapy, for example, is particularly surprising.  There was a very high turnover and sickness rate among staff which in itself is a sign of there being something particularly wrong in the structures.  12 hour shifts were the norm which may have suited the service and staff more than those who use the service and there was certainly a lack of detail regarding day time activities and timetables for those who lived in Winterbourne View.

I do wonder where the input from care managers/care co-ordinators were in terms of monitoring care plans and ensuring their were adhered to. My gut feeling is that with out of area placements, there was less impetus to be able to monitor these. Commissioners didn’t seem to make many demands that the operating guidelines for Winterbourne were met in terms of providing a therapeutic and rehabilitative environment.

Chronology

This section details the concerns raised and is an analysis of what was actually happening at Winterbourne along a timeline.  Unsurprisingly there are a string of concerns raised that when seen along a timeline can build a picture of a hospital and an organisation that is not fit for purpose.

Part of the concern as a whole is that the dots were not connected in terms of the series of incidents and concerns to build a coherent picture of what was happening. Whilst it’s ‘easy to be wise with hindsight’ it’s important to remember that we have systems which are supposed to protect vulnerable adults which should include collating and using information, concerns and reports to build cohesive pictures of what is going on – that’s even without the whistleblowing which took place.

It makes very difficult reading – all the more so in the context that it was not sufficiently investigated, not internally, not locally and not by the regulator nor police. The key worry that ran through my head is that this may have continued had it not been for both the intervention of determined ‘whistleblowers’ and the involvement of a BBC journalist. That’s a very very worrying lesson that needs to be acted on.

The Experiences and Perspectives of Patients and their Families

The author of the report spoke to six families in particular and explains their perceptions, experiences and understanding of what was happening at Winterbourne View.  The report gives life to some of those who lived at Winterbourne View and humanises them in a way, it seems that the service itself never did – with hopes, aspirations, character and personality.

One patient said

he had been in ‘loads of worse places than them, all over the country’ and that he had been abused in lots of care homes

And if there’s a key lesson to learn it is that Winterbourne View is not an anomaly and shouldn’t be seen as such.

The patient recollections of abuse and treatment at Winterbourne is very powerful. It evidences the importance both of listening and humanising approaches within residential care and hospital care. The importance of being near families and the disruptions of constantly changing placements seems to be the nature of life for some groups of people who have particular care needs and I wonder where the power in commissioning is coming from to look at different models.

When families raised concerns that their children had brought to them these reports were often disbelieved or families were not given the full details of what was going on.  It also raises the importance of visiting and monitoring – particularly for those who may not have families.

Importantly the report says

A family expressed anger that service commissioners making spot purchases to meet the needs of individuals do not know what they want to buy; they do not seek assurance that the service they believe they are buying is delivered; and they do not follow up on what is being provided.

Perhaps more importantly in terms of lessons to be learnt globally

‘As families recalled some of their distressing experiences, it was clear that they had no collective experience of being regarded as partners deserving of trust and respect or even of collaborating with paid carers.

There has to be a shift in the conceit of ‘paid professionals’ or ‘paid support workers’. We have to work with, alongside and for those whom we support and their families as otherwise we should be nowhere even close to a position in social care. Respect, listening and remembering whom we are serving  is the crux of the profession and that seems to have been lost somewhere.

Agencies

Castlebeck Ltd seemed to have a ‘limited executive oversight’ of Winterbourne View with the geographical distance from their head office in Darlington providing significant lapse in responsiveness when concerns were raised.

Interestingly they seem to place some of the blame directly on the CQC and problems with the transition from the Healthcare Commission to the CQC. While no CQC apologist this seems to be a very complacent and worrying dereliction of duty from the organisation that was paid to provide a service which should include self-monitoring.  The SCR looks at Castlebeck’s own analysis of their failings but finds it lacking with attempts to discharge responsibility for the things that went wrong. As it says

Overall Castlebeck Ltd’s appreciation of events leading up to transmission of Panorama is limited, not least because they took financial rewards without any apparent responsibility. The recommendations fail to address corporate responsibility at the highest level

Which is sad, but unsurprising.

