People can sign up to a programme of lectures, videos and hands-on sessions. And all this is possible with a small grant from NHS Southampton, plus the Mayfield staff’s formidable talents – horticultural and supportive. I can’t wait to hear Rachel tackling Jenni Murray on Woman’s Hour – scheduled shortly.
Like most people I was horrified to see Panorama’s exposure of Winterbourne View, the private hospital where staff routinely meted out degrading treatment, even torture, to the people with learning disabilities under their "care". In case anyone believes that this only happens in the private sector, think back just 2 years to the scandals in Cornwall and 4 years ago in Sutton – both NHS institutions. All of which makes me question why, in this age of community care, people are still living behind locked doors in hospitals? I thought we’d got rid of the long stay hospitals which made institutional abuse so common a generation ago. The CQC – the regulator – were rightly lambasted in the press for their failure to regulate. Others have questioned the responsibilities of commissioning and procurement managers who fund and should be monitoring all this.
I’ve heard no one ask where were the independent advocacy services which could have brought this abuse to light, and could have helped patients stand up to their abusers. I would not for a moment pretend that the voluntary sector always succeeds where the public and private sectors fail, but maybe there is something about the settings and culture of our services – community-based, partnership-focussed and practical - which leads us to treat everyone we encounter, whatever their label, as people with rights, dignity and legitimate ambition. In Solent Mind, and throughout the advocacy movement , we try to take humanitarian values into places like secure hospitals and prisons. It doesn’t always win us friends, but it makes the sort of abuse suffered by Winterbourne View’s patients much less likely.