UPDATE: 16/6/2016: It is with great regret that we have been forced to censor this article as the NSFT Board is happy to waste NHS money on the expensive lawyers at Bevan Brittan. We, as a campaign group consisting entirely of volunteers, do not have access to NHS funds to fight expensive legal cases and wouldn’t squander taxpayers’ money intended for mental health services censoring the free speech of stakeholders even if we did. This isn’t the first time NSFT has wasted NHS funds trying to silence us. We maintain our belief in the accuracy of the original published account, the publication of which is clearly in the public interest. We offered the Chair of NSFT the opportunity to inform us of any factual inaccuracies in the article but he has never chosen to do so. The Director of Nursing told us NSFT does not have the time, money or resources to further investigate the causes of the near-doubling of unexpected deaths at NSFT. However, the Board of NSFT does have the time, money and resources to spend on expensive lawyers and an internal ‘kangaroo court’ investigation into how this highly embarrassing but accurate account of the working of the Stakeholder Panel became public. We’d rather the Board of NSFT investigated why twice as many people are dying now as three years ago. Shameful.
Stakeholders concerned about the selection process for the Head of Recovery, Participation and Partnership write:
“A group of us were invited to be stakeholders as part of the appointment process for the Head of Recovery, Participation and Partnership. We were a mixture of carer representatives, service users, governors and staff.
The [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT], was NSFT’s facilitator for our group – appointed by the Director of Nursing. This seemed strange, given the role being interviewed for, as we would have thought one of the carer or service user representatives would have been better suited.
We had been given no information about the candidates beforehand which again seemed strange as we would have expected to be given the applications in advance to read over so that we were suitably prepared. We queried this and were told that being presented with the information on the morning was normal procedure. What it meant was that we had less than half an hour before we were due to start interviewing to read the applications and therefore we did not have a chance to read them properly. Already, we were receiving an indication that maybe our role wasn’t considered important to the appointment process. There were a couple of people on the stakeholder panel who were able to read at great speed and were therefore able to pick up on a few bits from the first couple of applicants. But this wasn’t good enough.
Each applicant had been asked to write a presentation on a rather long-winded question:
“Achieving participation and embedding recovery in an organisation requires cultural change and staff commitment. How will you lead this and what will tell you that you were successful?”
After the presentation there were three questions – one from each of the values of the Trust that [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] had decided she was asking on our behalf. Again these questions were exceptionally long. We were told there wasn’t enough time for each of us to ask a question given our facilitators predetermined questions and therefore it was decided that a few of our group would have the opportunity to each ask a question approved by the rest.
The first candidate was due to present at 10 a.m. but didn’t arrive. Almost 25 minutes later an unfortunate, flustered gentleman turn up, apologising profusely. His letter, which had been checked by those greeting the candidates, had incorrectly stated his slot was at 11 a.m. [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] apologised but pointed out we couldn’t wait as she felt that wouldn’t be fair on the other candidates.
The sheets on which it was expected we would write comments about the way each candidate answered the three predetermined “set questions” were not numerous enough for us to have one each and so we were asked to hand over any notes we made on separate sheets of paper after we discussed each candidate. We were running behind for the whole morning slots after the mishap with the first candidate. There were six candidates in total and the interviews went on all day.
When we broke for lunch we had decided after discussion that the first three were not suitable for the role although the scoring system we were using was bizarre. We were scoring candidates from 1-4, with the category descriptions roughly being:
- 4 = exceeded expectations;
- 3 = met expectations;
- 2 = didn’t meet expectations; and
- 1 = nowhere near expectations.
It was clear that the minimum standard for appointment was two, i.e. didn’t meet expectations – this was written on the feedback forms. In other words, a candidate didn’t have to meet expectations in order to be appointed. Really???? We were scoring each candidate firstly on their presentation and secondly overall. We didn’t do this individually but collectively. The whole stakeholder panel was in agreement that those first three candidates were not appointable.
