Letter sent 30 March 2015 to Mr Paul Gray, CEO, NHS Scotland and Director General Health and Social Care, Scottish Government, an FOI request regarding the dementia ambassador role of Mr Geoff Huggins, Acting Director for Health and Social Care Integration:
Strapline: FOI Request: Geoff Huggins dementia ambassador role, expenses, experience; his civil service job remit, range, responsibilities, expected outcomes
“Dear Mr Gray
This is an FOI Request.
I have noticed that Geoff Huggins is travelling the world as a dementia ambassador for Scotland, tweeting and speaking out as an expert on the subject. I thought Mr Huggins wasn’t qualified in this area and was only a civil servant who had dabbled in mental health matters.
I am wondering why Mr Huggins has been given this portfolio when he does not appear to have the experience or qualifications for the job. Please forgive me if I’m missing something. I have met Mr Huggins on many occasions in the past and wasn’t aware of any expertise in the area of dementia.
- can you please list the events that Geoff Huggins has attended over the last year, nationally and internationally, which have had a dementia focus and where he has been a speaker on dementia?
- I would like to know the cost of sending Mr Huggins to these events on dementia: travel, accommodation, any other expenses
- can you please tell me what qualifications Mr Huggins has in terms of dementia, working with older people, medical, biomedical or otherwise?
- to give me an understanding of why Scottish Government is sending Geoff Huggins as a dementia representative to global events, can you please let me know the remit and range of Mr Huggins’ post in the Health and Social Care integration: a job description, objectives, process, outcomes, and anything else that will help me to understand why Mr Huggins is an ambassador for dementia
- I noticed that Alzheimer Scotland has Mr Huggins as the main speaker on their
promotional material for their forthcoming conference. Is this because Scottish Government is a major funder of AS? Does this mean that AS is obliged to have a government spokesman there? I noticed also that Hugh Masters was taking part.
The reason I have felt compelled to ask these questions is because I think that Mr Huggins at the helm of the mental health division was not a successful manoeuvre. I have to be honest. There was far too much targeting of health boards and not enough keeping an eye on what was really going on at the grassroots to patients, carers and service users. The customers of the mental health service. To our detriment. I can testify to this.
I witnessed the national mental health service user group being used as a focus group by Mr Huggins and his team. As if the people with lived experience, the real experts, were there to serve government rather than the other way around which should have been the objective. I think that these behaviours were unhelpful and even damaging to the fabric of the user/survivor work in Scotland. It caused division, setting some against others. And did nothing, I contend, to create a level playing field or straight paths so that ALL voices could be heard.
I look forward to an acknowledgement that you have heard my request and to receiving the information I have asked for, so as to make sense of Scottish Government’s civil service sending Mr Huggins out as a dementia ambassador.
Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)”
[my opinion of Mr Huggins involvement in dementia events globally? a recipe for disaster, based on his past credentials, promoting early diagnosis and having to backtrack. I think they should get some real experts involved as ambassadors: people who are experiencing dementia, from the service user or carer perspective, on a daily basis, in the here and now. These are the people with an interesting story to tell. Not the civil servants at the top of the tree.]
Yesterday I woke up with a book in my brain and my heart light. I sat out in the backyard all day and worked on how to put this massive amount of information together in a useful way. After some lovely conversations with perceptive friends I have decided on a new structure for my book. I am constantly overwhelmed by my own inane desire to write a comprehensive treatise, a PhD thesis on the entire history and cross cultural perspectives on multiplicity, a summary of everything I’ve ever experienced, heard, read, encountered, or wondered. Obviously, for people who need information in a simple, manageable form, this would be about as useful as a free aardvark. For anyone in crisis, it would be about as useful as a free colony of rabid bats delivered to your living room. I know this, but it’s hard to let go of anyway.
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This report was published recently:
I was particularly interested in the following excerpt:
I was a Consultant in one NHS Board for 13 years until I resigned in the summer of 2014. I then applied for a post in another Board. I was the only candidate but was unsuccessful. The same post has now been readvertised:
On Sunday when in the Ceres Centre shop at Stratheden psychiatric Hospital, Fife, talking to the volunteer serving at the counter, I was accosted by a nurse who came into the shop and warned me not to be doing digital recordings of patients on NHS property. There were no other people about. No patients or others.
I was taken aback by this unprovoked attack. I’d recognised the nurse although couldn’t remember her name at that point. She had been my son’s Named Nurse when he was an IPCU patient in February 2012. Where he had been locked in the seclusion room with no toilet, water to drink, overnight, light switch outside, for hours at a time, unobserved.
