As members of the Pressure Group prepared for the seminar the news broke of the devastating case of the Morrish family and their scathing opinion of the PHSO investigation process. It was all over breakfast t.v. and then again on radio 4 when John Humphrys put some rather probing questions to Dame Julie Mellor. ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b047c310 starts @ 2.48) So this was the backdrop to our seminar and possibly the reason for the last minute shift away from Millbank Tower to the more obscure territory of EC1.
I must say from the outset that we were listened to and we were heard.
IFF, the customer survey people ran the meeting and were flexible and accommodating. Although we could have used more time, we were not rushed and all participants felt valued. We split into two groups and the young man from IFF who led our table started off with the cheery smile of a children’s t.v. presenter. As the stories unfolded his head sunk gradually lower and his smile waned. Could this all be true? Are people really treated with such contempt for the truth? Although each of our stories are unique, they followed a familiar pattern of denial of the evidence, flawed decision making, failure to answer difficult questions and an inability to put the record straight. The raw pain of those re-lived experiences soon surfaced through the everyday veneer; voices struggled to be heard through the clog of emotion which caught in the throat and tears were openly shed.
Unresolved injustice is an open wound.
When the two groups gathered again to review the key themes another young chap from IFF read out a catalogue of poor complaint handling which could rival Schindler’s list.
- System favours organisations
- Evidence from public bodies taken at face value
- No opportunity for redress, can’t put things right
- Not enough cases get through
- Systems favours professionals
- Too much emphases on small details and not the big picture.
- No advocacy for complainants
- Not a clear process of how cases are assessed.
- Lacks independence and objectivity.
- Anonymous clinical advisors
- Lack of independent clinical advice
- Cover up of state fraud or corruption
- Concerns on time lines – slow process
- Lack of openness and transparency
- Lack of alignment to principles of care
- Lack of accountability
IFF now compile a report to which we will all have access, then we have called for a follow up meeting to discuss the way forward. This seminar marks the beginning of our journey with PHSO and not the end. Despite our concerns that we didn’t say just what we meant to or in the way that we intended; the impact of so much human pain in one room was inescapable. As one PHSO employee said as we waited for the lift together after the meeting,
‘It’s different when you see the people’.