NHS South of England also produced a report about commissioning of care and treatment at Winterbourne View.  Out of the 48 referrals made to Winterbourne View, 13 came from commissioners located less than 20 miles away and 9 of those 13 were from commissioners less than 10 miles away.

Worrying is that there were some placements made with few checks and some not even reading the most recent inspection reports.  Interesting that of the 48 English patients (the experiences of Welsh patients – not being the responsibility of the NHS in England were not counted in these figures) 35 were admitted under a section of the Mental Health Act, 13 were admitted informally and 6 were detained after being admitted informally. Unfortunately there are no details regarding the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards but it would be interesting to know more about those ‘informal’ admissions legally.

NHS South Gloucestershire PCT was the ‘coordinating’ commissioner being where Winterbourne View is located. They produced another report.  Hospital records were also accessed but there seemed to be no linking of information together and agencies not speaking to each other seems to be a major problem and continuing concern.

South Gloucestershire Council also provided a Safeguarding Review.  South Gloucestershire received 40 safeguarding alerts between October 2007 and April 2011. The system locally to follow up some safeguarding alerts seemed to be flawed in terms of not receiving relevant and necessary information requested back from Winterbourne View.  Many of the alerts ‘tail off inconclusively with no clear decisions and no rationale for decisions’.  Each alert was dealt with discretely and the pattern was not allowed to emerge.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary were also involved as there were a number of assaults reported and they also provided a report. There were some flaws in the sharing of information between the police and the local council.

CQC also compiled a report.  The SCR picks up on some confusion in language in terms of the CQC and notes the importance  to note that Winterbourne View is not a care home but is a hospital. The CQC admits that it’s creation has had a significant impact on inspection of services – something we all knew – but it’s good to see them acknowledge this finally rather than paint the biased hue of everything ‘being better’ under the new regime.

The lack of specialist inspectors is a particular factor that the new systems of regulation have lost. Apparently ‘professional regulators’ is a better way of doing things rather than those with specific knowledge of particular service areas. Perhaps this isn’t quite the right way to develop regulatory services.

Findings and Recommendations

The report finishes with a summary that is robust. Winterbourne View is a particular snapshot which has been able to take place due to a series of circumstances that put the spotlight on the services. These spotlights aren’t often shined into the world of long stay hospitals and residential care. But for a BBC programme, it might never have been picked up. That’s a lesson in itself.

Castlebeck Ltd didn’t provide a poor service because it had no money. It provided a poor service because it didn’t see any reason not to.  There were no reasons to question itself or what it was doing. Those questions weren’t being asked by any of the agencies responsible for protecting those who lived in Winterbourne View.

The recommendations are that the Clinical Commissioning Groups, Local authorities and NHS Commissioning Board should be looking more closely at the services they commission, where they are commissioning them and aim to cut down in-patient services.

The report emphasises

‘Commissioning is a professional activity that should be led by trained specialists who know and develop the market according to public policy’

This made me sigh as it seems in my own experience that we are moving backwards on this. I see fewer specialist commissioners who know their areas and more general commissioners who come from non-health or care related backgrounds and with little understanding of the sector or the needs locally of those who use the services they commission.

The report strongly criticises the commissioning of long stay hospitals for people with learning disabilities as perpetuating the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ type modelling for care services.

Recommendations include a more robust use of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and particularly that

‘The Department of Health should assure itself that CQC’s current legal responsibility to monitor and report on the use of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards provide sufficient scrutiny of the use of DoLS’

There was a lesson in poor multi-agency working which needs to be worked on actively and there is a recommendation that those who are subject to provisions of the Mental Health Act or Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards as well as all who make a complaint have access to independent professionals, whether social workers, Best Interests Assessors, IMCAs or IMHAs or more than one. Advocacy is crucial to prevent abuses.

As far as the CQC is concerned, the report explains that the ‘light touch’ regulation, enamoured by the CQC doesn’t work with settings like Winterbourne View. The CQC has been too reliant on self-reporting and trusting providers are complying.