I had mentioned the nurse in my tweets that day: ‘a Sunday stroll, tweeting and taking photos, going for refreshments and finding the new IPCU plans on view‘
— Chrys Muirhead (@ChrysMuirhead) March 22, 2015
— Chrys Muirhead (@ChrysMuirhead) March 22, 2015
I continued my walk around the grounds of the hospital on Sunday, coming upon the new IPCU plans in the canteen. A nice surprise as I had not seen them before, despite having asked about them, and despite the fact that the new build unit and funding from Scottish Government of £4.4million came about after my son’s dehumanising treatment in the old IPCU.
Then on Wednesday afternoon I had two police officers at my door. My son let them into my house as I was having a lie down due to a sore leg. I limped downstairs to hear what the police had to say. They had received a complaint from two psychiatric nurses at Stratheden Hospital who gave my name and that of my son. In relation to a “paranoid” patient who thought that someone might be taking photographs of them in the hospital grounds.
The nurses had contacted the police on the Monday to make this allegation about me. I assumed it was the nurse who had accosted me on the Sunday although the police officers could not confirm this. I was very annoyed at being accused of something I did not do. Three years after nurses at Stratheden Hospital accused me of causing harm to my son, when they were subjecting him to psychiatric abuse.
I showed the police officers this blog, the Sunday tweets and photos, my other blogs, and told them that I had been writing about Stratheden Hospital for over 3 years. I highlighted the photos from 2012, the cigarette ends on the pavement outside the grounds where the staff smoked. The “Land that time forgot” article on Fife Today website, 29 July 2012.
I described something of what happened to my son in February 2012 when a patient in the Stratheden IPCU and my winning the Ombudsman complaint against NHS Fife in September 2014. [see Scottish Sunday Express article 5 October 2014]
The police officers accepted my side of the story, said there was no need to take it any further and that I was free to walk around Stratheden Hospital grounds. After they left, late on Wednesday afternoon, I wrote a letter of complaint to the General Manager, Mental Health, NHS Fife, copied in to others, including my MSP Roderick Campbell, about the staff nurse who had accosted me on Sunday:
Strapline: a complaint about a staff nurse who accosted me on Sunday in the Ceres Centre shop, Stratheden Hospital
“Dear Mr Monteith
I am writing to you to make a complaint about Staff Nurse ……….. (SN ….. was my son’s named nurse when he was an inpatient of the Stratheden IPCU, February 2012) SN …… accosted me on Sunday 22 March 2015 in the Ceres Centre shop at approximately 12.30pm and accused me of digitally recording patients. I was taken aback by her accusations and refute them absolutely. I recognised her at the time and remembered her name later. I am not happy at being targeted in this way.
The reason I am raising the complaint at this point in time is because I have just had two police officers in my home, in response to my name being given to them by two psychiatric nurses in Stratheden Hospital, accusing me of photographing patients. The PCs told me that the complaint was made on Monday this week. The two nurses said that a paranoid patient thought that someone was taking photos of them on the Sunday. From the description given the nurses worked out it was me. Gave my name to the police, and that of my son. The police officers looked up my details and came to my door at 4.30pm this afternoon.
I was upstairs having a lie down, resting a sore leg. My son let the police officers into my house. I limped downstairs to speak to them. I took their details and they took mine. I told them about SN ….. accosting me on Sunday. I said that I do not take photos of patients or nurses and neither do I record them speaking.
I showed the police officers my Stratheden Blog, the post about my Sunday walkabout the grounds. I also showed them the posts from 2012, the cigarette butts everywhere, the newspaper articles about the “Land that time forgot”, and my other blogs, including Mad in America where I have a presence. I told them I was a writer, activist and human rights campaigner, an advocate for mental patients. I recounted something of my son’s dehumanising treatment in the Stratheden IPCU in February 2012.
The PCs said that they accepted my explanation and there was no need to take it further, that I was free to walk around Stratheden Hospital grounds.
I am assuming that one of the two psychiatric nurses who made the accusation was SN …….. At the time that SN ….. confronted me I was speaking to the RVS shop volunteer. (I used to work with WRVS in Kirkcaldy, 1999/2000, as a Youth Project Manager) There were no patients or any other people in the shop at the time. SN …… came in to the shop on her own and came right up to me.
I wish to make it clear that I do not take photos of patients and do not digitally record patients. Neither do I take photos of nurses even when I have seen them smoking on hospital grounds. On occasion patients speak to me when I am walking round the Stratheden grounds, sharing stories. It is always a two way conversation. They speak to me and I speak to them.
