Suppression of dissent by Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust: a threat to democracy that puts patients at risk

A patient’s story: a complaint and the aftermath

Summary

This is my story of being a patient at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Trust (DHCFT), Derby, and raising a complaint about negligent clinical treatment that caused me harm and leaves all patients at risk. As soon as I raised a complaint, I became a problem, no longer a patient. Individuals at DHCFT were prepared to go to any lengths to cover up. The tortuous route of my complaint involved both the criminal and the civil courts but, even then, DHCFT continued to cheat at every step of the way, resorting to nefarious means to deny due process.

My story illustrates how ineffective the plethora of regulators, commissioners and other professional bodies are in fulfilling their duty as a protective layer of accountability and in maintaining patient safety. Above all, it shows how hard it is for patients to have their voice heard when those in positions of power take every measure possible to suppress it.

I have documents to prove everything I say, some are included below.

Background

1. I was going through tough times and was referred to DHCFT for support. I underwent weekly psychotherapy with a therapist, Mr Brian Denness, from January 2012 until October 2013. However, there were a number of problems with my treatment.

Complaint with DHCFT

2. In December 2013, I raised concerns with DHCFT about my treatment that had not been delivered in line with NHS treatment protocols as set out by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and had been abruptly ended at a time I was most vulnerable. From the moment I raised a complaint, DHCFT treated me as a problem not a patient and henceforth DHCFT persistently dismissed me and smeared me in their attempt to silence me and my complaint. 

3. I found the responses I received from the Trust’s CEO, Mr Steve Trenchard, and the Executive Director of Nursing and Patient Experience, Ms Carolyn Green, confusing. I found their refusal to provide explanations and answer my questions tormenting: it was all dismiss, deny, deflect. There was also a complete absence of appropriate support provided to me during the complaints process. This was despite the fact DHCFT were well aware of my vulnerability at the time. DHCFT’s refusal to listen and learn from their mistakes also meant other vulnerable patients were left at risk too.

4. My treatment had been abruptly ended at a time I was going through trauma and, in distress, I requested support from outside the psychotherapy unit from DHCFT’s Executive Director of Nursing and Patient Experience, Ms Carolyn Green. Despite there being over 2,500 health care professionals at DHCFT she told me this was ‘not possible’.

5. I turned for support elsewhere. However, whatever direction I turned, I found out that the psychotherapy service manager, Ms Deborah Seed, intervened with the effect that I was denied the help I needed.

6. I now know from subsequent evidence that has come to light, that Ms Green and Ms Seed deliberately prevented me from obtaining help elsewhere because they wanted to ‘contain’ me within the psychotherapy unit. I believe, this could only have been done to prevent other health services and professionals from learning about my (bad) experience; however, it was extremely detrimental to me. Denied help and support by DHCFT at a time I was particularly vulnerable and going through considerable adversity, I attempted suicide for the first time in my life; the risk of suicide had been flagged in my records.

The action I took
i) The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

7. Unable to get a meaningful response from DHCFT, in April 2014 I submitted my complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). An investigation was carried out and the PHSO obtained independent clinical advice. Based upon that advice, the investigator told me she was going to uphold my complaint. She drafted a report in my favour and wrote to both me and DHCFT’s CEO, Mr Trenchard, putting us on notice to expect receipt of the draft report ’any day now.’

8. Unexpectedly, following this, I was suddenly told the investigator had left the Ombudsman and my complaint was to be allocated to a new investigator. The draft report that upheld my complaint was destroyed and a new draft report was produced that no longer upheld any of my complaint. It upheld treatment that was in breach of NICE protocols and it excluded the independent clinical advice obtained by the Ombudsman that had supported failings in my care.

9. At the time I found all this confusing; I couldn’t make sense of what was going on. However, I later found out that the investigator hadn’t left the Ombudsman at all. I also found out that Mr Steve Trenchard (DHCFT’s CEO) was close friends with the Ombudsman’s Managing Director, Mick Martin, himself a former Executive Director of DHCFT and who was now responsible for overseeing all case decisions at the Ombudsman.

