Donna Ockenden’s 2015 report on the Tawel Fan ward gave the families of its patients answers, but the recent HASCAS report has whitewashed them, leaving the Tawel Fan families with more questions and anger than ever before.
There is tremendous irony in the naming of Tawel Fan, Welsh for “peaceful place.” For the families of the patients who were treated in the ward, which was intended to care mostly for elderly people with dementia, they have found no peace there. Since its closure in late 2013, they have been forced to confront the abuse their loved ones faced at Tawel Fan.
Donna Ockenden’s report was shocking to many, but to the families of the patients of Tawel Fan, they were a justification: Ockenden’s report asserted that vulnerable patients with dementia were restrained with furniture, left to lie in their own waste, and that the treatment of people in the ward amounted to “institutional abuse.” Ockenden reported that a family described it as a “zoo;” patients were being left to run around naked, they were covered in bruises and were forcibly moved. It was one of the most damming reports ever received by the NHS in Wales, and one of the most critical reports the NHS has ever seen.
The second report, published in May, backtracks on all of this information. Compiled by independent body HASCAS, it dismissed the “unreliable factoids” that it claims Donna Ockenden’s report used, instead going by the documents of the 108 patients.
The HASCAS report acknowledges that there were issues but says: “Despite the problems with the system there is no evidence to suggest that Tawel Fan ward was an environment where abusive practice took place either as a result of uncaring staff who acted wilfully in an inappropriate manner, or due to a system that failed to protect.”
Boiled down, the latest report says that Donna Ockenden’s was one based on the anxious and furious reaction of families, and that HASCAS found no institutional abuse. The extent of their negative findings is that occasionally, the staff did not act within the set expectations of the NHS, and that safeguarding systems weren’t always good enough to support adults at risk. They provide 15 points where Tawel Fan could have improved.
To call HASCAS’ report disliked would be an understatement: it was called a “whitewashing” of the original report, a cover-up and a failure of the Tawel Fan families. Speaking to anyone who has a personal connection to the ward, their ire is obvious. They are furious, they are bitter, and they, rightly, want answers. Since the publishing of Okenden’s report in 2015, they have wanted answers, and for someone to be held accountable. Now, all they have is more questions. Families of patients at Tawel Fan saw their relatives lie in beds filled with ants and lie in urine-soaked sheets, but the report functionally dismisses these claims.
For the families of Tawel Fan, the HASCAS report doesn’t add up. A source close to the families told UNITE that the files that HASCAS looked at – the oft reported “half a million pages of documentation” lay open for two years, free to be altered. They asked why these reports would contain any information that would paint them in a negative light – when you’re writing a report of how good a job you’ve done on something, why would you add in information that would make you look bad, they said.
The families felt excluded in the process: HASCAS say that they extended the opportunity to every family to take part in the report, but many did not get back to them. In a conference after the report was released, Llyr Gruffydd AM said: “The way I read it is that clearly those people writing the report just didn’t like the families.”
“The report is peppered with phrases and sentences that cast doubt about the validity of their concerns, about the way the families approached this and handled themselves, in what was a harrowing and terrible episode in their family experience.
“When you look at some of the big scandals that have broken in recent years, over the last decade – Hillsborough, the Rotherham and Rochdale grooming gangs and others, there’s a pattern there consistently of not believing the victims.
“My plea is that the families need to be believed, because history tells us that when they are not believed then travesties are missed.”
HASCAS chief executive Dr Androulla Johnstone denies this, saying it is “wholly wrong” to suggest this, and that the report upheld many of the concerns raised by the families.
There are plans to demolish the Tawel Fan ward, like this act of razing the earth it was built on will make the feelings of the families go away. It will not. The building of the Tawel Fan ward is nothing but a monument to the abuse the families know happened. To destroy it is just to remove the physical remains. It will not take away the deep and visceral anger that any of the families feel.
Tawel Fan Family Comments
Based on the new HASCAS report, these are the comments from the Tawel Fan Families given to UNITE.
1) It was unnecessary for HASCAS to criticize the Tawel Fan Families in a public facing document in respect of private meetings held between the Families and BCUHB. The Families would like an apology for this.
2) HASCAS accused the Families of recasting their experiences in the report. The testimonies the Families gave to HASCAS reflected their personal experiences of Tawel Fan.
3) HASCAS dismissed the evidence of Families and Carers and relied instead on medical records and statements from those accused of wrong doing.
4) HASCAS state that Tawel Fan staff could not articulate what good therapeutic dementia care looked like, and describe scenes of chaos causing distress to patients, along with a major failing to safeguard patients. Every patient in Tawel fan was a vulnerable adult or adult at risk and the ward failed in this fundamental requirement to keep patients safe. Yet, the overall standard of care was good!
5) The content of the report is not reflected in the conclusions which were the major headlines on the report launch day, and the Tawel Fan Families continue to refuse to accept these conclusions.
6) The Families continue to wait for their individual reports on their loved ones’ care and treatment on Tawel Fan. We are left wondering whether the multiple failings of sub optimal care we identified will be captured in these personal reports?