July 4, 2013. Connor Sparrowhawk, known as LB, had drowned in a hospital bath.
The worst had happened to Connor and you might think that that for Connor’s family, friends and other people around him, things couldn’t possibly get any bleaker; but you’d be wrong. The distress that the people close to Connor felt, in an already appalling situation, was intensified and multiplied by the rearguard actions of the people who had failed him.
The hospital, and the NHS Trust that controlled it, did everything possible to cover up the real reason for Connor’s death. They labelled the drowning, ‘death by natural causes’. They resisted all attempts by his family to clarify the circumstances that led to Connor’s death. They did nothing to improve matters for the remaining inhabitants of the Unit where Connor died. Not one of the other patients who witnessed the futile attempts to resuscitate Connor before his removal by ambulance to A&E, was offered help or counselling in coming to terms with it. Their families were not informed or offered help in supporting the people still in hospital.
Eight weeks after Connor’s death, the section of the hospital in which he died failed on every single measurement of a Care Quality Commission inspection. Not near-miss failures, either, some of them, but catastrophic failings that had the CQC inspectors so concerned that – against all standard practice – they went and bodily hauled the most senior people that they could find across from another building to see with their own eyes the unacceptable state of the Unit, so that the greatest dangers could begin to be remedied that same day .
The Trust has stalled, ducked, dived, PR-spun and outright lied in its attempts to evade responsibility. Eventually, it reluctantly commissioned, and even more reluctantly released, an independent report into the circumstances of the drowning. The report concluded clearly that Connor’s death was preventable. The Trust’s next move was to try to hustle Connor’s still-grieving family into ‘moving on’ with platitudes about ‘lessons learned’. It is even now putting out weaselly-worded documents (Trust Board Meeting 25.03.2014 Agenda and Papers) that suggest that it is Connor’s family who are somehow preventing the healthcare professionals from ‘learning lessons’, by refusing to ‘engage’ appropriately with the Trust.
Actually, Connor’s family has made a reasoned and reasonable decision not to get sucked down into the Trust’s vortex of bad-faith meaninglessness. Instead, they have taken their concerns up to the top of the NHS, to David Nicholson, the Chief Executive of NHS England, and to Norman Lamb, Minster of State at the Department of Health.
Having gone to the top, Connor’s family, along with others with a genuine interest in the lives of people with learning disabilities, are seeking to go wide. They are building a campaign aimed not only at finding out the truth about Connor’s death and holding those responsible to account, but also at improving matters for Connor’s peers throughout the country.
You can join in at http://107daysofaction.wordpress.com/. See you there.