10. In 2015, Mr Trenchard and Mr Martin were both defendants in an employment tribunal that found they had colluded to ‘cover up’ misconduct by individuals at DHCFT and they had worked together to ‘prevent a proper independent investigation’ in order ‘to protect professional reputations’. Mr Trenchard and Mr Martin were subsequently removed from their posts in 2015 after they were found not fit and proper for public office. I feel they had done exactly the same with my complaint, both being the chief persons responsible for it, there can be no other explanation for how the draft report had changed into a fundamentally different one in those peculiar circumstances. It was an appalling coincidence and failure of justice for my complaint against DHCFT to be taken on by the PHSO at a time when Mick Martin worked there and was able to influence the case so that it wasn’t upheld in order to protect his former colleague and workplace from my legitimate complaint. Little did I know at the time that once the PHSO had made its deeply flawed (manipulated) decision it was to become an albatross around my neck.

ii) The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy

11. I took my complaint to the Professional Regulator, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). Although the UKCP was duty bound to investigate, I found out, via FOI requests, that DHCFT intervened in that process too. DHCFT persuaded the UKCP not to carry out any investigation of its own but instead simply accept the (manipulated) report from the Ombudsman, which it did.

iv) The Clinical Commissioning Group

12. I turned to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Hardwick CCG. They closed ranks with DHCFT and agreed with DHCFT to wait for the (manipulated) report from the PHSO and simply uphold that.

iv) The Care Quality Commission

13. I contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC). They did not respond. I later found out that Mr Trenchard, DHCFT’s CEO, was a CQC insider and acted as inspection chair for CQC.

14. I tried to contact Mr Denness’ new NHS Trust; DHCFT saw to it that a restraining order was imposed but with no evidence. I turned to other professional organisations and bodies in my efforts to get my voice heard, however they told me that only DHCFT could deal with my complaint. But DHCFT was doing anything but address my complaint. 

v) Peaceful protest

15. I was at rock bottom. I also had an adjustment disorder but was without any support because DHCFT had denied me access to help and were refusing to address my health needs. On top of this, DHCFT was refusing to listen to my complaint. Ms Green was very aware of the affect this was having on me because I told her; “Dear Carolyn, I want your help to achieve accountability and redress as my mental health is torn to shreds for not having the truth.’

16. Eventually, in November 2014, I turned to peaceful democratic protest in my attempt to get my voice heard as a last resort after all other measures had failed. I created banners and set up an online petition requesting accountability from DHCFT and an independent investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). I called for the resignations of the therapist, Mr Denness, and the manager responsible for the psychotherapy service, Ms Seed, in accordance with individual accountability in the NHS. I made no threats, I made no personal insults and I did not use any offensive language. I simply wanted to get management’s attention in the hope they would finally take notice and respond to my complaint in the interests of all patients. My banners were taken down immediately by DHCFT and nobody saw them.

17. Shortly after this, on 25 November 2014, Ms Green invited me to a meeting in person with herself, another executive from DHCFT’s legal department and her friend, Tracy McDonagle, from Hardwick CCG. She told me to attend alone. I attended on the basis that we had agreed that the purpose of the meeting was to address my complaint. However, at the meeting, Ms Green continued to refuse to address it. I agreed that minutes could be taken at the meeting, but Ms Green refused to give me the minutes afterwards. Immediately after the meeting, Ms Green reported me to the Police for things she alleged I had said at the meeting but which I hadn’t. The next morning, on 26 November, two Police cars turned up outside my home in front of the neighbours. I found myself handcuffed, arrested and thrown in a police cell for 24 hours. The false allegations that Ms Green had reported to the Police were quietly dropped once I was arrested because they were entirely fictious, but Ms Green and DHCFT pursued this course of action and I was subsequently charged and convicted of harassment… for being a patient with a complaint.

18. I have since discovered (via FOI requests) that Ms Green had gone to considerable effort to achieve my arrest. The Police records show that DHCFT arranged and held on their premises three meetings with the Police. At these meetings, Ms Green reported to the Police that she wanted me to stop my complaint. However, the Police recorded that “there are no criminal offences to report”. The Police reviewed the banners and petition and recorded that there was nothing illegal. The Police told DHCFT they could not take any action against me as I had not broken the law and I was exercising my right to free speech.

19. Despite this, DHCFT documented it had ‘negotiated’ with the Police to take action; I did not know that Police action was negotiable. Indeed, DHCFT continued its negotiations with the Police until eventually, by making up things I had said at the meeting, Ms Green, in her position of considerable power and influence, successfully persuaded the Police to arrest me.

