Panorama – Undercover Care: The Abuse Exposed

31 May, 2011

Anybody who didn’t watch Panorama tonight should go and do so on the BBC iPlayer. It’s available here.

The programme investigated and exposed serious physical and psychological abuse by carers (including at least one trained nurse) of vulnerable adults with various forms of learning disability. The abuse took place within a private residential hospital in Bristol owned by Castlebeck, a specialist healthcare provider which “…employs 2,100 people, providing care for 580 service users at 56 locations nationwide,” according to Castlebeck’s own statement to Panorama.

A former senior nurse who worked in the Unit reported the abuse to managers, but his concerns were ignored. He then reported his concerns to the Care Quality Commission, which is the regulatory body responsible for monitoring and assessing care provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies and voluntary organisations. As such, the CQC is the body responsible for regulating the Care Homes in which many of our parents are accommodated. The nurse contacted the CQC three times, using the word ‘abuse’, but they too ignored his concerns. When challenged about this by a Panorama reporter, Ian Biggs, a Regional Director of the CQC, described their failure to act as a “misjudgement”, and expressed regret.

This is a subject very close to my heart because my elderly father, who suffers from vascular dementia, has been a resident in a number of private EMI (i.e. elderly mentally infirm) care homes, as well as several hospitals, since early 2009. My sister and I have been very concerned on more than one occasion about the quality of ‘care’ that he has experienced, and our attempts to raise serious concerns about an incident which took place when he was a patient on an NHS hospital ward last year met with what felt to us like opposition and avoidance from the bodies we approached.

I believe that we should all be very concerned indeed about the behaviour that Panorama has exposed tonight, and in particular the fact that it was allowed to continue unchecked, despite having been raised by a qualified nurse at the highest level, until it was secretly recorded and therefore could no longer be ignored or denied. How on earth can a failure to investigate reports of abuse by a qualified nurse who had worked in the hospital be explained away as a “misjudgement” by the CQC? How on earth could the CQC ever have ‘judged’ it appropriate not to look into such reports? I have no idea, but I find their failure to act quite terrifying, and I hope the issue will be pursued with them. This failure to act three times appears to me to go well beyond some sort of simple administrative oversight or mistake.

My father is part of the ‘care’ ‘system’ as I write this, and if you’re reading it then possibly your parent is too, or will be soon. In all likelihood, many of us will end up there ourselves within the not so very distant future. I feel quite sure that what was exposed tonight is simply the tip of an iceberg. I sincerely hope that something is going to be done about it now. An independent judicial investigation into the Care Quality Commission’s failure to act appears to me to be the first necessary step.

Poor service – Long Barn Books

31 May, 2011

I ordered a book from Long Barn Books on 21st May, and paid for it immediately via Paypal. I attached the following note to my Paypal payment.

Instructions to merchant:
Hello there. This is a gift, and I’d be grateful if you could please send it ASAP. Many thanks.

Almost immediately I received a standard form email from Long Barn Books confirming my order, and the usual email from Paypal confirming that payment had gone through.

Having received no book and no further communication, I wrote today to ask when I might expect the book to arrive. I attached my enquiry to a copy of Long Barn Books’ confirmation email, and soon afterwards I received rather a terse response asking me to forward a copy of my Paypal receipt instead. I did, and I asked again when I might expect to receive the book, and why they haven’t sent it yet.

I’ve just received the following response.

As with all mail order purchases, we are legally allowed 28 days for despatch. We aim to send more quickly than that and your book will go out this Thursday, which is our packing and despatch day.

Unimpressive, IMO. No apology for not having sent it out last week, and no offer to try to minimise further delay by sending it now rather than waiting another two days, by which time it will almost inevitably be further delayed until after the weekend.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by my experiences with the likes of Amazon, and Bob & Rose (of, and all the other excellent online retailers who work hard to get things out to us as quickly as possible, rather than sitting on our money for 14 days before posting our goods. I know I won’t be ordering anything else from Long Barn Books, though.

Testing Smugmug again

30 May, 2011

Urgent help needed with baby bird

29 May, 2011

Can anybody tell me how best to try to care overnight for what looks like a baby sparrow? Piglet found it huddled against a wall at the edge of a pavement as we were setting off to walk just now. I couldn’t leave it as it was on a busy road, and most dogs would probably have bitten it first and asked questions later.

I’ll take it to the vet in the morning, and I hope they’ll know what to do, but in the meantime I’m not sure whether I should try to feed it. It seems to have its feathers, and it survived the shock of the walk back to my place cradled in my hand, so hopefully it’s as robust as such a small thing can be. Should I try to give it some bread softened in water? Or something else?

Please advise if you can.

A bit later: The poor wee thing is chirping away in its box in the kitchen! Piglet has been banished to the garden for barking. The cat is nowhere to be seen…

Tennis elbow! Age strikes again…

25 May, 2011

This age-related body-bits falling off/falling apart thing is really beginning to catch up with me.

I’ve had a niggly pain in my left elbow for about a month, and yesterday it suddenly grew acutely painful. When it was worse this morning I nipped along to the GP, and he reckons I have tennis elbow. Heaven only knows what can have caused it, though a quick scan online does suggest that it can originate from repetitive wrist movements, so perhaps it could be something to do with using a keyboard. Hmmm…

Has anyone else had this? It’s in my left elbow, although I’m right-handed. The GP suggested Voltorol gel, since oral anti-inflammatories give me major gutrot. A Cortisone injection was mentioned as a possiblity if the symptoms don’t clear up 😦 I’ve heard they’re agonisingly painful, so I hope I don’t have to go there.

Can anyone offer help/advice re: enormous car service cost?

24 May, 2011

Hi, all.

I realise many people are off on the Challenge ATM but I’m wondering whether anybody can advise re: this.

I bought a 3-year-old Sk*da 18 months ago from a reputable Sk*da dealership. They sourced it for me from somewhere else in the country and gave it a used car check before telling me all was fine. It then had 42k miles on the clock.

Today I took it in for a service at a different (closer) Sk*da dealership. The car’s now done 55k miles. It’s about 6 months overdue for service, but I don’t drive it lots. I had a phone call from the dealership earlier this afternoon to tell me they’d identified the following issues (in addition to the new cam belt that apparently they all need at 4 years/80,000 miles).

– It needs a new clutch.
– It has a significant — “quite bad” — oil leak “from the turbo area” that will require investigation, and may then be very expensive to fix.
– A problem with “two front lower suspension bushes”–I’ve no idea what they are but I was told it’s quite a big deal
– It needs new disks and brake pads, front and back
– It needs 3 new tyres
– It needs (these are less significant) a new bulb and new front and back wipers, and the rear wiper jet isn’t working

I was told that the cost of this work–including the service, but NOT including investigation and fixing of the oil leak–is £2,000.

I’ve contacted the dealership I bought it from and I’m going to take it in for them to have a look. They told me that it sounded as though perhaps the turbo needed replacing (I may have the terminology wrong there), and that that could cost an additional £500-1,000, depending on the nature of the problem.

I bought this car for £7k 18 months ago, and I’m reeling at the idea that there’s now £2,000-£3,000 to be spent on getting it into appropriate condition. Am I being naive, or is this really as shocking as it sounds to me? I know that things like pads and disks and wipers and tyres do wear out, but I’m wondering how *all* of this stuff can have become necessary in the 18 months since I was told it was fine when I bought it.

Any advice gratefully received.