The tragedy of Connor Sparrowhawk’s death continues with revelations that Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust were guilty of neglect and had the information at their fingertips to improve care for patients, but ignored it.
Since he died, almost three years ago, staff, management and administrators at the Trust have had plenty of opportunity to speak in their defence. Indeed, the Chief Executive of the Trust has defended her actions and refused to resign.
That’s too late for Connor, whose mother is calling for a police investigation following the news that the staff had conducted a mock Care Quality Commission (CQC) review of the hospital prior to Connor’s death and found it either ‘medium’ or ‘low’ in safety terms. Some staff even said it was ‘unsafe’.
News of the ‘review’ has only just come to light because the findings were kept out of the public eye. For Dr Sarah Ryan, Connor’s mother, it is the final piece in her jigsaw to gain some justice for her son. She is now calling on the police to open an investigation.
We applaud her energy to fight for her son, but typically like much of the treatment afforded vulnerable adults and people with learning difficulties it will be too little too late. Worse it demonstrates the paucity of the values that those charged with caring for them display.
The report of the internal review was circulated and discussed as part of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust’s governance which didn’t seem to stretch to improvement of care for those they were charged with, nor did it allow them to say what kind of support or care they wanted.
Effectively vulnerable adults are rendered voiceless in a society that has made much progress in their support in recent years.
To set up a ‘mock’ review under CQC guidelines, admit failings and then not act effectively on those findings is unforgivable in the 21st century. It demonstrates that vulnerable adults are without a voice and if nothing else changes about our provision of care and support to these members of our community, then this must.
The ethos of ubu is that the people we serve are central to everything we do and that our service is person-led in the decisions that affect them. We cannot ensure that we deliver this unique and respectful approach if we don’t ask, listen and act on what they tell us. Society and traditional medical care must follow suit.
Thousands of vulnerable adults are still ‘incarcerated’ in high dependency units when they would prefer to live in the community. But their voices are not heard, many more would like to strive for greater independence living but don’t get the chance.
ubu has proved that by respecting that the people we serve have a right to decide what they want to do and how they want to live can reap real rewards. These are not just for them as individuals but also for their immediate circle of family and friends while contributing to society as a whole.
It is too late for Connor but we can create a legacy that those he left behind can have the dignity of a voice that is acknowledged and one that is listened to.
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