Murdered for Medication

I saw this story on the Guardian website and was amazed that it was the first I heard of it.

Rachel Baker, the manager of Parkfields Nursing Home is on trial accused of murdering two women who were in her charge, and stealing their prescription medication that she was addicted to.

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Baker, 44, who ran the Parkfields care home in Butleigh near Glastonbury, Somerset, became addicted to drugs, including heroin, after being prescribed painkillers for migraines. She allegedly fed her addiction by “diverting” drugs prescribed for residents at the care home. She either stole the drugs from residents who needed them or exaggerated or made up symptoms so that drugs the elderly people did not really need were prescribed.

Baker has admitted eight charges of possessing controlled drugs and one of intending to pervert the course of justice. She denies the murders.

Just imagine the coverage if the victims had been 5 and 7 years old rather than 85 and 97 years old and that, I think, tells us all we need to know about society’s ageism.

Broken Britain?

I was disheartened at how quickly the appalling story of Edlington – where two young boys, aged 10 and 11, under the care of the local authority attacked two other boys and subjected them to what surmounts as torture almost to the point of murder – turned into a party political debate about ‘Broken Britain’.

Firstly, there is no doubt that the case indicated is sickening. I’m sure that mistakes were made by professionals – as much as been said openly. But for the leader of the Conservative Party to extrapolate, as he did in a speech last week, that it indicates that society in Britain is ‘broken’ and lays the blame on the current government, reeks of mean-minded opportunism and a poor understanding and analysis of the country today.

We shouldn’t forgot what the previous Conservative government did to break society and to break Britain – from the sell-off of social housing which has led to increased overcrowding and a more desperate rush for the homes that are available to the miners strike and breaking of the industrial base of the north of England, leading to greater divides between the North and South and the promotion of the ‘me’ culture.

Social Work Blog Awards

Active Social Work – a great blog of information and resources for social workers is promoting a series of awards for social work specific blogs.


The idea is that it will encompass 2010 – and nominations will be followed by a voting period.

There are different categories and blogs can be nominated for more than one category but they must be written for social workers or by a social worker.. . . . however nominations and voting is open to everyone.

One of the motivating factors was to help build and create a community amongst social work bloggers internationally which is always something I would wholeheartedly support.

I was starting to put together a list of my nominations but I keep thinking of more and more.. it’s hard to narrow down and decide so early in the year..

Anyway, I’d encourage people dropping by to amble over there and look at the process – – – and to check out the information on the blog which is a fine example of what can be achieved and is already proving itself to be an invaluable information source for me.

No Secrets or No Action?

Yesterday, Community Care reported that as a response to the consultation on changes to the ‘No Secrets’ guidance on Safeguarding Adults published in 2000, Safeguarding Adults Boards will be mandatory for all English local authorities and an inter-ministerial board will be created between the Department of Health, Department of Justice and Home Office.

Well, it’s a start, I suppose. In my own experience, procedures and support have been virtually toothless in safeguarding adults procedures  – especially if there are additional areas of incapacity involved where the abused party is not able to make statements or complaints themselves.

I could share many stories of lack of action – mostly as the procedures which currently exist do not have much force to them.

We do our investigations and reach conclusions but personally, I can say that response from the police has been minimal if it exists at all – and then where do ou go with the information? The investigations can be paper exercises and the offending party is told to act in a specific way.  Vulnerable adults don’t pluck on the same heartstrings as vulnerable children even though the act of abuse is no better or worse.  Abuse of someone who is vulnerable is abuse, regardless of the age of those concerned.

This is currently one of the most frustrating issues about the work that I undertake. Hopefully these ‘boards’ will push for more action to be taken when there are cases brought to them.

The positives are that now there is a law against mistreatment of vulnerable adults (thanks to the Mental Capacity Act 2005) – in fact, we are dealing with an issue which might lead to prosecution at present,  but the amounts of times things have had to be ‘let go’ due to lack of motivation to make changes or we are told that cases will not be brought to court because the victim is not a reliable witness, well, I wouldn’t like to say.

More focus on adult protection is, without doubt, a priority in my view. Hopefully, this places it as a priority.

Left to die in Northamptonshire?

This is something of an ‘old’ story, so to speak, but last week, The Daily Mail commented on the tragic story of Mr and Mrs Randall – an couple aged 81 and 79 respectively – who were found dead in their home in Northamptonshire even though a concerned neighbour had alerted ‘social services’ on 1 December. The implication in the Mail article is that these calls for help were ignored and in the words of the Mail ‘nothing was done’.

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I’m not saying that things didn’t go wrong – the truth is that an inquiry is to be carried out where more will be learnt about the chronology of events however the local Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph which has a leaked report explaining the cause of death of the Randalls.

As the article says

Jean Randall died in her bed as a result of cancer while her husband Derrick suffered a fatal heart attack.
A police report has shown wheelchair-bound Mrs Randall and her husband, who was her sole carer, passed away within such a small time of each other that it was impossible to say which of them died first.

The difficulty is that if a reclusive couple  have mental capacity to refuse interventions, there is little that can be done – however cruel it can seem from the outside. I don’t know the circumstances of this particular case, apart from what has been reported though.  Lots of things can affect capacity  – one of the things that could be addressed,  but likely won’t be, is the way that charging policies have also affected peoples’ wishes to accept services which can sometimes be seen as crucial – sometimes people refuse services that they think they will have to pay for, sometimes people just don’t want strangers coming in and giving care, sometimes it is a matter of negotiating a package of care and sometimes it is incompetent or rushed workers who don’t prioritise effectively. There are many reasons that things might not run as smoothly as they should and while many hold up their hands and look at who ‘should’ act, it is not always as obvious as it seems.

The article goes on to say that a preliminary report

‘.. gives a much clearer picture of the level of contact between health and social care agencies in the couple’s last days together, including visits from a phlebotomist, their GP, a social worker and numerous phone calls with organisations.’

Indeed, a local MP, Brian Binley, (not the same MP as the one quoted in the Mail – for the record’) ‘said that contrary to some media reports, the coroner had documented regular contact with Northamptonshire County Council social services, Age Concern and healthcare professionals on more than six occasions in a 17-day period leading up to Mr Randall’s last contact with outside help on Christmas Eve’

Although it is clear that things did not work as they should have, it is nigh on impossible to force care on people who do not want it and the fact that they lived together would have lowered the perceived risk levels. This isn’t to say that these kinds of stories should not happen – and hopefully an inquiry will provide lessons for us all –  but it seems that the reality is not entirely as presented by the Daily Mail.

There’s a surprise.