Just when a one might think one has well and truly scraped the bottom of the pond-mud at Southern Health… it turns out one hasn’t. A hundred days went by after the publication of the Mazars report, in which next to nothing happened, apart from the Sloven CEO getting back into her spin-doctor groove.
On 2 April, Simon Hattenstone wrote a superb in-depth piece on Connor and Justice for LB for the Guardian’s Saturday magazine. It was like someone had stirred an ant’s nest with a stick: much activity for no discernible outcome. The CQC gave Sloven a warning to improve within the and NHS Improvement (the erstwhile Monitor) put an additional condition into the organisation’s licence, allowing it to make Board-level changes… but Sloven had another 6 months before any draconian action would be taken, which would mean the CQC/NHSI would have given the Sloves a three-year run for the public’s money. Katrina Percy repeated once more, blank-faced and empty-eyed, yet with contemptuously unconcealed ego, that she would not be resigning.
Once again Connor’s mother and his cousin pulled apart the NewsSpeakery of Sloven statements to show that these had a complete lack of meaningful content. George Julian applied her considerable skills of academic research and analysis to finding out from the numbers if Sloven actually were ‘outliers’ or not in how they responded to patient deaths (to no-one’s surprise, Sloven were and are amongst the worst performers). It seemed impossible that the current Sloven Board could be allowed to continue for one month, never mind six, and yet, and yet…
Then someone anonymous sent the 2012 Sloven due diligence report on STATT to Connor’s mother via My Life My Choice. Maybe that someone works in Sloven Towers, saw the Guardian article, and decided that in decent common humanity, they’d rather stand with Connor and his family than with Katrina Percy. Maybe they could simply see that nothing was likely to change in another six months and thought it was time to put a stop to the fake-improvement farce, rather than waiting for someone else to turn up the relevant paperwork. Maybe it was just coincidence that they came across this report at this time and had an opportunity to take a copy. Whichever, it told Connor’s mother for certain that all the failings at STATT that were identified by the inquest jury as contributing to his death, all the appalling carelessness that led to STATT failing its September 2013 CQC inspection, all the things that had bothered Connor’s family while he was still alive and sequestered in the Unit – all those problems had been flagged to Sloven before they took over STATT from Ridgeway. Flagged by – and here is the fact which makes it inconceivable that the burial of this document was an oversight – flagged, it appears, by the very same person who was charged with doing the initial investigation into Connor’s death. That’s a gun that’s not just smoking, it’s red-hot and liable to set a few things on fire.
Years ago, I watched the Angela Cannings ‘Real Story’ documentaries. Mrs. Cannings lost three of her children to cot death, and lost her marriage and her surviving child after she was prosecuted – and convicted – for murdering the younger two of the children who died. No-one could say for sure how the children had died, much less that she had killed them, but despite the lack of evidence, Mrs. Cannings fell victim to the American aphorism, imported as ‘Meadow’s Law’ by the eponymous paediatrician, that ‘One is SIDS, two are suspicious and three are murder’. Her lawyer, hearing that her young brother had as an infant stopped breathing on a number of occasions, possibly due to a cows’ milk allergy, began researches aimed at basing an appeal on the likelihood of a genetic cause of sudden infant death in the family. With commendable tenacity and significant help from the BBC, he researched her family history and discovered a number of infant deaths on her father’s side. Mrs. Cannings had been kept informed of these developments, but after the first programme was broadcast, her lawyer got a call from a young woman who turned out to be Angela Cannings’s previously unknown half-sister. The half-sister’s children had also suffered incidents of respiratory collapse similar to those that had affected the Cannings’ babies. In the solicitor’s view, it was the piece of evidence that would tip the scales of justice in Mrs. Cannings’ favour. “He said, ‘That’s it, Angela'”, Mrs, Cannings recounted in the second documentary, filmed after her conviction was quashed and she was freed. “‘There’s your silver bullet'”.
It appears that this week’s smoking gun comes with a few evidential silver bullets of its own. Good.