Catastrophically failing Care Quality Commission admits that thousands of people have been deprived of their liberty in the UK without proper notification – but they do not know who, where, or how many.
CQC admits that at least 7,238 criminal registration offences against vulnerable people have not been prosecuted putting the United Kingdom apparently in violation of the United Nations Optional Convention Against Torture.
CQC Whistleblower Kay Sheldon claims that David Prior, new Chief Executive, told her that she would not be re-appointed. CQC office asked to put allegation to Mr Prior and responds refusing to ‘confirm or deny’ allegation. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has failed to clearly back Mrs Sheldon.
Yvonne Goder of charity FACT, which campaigns for victims against abuse of people without capacity describes Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and responsible for the CQC as ‘morally no different from the abusers at Winterbourne View’ and calls for his immediate sacking from government. Mark Neary, father of Steven Neary agrees with the comparison.
The recent report by the Care Quality Commission on the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards has received a low profile so far, partly because it is written in typically bureaucratic language.
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) are essentially a legal process that allows mentally disabled people to be detained when they lack ‘Mental Capacity’ and it is judged to be in their ‘Best Interests’. It is almost exactly like sectioning someone under the Mental Health Act (MHA) except that the law was written by new Labour.
The DoLS run essentially in parallel to the MHA, separated only by an arcane distinction between mental ill-health and capacity. Typically for Labour laws the DoLS are needlessly complex and expensive. The detention and appeal process require vastly more paperwork, use 10 times the expense and are 10 times slower than the Mental Health Act.
The DoLS have been criticised extensively elsewhere. What concerns the Witchfinder today is the catastrophic failure to police these safeguards, poor as they are, by the CQC. The UK is signatory to the United Nations Optional Convention on Torture (OPCAT). One requirement is for all forms of detention to be monitored by a National Prevention Mechanism (NPM). People under the DoLS are by definition detained and fall under OPCAT.
In order to monitor the detention UK bodies such as the Care Quality Commission, which is tasked by statute with monitoring the DoLS, must know who and where they are. As a result, as a matter of law it is mandatory for care homes and hospitals to notify the CQC of DoLS assessments. s18 and s25 The Care Quality Commission (Registration) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/3112) make it a criminal offence not to notify punishable by a fine of up to £2,500 per failure to notify (Level 4 standard scale of fines).
At page 35 of the report it is disclosed that, from Supervisory Body figures 11,399 applications were made for DoLS authorisations in the 2011-2012 reporting period. Of those 4,161 were notified to the CQC. As the CQC reports this is 36% compliance. Or to put it another way 7,238 criminal registration offences worth just over 18 million pounds in fines (£18,095,000). The Witchfinder asked the CQC press office just how many prosecutions there had been. A spokesman responded, “To my knowledge there have been no prosecutions”.
Standard authorisations can be quite short so in the year an individual may have several authorisations. It was not clear to the Witchfinder how many actual people were in this situation. The Department of Health and the CQC were very helpful once again. From the DoH press office – “In April 2013, we changed the way statistics are collected in order to record the number of people deprived of their liberty, as well as the number of authorisations granted. The current statistics do not enable us to say how many people were deprived of their liberty, because a person can have several authorisations during the year”
In other words, neither the CQC nor the DoH knows who is detained, nor where they are, or precisely how many there are beyond the ballpark figures of several thousands. At least 7,238 registration offences have been committed and not prosecuted.
The Witchfinder wondered whether there would be any prosecutions. The CQC said, “How and what action we take regarding the under reporting is currently being discussed by our Operations department.” So no firm plans as yet …
The Witchfinder asked if the CQC would be producing a league table of service providers that had failed to notify. The CQC said, “We can not provide a table as we do not currently hold this information”. The CQC of course is responsible for regulating these service providers so not holding the information is kind of failure.
Initially, the Witchfinder was going to deal with this story in a different way. The new Chairman of the CQC, David Prior, has only recently taken up his post and could fairly avoid blame for long standing problems. The DoH has started to make some changes to legislation it inherited from Gordon Brown and Tony Blair so Jeremy Hunt might have escaped the blame.
Then your humble inquisitor discovered something so appalling, so revoltingly moronically wrong that he considered revising the title of this article to Jeremy C*nt.