Things became more interesting after lunch with the final three candidates, or, more accurately, two of the candidates in particular. It became evident that one of the six candidates was favoured more than the others from the way that [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] responded to him as well as the way she disagreed with the stakeholder feedback when we were discussing him. There was a definite sense that we were being pushed towards [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] as the most suitable candidate. Granted [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] answered the question set in his presentation and, in fact, he was the only one who did and so he scored three for his presentation. But part of his presentation was also concerning: he used a quote from E.M. Forster:
“One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested”.
And with that quote [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] effectively put himself out of the running: he didn’t have passion, he didn’t have drive and although he talked about co-production it was more about seeking best practice from elsewhere. He didn’t answer the follow-up questions from the stakeholder panel but mostly waffled his way through and it was evident that he did not have a wealth of expertise behind him. [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] kept trying to push us into giving a more positive response about [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT]. Overall [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] scored 2/2.5.
[CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] was another candidate who came across as a stronger potential candidate. She wasn’t perfect but we felt [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] had more potential and seemed more willing to learn.
However, the stakeholder panel came to the conclusion that none of the six candidates were appointable. None of them did enough and “wowed” the panel. None of them came across with the necessary enthusiasm and conviction that would be needed in the role. Only one of us, the “[CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT]”, thought that [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] or [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] were potentially appointable. We wanted to ask the [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT], [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT], what would happen as a result of us saying none of them were appointable.
The majority of the stakeholder panel believed they surely wouldn’t appoint. Well, how could they, given the nature of the role – Head of Recovery, Participation and Partnership – surely they wouldn’t ignore the views of the stakeholder panel? [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] wanted to go and ask the question for us – she didn’t seem keen to let us near the interviewing panel. Fortuitously, [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] came to see us. One of our group asked [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] what would happen if we said none of them were appointable – would they go ahead and appoint anyway – and [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] said yes. She said that they had found four potential candidates but there were two they were having difficulty choosing between. Therefore, she wouldn’t make a decision that night but would go and sleep on it and decide the following morning.
You could see the looks of disbelief around the table as she spoke. We told [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] that the majority of us thought none of them were appointable. It was suggested by one of the group that the interviewing panel came in to speak to us so that we could discuss our views but we were told that wasn’t possible as it was late and people had to go. It was left for [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] to feedback to them – to be our voices – even though it was clear that she had a predetermined preferred candidate. With an air of resignation, the Stakeholder Panel said if they had to appoint someone it should be [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] but the person it should most certainly not be was [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT].
The majority of the Stakeholder Panel left that day feeling they had wasted their time. What was the point in involving them as stakeholders in this key post when they weren’t being listened to and their views were not taken into account? You could understand it more if it was for a different role but this one – how on earth can you appoint someone the stakeholder panel did not want to the engagement role? It wasn’t even a small panel – there were at least ten of us there! NSFT asked people to participate and give their opinions and then NSFT ignored those opinions. Instead, [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] picked the members of the stakeholder group off, one by one, in the days following the interview with conversations. She placed pressure on us to try and agree with the views of the interview panel and twisted our words, stating that members of the stakeholder panel had changed their opinions when they had been spoken to on a one-to-one basis. The one person almost the entire majority of the stakeholder group said do not appoint under any circumstances was [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] and yet that is [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT].
Well done, NSFT. You have once again proved that you don’t give a damn about staff on the ground, service users, carers or governors. This was a key role to improve the way the Trust works with all of those people and a chance to appoint someone dynamic, driven, personable and who values the work that stakeholders do. Instead you’ve railroaded the appointment of a [CENSORED FOLLOWING LEGAL THREATS FROM NSFT] who is an NSFT bureaucrat through and through and in doing so you have destroyed the belief that you value stakeholders and want to work in partnership to improve participation and recovery.“
The Head of Recovery, Participation and Partnership is a Band 8c job paying between £56,104 and £68,484 per year.