There’s a recommendation that the ‘

Mental Health arm of the CQC should have characteristics akin to HM Inspectorate of Prisons in terms of standards’

That would be an interesting and useful development but I doubt the current CQC is set up to provide a robust monitoring procedure.

Conclusions

I haven’t been able to cover all the points of the SCR. It is worth reading in its entirety. It concludes by emphasising that services like Winterbourne View should not exist as they create no aspirations and hope.

They are not therapeutic environments and were created to provide a funding stream to the private company rather than to improve the quality of treatment and care to those who need them.

Commissioning should look at what exactly is being commissioned and what is needed to achieve the end result of an improvement of quality of life.

I look at this report and it is an excellent report, and I despair. I recognise parts of it but it is a particularly appalling litany of pain, distress and human suffering that could have been identified earlier. We relied on a television programme to identify these issues when there were so many people who should have identified this sooner.

No one comes out of this well apart from the whistle blowers who tried to make a difference.

Good services can and do exist but we need to be very clear about expectations of services and what we expect a hospital built on an industrial estate and factoring in amounts of income possible can achieve as opposed to services which truly exist in local communities.

It’s an awful situation but the SCR offers an opportunity to learn and do things differently. Let’s listen more and better across the whole sector and remember that this job is always a matter of partnership and never should be one of dictation. We have to do things better.

Panorama and Ash Court – Towards Improvements

I watched Panorama last night. The programme, as explained yesterday, focused on the abuse by care workers at Ash Court of an older woman with dementia whose daughter filmed her secretly on a hidden camera in the home.

The footage of the abuse was sickening and involved both physical and psychological (neglectful) abuse by those employed to care for her. Most indicative was the lack of regard that the care workers had for Mrs Jane Worroll as a human being as we saw the treatment dehumanising her.

It was clearly uncomfortable viewing and links are being made with Winterbourne View but there are vast differences and this time, although I almost surprise myself, I think it’s important to defend the role of the Care Quality Commission in this case.

With the Winterbourne View Panorama expose there were whistle blowers and the regulator should have taken action as a result. With the situation at Ash Court, there was a hidden camera and while some of the cultures could have been known to exist within the home itself, it’s clear that the regulator did not have a way of knowing what was happening before it happened.

As they say in the statement that they make on the programme that what they (the CQC)

cannot do is to identify and stamp out deliberately concealed abuse. By its very nature, concealed abuse takes place away from the eyes of managers and inspectors and can even take place, as in this case, in a well run care home. Abuse of vulnerable people is a criminal matter, and is rightly handled by the police and the courts.

That’s the big difference between Ash Court and Winterbourne View. The disappointment in Panorama is that it tried to merge the agendas of both and while there is a common narrative to both programmes about abuse of those who have power of those who do not, the solutions and causes are different.

I mentioned on Twitter during the programme about the discrepancies of procedures and powers for adult safeguarding and safeguarding of children.

Personally I see ‘safeguarding’ and ‘abuse’ as the use of power by someone against another person who has no power. That might be as a result of physical ability, mental capacity or understanding or just some of the institutional structures in place. Whether the person who is abused is 6, 65 or 85 shouldn’t have any sway within the processes. What I’d like to see is a unified process that deals with the effects of abuse and the power differentials – rather than provide so many more hoops to jump through and weaker processes when the person to whom the abuse happens is over 18.

The effects may be different according to the stage in the life cycle but they may not be. The criminal act is around the abuse of power and the abuse within the relationship that takes place along with the eventual effect.

I’m sure those with more knowledge than me will come back to attack my somewhat simplistic judgements and thoughts on this but it’s frustrating working within an adult safeguarding process that lacks so many of the potential teeth when we see some of the abuses that take place and see so few taken to court due to unreliable witnesses or lack of scope for action.

Another disappointment of Panorama (although unsurprising as they wanted to squeeze out all the ‘abuse’ footage for shock value and only had 30 minutes) was the lack of attention to some of the systemic problems that have led to warehousing of older adults in institutions when they need residential care. The pay of the staff was mentioned but pay is not the only consideration.