Readers will doubtless be familiar with the ongoing harassment and gagging of whistleblowers in the NHS. Jeremy Hunt claims to be against this. He claims to support “we must have a culture where people are not afraid to speak out”. So the Witchfinder was astonished to read an online claim by whistleblower Kay Sheldon of the CQC Board that she was told by David Prior that her re-appointment “ain’t gonna happen”.
Surely, thought I, this must be a misunderstanding. I asked the DoH – who told me to ask the CQC. I asked the CQC to put this allegation to David Prior. A spokesman said, “we wouldn’t expect the Chair to confirm or deny details of private conversations”. Ok – so no denial. The Witchfinder did some research as to precisely who makes the decision as to re-appointment of board members.
Turns out the decision is to be made by none other than the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt on the advice of officials. The Witchfinder asked the DoH Press office when the decision would be made, and if one had already been made, “Decisions regarding any future appointments or reappointments to the Board will be considered in line with guidance on public appointments at the appropriate time.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement. The Witchfinder followed up with the DoH – “Can Mr Hunt confirm or deny that Mrs Sheldon has his full confidence in her capacity as a CQC Board member?”, giving a deadline and offering to extend it if the DoH needed to get hold of someone. It was clearly explained that a failure to respond would appear to be a failure to back Mrs Sheldon. The Witchfinder received the following lukewarm response, “We are committed to ensuring that CQC has a strong and effective Board. Kay Sheldon is a member of the Board and, as such, has a very important role.”
Decoding this weaselly rubbish, the DoH had done no more that confirm that Kay Sheldon was on the CQC Board. I went back again asking for a statement of support from Hunt and the response was “having looked at your queries again, I feel that the response we have already provided does answer the points raised and accordingly, we won’t be adding anything further to our statement” . This is the man who called on the NHS to “recognise and celebrate” staff who had “the courage and professional integrity to raise concerns over care”. Surely, this cannot be true. Surely this is a misunderstanding. Jeremy Hunt would not respond to an allegation he is preparing to personally fire a high profile whistleblower by failing to back, let alone “recognise and celebrate” her.
The Witchfinder looked into Mrs Sheldon’s history. She was a trustee of Mind, the Mental Health Charity, for 5 years. Kay Sheldon was a respected Health Act commissioner for 11 years and a member of the Mental Health Act Commission Board for 5 years. No complaints, problems, scandals. She is not a troublemaker. She does not have a history of disciplinary problems before she gave evidence to the Mid-Staffordshire enquiry.
The Witchfinder, to be clear, does not know whether or not Mr Hunt has made a decision about Kay Sheldon however this failure to back her is despicable. It changes him from a man who has merely inherited a mess from Labour to a hypocrite whose promises to support families and professionals are worthless. It shows his recent professed support for NHS whistleblowers to be empty words.
Likewise, no words of support for Sheldon from David Prior and likewise it changes him from a new broom to more of the same – a ‘leader’ of the same vile ilk as Dame Jo Williams.
Furthermore Mr Hunt’s failure to think through the obvious consequences of his actions (and omissions) demonstrates political incompetence of the highest order. In light of the David Nicholson scandal, what did he think would happen?
I asked Yvonne Goder of charity FACT, which campaigns against abuse of people without capacity what she thought of Mr Hunt. “The Labour government failed to protect vulnerable people. When the coalition came in we hoped things would change. Obviously not. Jeremy Hunt may not have personally assaulted anyone, but morally, what is the difference between he and the abusers at Winterbourne view? David Cameron should sack him immediately.” The Witchfinder agrees.
Mark Neary, celebrated father of Steven Neary and one of the few carers ever to successfully challenge a DoLS authorisation, said, “I agree – I see no moral difference between Jeremy Hunt and the Winterbourne View perpetrators.”
Margaret Thatcher’s recent legacy was of state efficiency and freedom from intrusion of the government into the personal lives of individuals. The expansion of the power of social services in the form of child protection and through new capacity laws is the exact reverse, oppressive, inefficient and expensive. The Witchfinder calls for this Jeremy Hunt, this obscene disgrace to the Conservative Party to be sacked immediately.