This week, Week 12, we’re focusing on saying sorry. To kick us off a post from Sara sharing her thoughts and experience.
Saying sorry. A fairly straightforward concept with a handy NHS guide for those who might struggle. We’d planned a week on this topic as it’s fundamental to helping families deal with the unexpected and preventable death/serious harm of a family member. A swift, heartful and genuine apology probably is the most valuable tool the NHS has, in terms of heading off lengthy, painful and ultimately costly battles with families. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be widely recognised.
This issue is particularly timely as the template response circulated by some Conservative MPs to constituents’ requests for support for the #LBBill includes a paragraph about Sloven and their unreserved apology for LB’s death. This is lifted from the statement by Katrina Percy, CEO of Sloven, on the day the independent review by Verita was published back in February 2014.
This apology was made seven months after LB died. Up to this point, I [not our family] received a ‘I was deeply saddened and sorry to hear of the death of your son, Connor’ from the Acting Chief Exec on July 11th 2013. An exemplar non apology. Her sadness comes first, followed by ‘sorry to hear’ and then a second line with ‘sincere condolences’ scattered like confetti. These words are words anyone can say to someone who has experienced bereavement. Not the words you say to someone who has died in your care.
Katrina Percy, the actual CEO, popped up in December 2013 ‘offering my personal and sincere condolences on the death of your son, Connor‘.
Again, a non-apology. Offering condolences is not saying sorry. We had to wait until there was evidence that LB shouldn’t have died before something approaching an apology was made, three months later. Sadly, despite this public statement, and an apparent acceptance of the Verita findings, nine months later Sloven stood in front of the coroner, arguing that LB died of natural causes. Maybe the NHS Being Open policy needs a footnote added to remind CEOs to remain consistent to their apologies.
In August 2014 we received a letter from Katrina Percy that is tooth enamel removing in its toxicity. On the subject of apologies, she has this to say:
Like every single organisation and individual in the world, we are not perfect and on a rare number of occasions we get things wrong, sometimes with deeply distressing consequences. On these rare occasions, my role as Leader is to do everything in mine and my organisation’s powerto offer our deep and sincere apologies, to work with everyone concerned – including relatives and regulators – in as positive and productive a way as possible to learn from what went wrong and to put in place arrangements to try to ensure nothing similar happens in future.
In this regard, I believe it was absolutely right for us to offer our profound and public apologies to you for the death in our care of your son, Connor.
Profound, sincere and deep are just words. Meaning remains absent, sadly. And without meaning you really ain’t sorry.
So this week we will be thinking about saying sorry and apologies. Please share any experiences in the comments section or drop us an email. As we say with tedious regularity, this really ain’t rocket science.