Here is the storify of my tweets from Sunday, for your information:
I hope that my complaint will be listened to and taken seriously. I am not happy at being accosted by SN …….. and accused of something I did not do. You will notice from my tweets on the storify that I mentioned being taken aback.
In the last 3 years I have often walked around Stratheden Hospital grounds taking photos and blogging about it. This is the first time that I have been accosted by a nurse in all that time and I have taken many, many photos, of various scenes, often publishing them in my blogs or in tweets.
I look forward to hearing from you that my complaint has been received. I am copying in various others, for their information and as witnesses.
Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)”
This letter has been published in the current edition of The BMJ:
At the start of his talk Professor Allan Young put up this slide of his declarations of interest. Professor Allan Young did not talk through his declarations and the slide was not up long enough for the audience to read through it:
I recorded these quotes made by Professor Allan Young as given by him on 26 Sept 2014:
“For those of you who watch panorama, I do not give my consent for you to film this”
McQueen, 2011 “They missed out my trial” [Embolden trial]
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For several years now I have written to the Royal College of Psychiatrists regarding an apparent lack of meaningful transparency regarding financial conflicts of interests in our profession.
A recent communication with the Royal College, of which I am a member, included discussion of the following Conference being held this week in Scotland:
I confirmed to the Treasurer of the Royal College of Psychiatrists my wish to take up the offer to be sent all Declarations of interest of those speaking and involved in this CPD approved Conference:
The current Chair of the RCPsych Ethics Committee is attending this Old Age Psychiatry Annual Scientific Meeting and stated:
Operational Guidance issued by the Royal College of Psychiatrists asks that the following three principles should be followed:
The Royal College of Psychiatrists newsletter for this month comments on the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry register (or Central Platform as they have…
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Keeping us connected
My mother had dementia. In my book Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything I describe how the songs she had gaily sung throughout her life began to play an ever bigger part in how we looked after her.
The songs she knew, and that her children also knew through lifelong immersion – everything from the Inkspots to the Sound of Music, the Hallelujah Chorus to the ‘Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen’ – gradually became not just an excuse for a party but a conscious device to keep us connected to her and her to herself.
Harmonies filled the room
When she was frightened in the bath, she could be calmed with ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’. When she was downhearted and depressed, nothing produced a smile like ‘Ye cannae shove your granny off a bus’. Some of the trickiest toileting moments could be eased by a…
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“Dear Doctors Matthews and Christmas
I have just heard that you are both speaking at the forthcoming RCPsych event in Stirling on 15 May 2015 (see poster below). Would you like a third person on the team. Me?
I could speak out from the psychiatric survivor experience, also as an ex-service user, clinically depressed after having/being made to swallow Risperidone then Venlafaxine then Lithium. A triple dose of depressing drugs.
I could tell everyone how I got over the depression by getting off the drugs. Explain the tapering process. The magic ingredients of resilience, resistance and bloody-mindedness (excuse the expression). I think my participation could go down a storm among your fellow clinical professionals.
What do you think? Would there be room for me on the day?
PS I do hope you are not recommending NMD as a magic ingredient? If that was the case then I’d need to do a protest.”
[I have removed the screenshot of the Email at the request of Dr Christmas]
Dr Christmas Emailed a response at 8.34am, 23 March 2015:
“Dear Chrys, thanks for the offer but I suspect that on this occasion we should be okay. Best wishes, David.”
I then asked for a copy of their presentation and Dr Christmas responded saying:
“They’ll probably go on the website so remind me after the event and I’ll make sure you can access them. Best wishes, David.”
[I have removed the screenshot of the Email at the request of Dr Christmas]
Tickets are now on sale for this Alzheimer Scotland Conference:
In terms of “dementia awareness” I have recently offered my personal view on the current Alzheimer Scotland “campaign” which encourages Scotland to have “difficult conversations”. Dementia can occur in any age from middle life onward but proportionally these “difficult conversations” will significantly involve Scotland’s elders.
Below, taken from the Alzheimer Scotland promotion, is the Chief Executive Officer of Alzheimer Scotland raising awareness of sponsorship opportunities associated with this conference and “Dementia Awareness week”:
If you click on the screenshot below, taken from Alzheimer Scotland’s promotion of this conference, you can find the “Exhibitor, Sponsorship and Promotion options”:
In an entirely different way to Alzheimer Scotland, Dr Margaret McCartney is not afraid of raising “difficult conversations”. Here is a link to Dr McCartney who recently appeared on BBC Radio 4 with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister has…
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