‘Got away with it’ - NHS manager gloated about coverage of dead great-grandmother
PUBLISHED: 12:04 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:21 23 January 2020
An NHS manager bragged that the service had “got away” with its failings being highlighted after the death of two dementia sufferers - because former Monty Python star Terry Jones had died.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) was criticised in an investigation into the death of 88-year old dementia sufferer Doreen Livermore who was attacked in a care home in King's Lynn by another dementia patient.
As reported on Tuesday, Mrs Livermore's family had repeatedly complained to the home and Norfolk County Council, before the assault, that the man was attacking their mother and other residents at Amberley Hall Care Home.
Her death, in January 2018, was investigated by the Norfolk Adult Safeguarding Board which published a report this week.
The man had been getting support from the NSFT's dementia team and the report criticised the NSFT for discharging the attacker from its service too quickly.
The services were also criticised after the death of another man with dementia at the same care home in 2017.
But rather than focus on failings exposed in the review, the NSFT's communications manager, Mark Prentice, sent a gloating email to his colleagues on Thursday morning about the lack of focus on the NSFT and its mistakes in coverage of the case by the BBC on Wednesday and local media.
"We seem to have got away (again) with the Adult Safeguarding Review.
"I think we may have been saved by the death of Terry Jones," he writes, referring to the Monty Python star who died on Wednesday from a rare form of dementia.
In the email, which he accidentally sent to an EDP journalist, he continues "Yet again… we emerged virtually unscathed."
The NSFT said it was now investigating the comments.
Mrs Livermore's family said they were "absolutely shocked" by the email and its tone.
Her son Roy, from Snettisham, said: "The fact they are talking about 'getting away' with it in relation to the death of my mother is absolutely disgusting. It begs the question, what do they feel they got away with?
"To refer to the death of Terry Jones is just unbelievable. The more you think about it, the worse it gets.
Dr Livermore, 67, added: "To send the email to the EDP by mistake shows incompetence on top of their original incompetence."
Jonathan Warren, chief executive at the NSFT, said: "We are undertaking an investigation regarding the inappropriate comments made about the sad death of Doreen Livermore by a member of our staff.
"We take this very seriously and will be contacting the family of Mrs Livermore to give them our sincere apologies and offer them our support."
At an NSFT board meeting on Thursday he added: "I will not have such emails sent from staff within this Trust."
"These are not our values and I will make that very clear."
He added he would be dealing "very swiftly" with the issue.
The safeguarding report into the deaths criticised the NSFT's Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST) for discharging the dangerous patient who repeatedly attacked Mrs Livermore and other residents and staff.
In a chilling phone call, four days before the attack Dr Livermore called Norfolk County Council's emergency line.
"I think she is at risk," he told the operator, but nothing was done to remove the man.
He was eventually placed in a mental health facility after pushing Mrs Livermore over in December 2017. She broke her hip and died six weeks later.
The Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board found that in the second death, in November 2017, the DIST did not flag their concerns about the ability of the home to manage him.
"Despite their concerns, DIST proposed to discharge Mr G to the care of his GP, based on an apparent improvement in his presentation," they wrote.
The Board came up with a list of recommendations for the NSFT to improve its working with care homes.
Stuart Richardson, chief operating officer of NSFT, said: "We would like to offer our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Mrs Livermore.
"We accept all of the recommendations made in the Safeguarding Adults Review.
"We're already in the process of setting up meetings to improve relationships with the local authority and care homes.
"In addition, we are committed to reviewing the standard operating policy of all our Dementia Intensive Support Teams to ensure patient safety and the quality of our services are paramount."
A spokesman, for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: "It is disgraceful but typical that NSFT sees itself as 'saved' by the death from dementia of one of Britain's greatest comedians, Terry Jones, allowing the trust to have 'got away' without media scrutiny of its appalling failings in dementia-related deaths in Norfolk.
"NSFT should be transparent and seek to genuinely learn from its many failings but it does not.
"Instead, NSFT sees clinical and operational failures as 'media issues' and has repeatedly raised its budget for spin doctors."