I worked quite happily at a very low wage as a care worker myself for a number of years but what matters as much as pay (although pay helps) is the value placed on the members of staff. Staff who are not respected and who are treated as expendable and with little respect are more likely to pass that feeling of powerlessness on to others. It isn’t an inevitable link – you get good staff in bad homes and bad staff in good homes – but it’s more likely that if staff feel linked to and attached to those whom they care for and those for whom they work – they are more likely not only to pass on that feeling of respect but to feel vested in the organisation for whom they work.

Too often care work is seen as ‘easy’ and care workers are seen as ‘replaceable’. Organisations like Forest Care (and many others I know) bring staff over from the Philippines en masse to carry out these roles or put staff on zero hour contracts and push out unionisation. Organisations have to regard staff better – and pay is one of those aspects but not the only one – in order to create cultures of care and compassion. The other aspects are good and robust supervision, including peer supervision and giving staff responsibilities and a stake or voice into the organisation they are working for. Whistleblowing has to be easier and better regarded. Complaints improve care and processes and they should not be feared.

Local authorities and the government needs to be willing to pay more for care and for monitoring inspections which don’t need to simply come from the Care Quality Commission. If LAs push prices down to rock bottom quality will suffer. Some people do need 24 hour residential or nursing care and it shouldn’t be accepted as being ‘sub-standard’ as default. It doesn’t have to be.

Panorama didn’t shock me, unfortunately. It saddened me. I hope it doesn’t become just another blip in the process of change. I want the processes and structures to be pushed to positive change. Blaming the CQC won’t do that – changing the expectations and systems might.

As for hidden cameras in residential care homes and in people’s own homes – I see it increasing and have a sense of discomfort about some of the rights to privacy that are impeded however finding and challenging abuse is important. Would Mrs Worroll’s abuse have been discovered without them? Unlikely unless one of the care staff attending her raised concerns with their own manager. I may be tempted to use hidden cameras myself if I had a family member in a similar position but that’s the key – it’s only those people who have family members who will have recourse to such action – what we need to do is find the reasons these abuses happen institutionally and act on them.

Protecting Our Children: Will It Change Attitudes To Social Work?

The excellent Protecting Our Children concluded on Monday evening. The practitioners and programme-makers deserve congratulations for an absorbing, honest and above all human depiction of contemporary social work to sit alongside the two Panorama programmes looking at children in care.

 

In all the meetings I’ve attended over the past three weeks, conversation has turned to the latest programme as soon as a lull in proceedings appeared and often when it didn’t. Generally it’s gone down very well, in sharp contrast to the scant few past series covering our world. I remember one dire effort that I think looked at a social work team in the north. Eminently forgettable, I nevertheless recall it began with a social worker guiltily shovelling down a giant doner kebab whilst at his desk then playing up to the camera in a manner that would have embarrassed David Brent. Gloomily we watched well-intentioned but ill-conceived and executed direct work with a young child and a succession of families unsure about what was happening.
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The Truth About Adoption Is That There Are Many Truths

Last night’s Panorama documentary ‘The Truth About Adoption’ was a vivid, honest portrayal of the heartbreak and joy of fostering and adoption. As the adults, the social workers, carers, adopters, parents, the court, went about their business, it was impossible not to be profoundly moved as the stories of the children unfolded and their hopes and fears revealed.

Despite the setbacks they have faced in their short lives, all were remarkably optimistic about the future. Undeterred by delays and adoption breakdowns, they hoped for the love, care and security that we professionals call permanence. And why not: it’s the least our society should be able to offer.
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Is the CQC fit for purpose?

There was an interesting article in the Guardian yesterday about the Care Quality Commission which was set up as a new regulatory body for health and social care in 2009.

The CQC is headed by Cynthia Bower at a salary of £195,000 pa who was previously the Chief Executive of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority – responsible for Stafford Hospital at the time it was found to have been providing substandard care.

How she was able to take post at the CQC is quite staggering to me, as an outsider but there she is, responsible for the regulation of health and adult social care services. You’d think it was the opening of a black comedy. Maybe it is.

There are some chilling facts that the Guardian have uncovered and they deserve repeating – over and over again – because the CQC is responsible for the regulation – not only of hospitals but of every care home and domiciliary care agency in England.
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