20. Fast forward a few years to 2019, and Ms Green told the civil court under oath “The draft minutes of that meeting [25 November 2014] are now shown to me, marked CGl, and are exhibited to this witness statement. These minutes were sent to Victoria so that she might revise them if she disagreed with the content, but she did not return them so that they might be ratified. The minutes are therefore a draft and are both unsigned and undated.” Ms Green was unable to provide evidence that the minutes had been sent to me because it was false. I had asked her at the time in 2014 for the minutes but she had refused to give them to me. I believe the only reason why Ms Green i) had told me to attend the meeting on 25 November 2014 alone; ii) refused to allow the meeting to be recorded and iii) refused to provide me with the meeting minutes afterwards was because she intended to refer to false minutes in order to persuade the Police to arrest me, which is exactly what happened. However, a few years later not only did Ms Green lie under oath to the court but she sought to place the blame on me, as she did in many other ways too.

21. I was arrested on 26 November 2014, and the first hearing for my plea was listed in the Magistrates Court in January 2015. On 28 December 2014, Ms Green rang me and offered me money for ‘the upset and distress caused’ but only on condition I removed my online petition that called for an independent investigation into my complaint. If I were to do that, she told me, then DHCFT wouldn’t pursue the prosecution. I said I couldn’t remove the petition until DHCFT took accountability and responded to my complaint about their substandard treatment. DHCFT continued to refuse to address my complaint and used their own legal powers (and public money) to remove the petition.

22. The records I obtained via FOI requests show that DHCFT kept labeling me with different things at different times to suit them. They told the Police that I do not have any mental health issues, which meant I could be prosecuted without a court diversion, but they told the investigating bodies that I do, which served to undermine me and my complaint.

23. My legal representative fully expected nothing more to come of the arrest. He invited CPS to drop the prosecution saying my actions could not be deemed to be criminal and were freedom of expression that I was allowed to engage in. However, CPS is victim led and DHCFT, the ‘victim’ here, was keen to continue with the prosecution. What is more, from the FOI requests I have obtained, I have seen that DHCFT pursued the prosecution hoping I would receive a prison sentence-they wanted me out of the way.

24. DHCFT refused to comply with their disclosure obligations to CPS. Eventually, the Magistrates Court had to make an order for disclosure but still DHCFT did not comply which put them in contempt of court. The trial was adjourned three times because DHCFT failed to comply with its disclosure obligations.

25. Despite DHCFT still failing to comply with its disclosure obligations and despite the court making an order for disclosure, the trial went ahead in July 2015 without disclosure. 

26. Astonishingly, at the trial, neither Mr Denness nor Ms Seed nor anyone else from DHCFT gave oral evidence which meant there was no witnesses to cross examination or challenge. Instead, DHCFT’s carefully crafted statements were read out to the court as ‘fact’, contrary to the fundamental principles of a fair trial. DHCFT falsely told the court ‘as fact’ that I had harassed them. However, their statement revealed the real reason for their prosecution: my complaint was ‘undermining professional reputations‘ which was, according to DHCFT, ‘unacceptable’ and that “she must stop or else she must be made to stop”.

27. At trial, in the witness box, I explained that my actions were peaceful protest simply to get a complaint about poor treatment heard by a publicly accountable body that refused to listen and was placing all patients at risk. DHCFT instructed their barrister to tell the court that I was “lying” and wouldn’t let me speak any further. Instead, DHCFT lied. They told the court that themselves, the Health Ombudsman and the Professional Regulator had investigated my complaint independently and all had found there to be “no quibble” about my treatment.

28. Because there were no witnesses and no disclosure, the magistrates were disabled from making a full and proper appraisal of the evidence it heard; they were disabled from making any kind of assessment of the individuals involved and yet, based upon DHCFT’s statements ‘of fact’ that could not be challenged, I had to be convicted.

29. I was horrified at the way the trial had been conducted and I immediately lodged an appeal. However, the solicitor gave me wrong legal advice. He told me to abandon my appeal until after sentence. By sheer bad luck, criminal lawyers were on strike at the time so I had to take his advice, but it turned out to be legally wrong advice on all counts. Having abandoned my appeal, it has proven impossible to reinstate it.

30. My conviction was reported in the local press. However, there was a delay in its publication. The report I eventually read, took me aback: it was misrepresentative of the facts. When I contacted the reporter, I learnt that the delay was because the press had been contacted by DHCFT about how to report the conviction. It was reported so as to vilify me but paint DHCFT in a positive light. DHCFT, whose clinical standards I had criticised, accused me of acting out of spite rather than in the public interest. I was named and shamed for speaking out while all the individuals responsible at DHCFT for the clinical negligence and cover up were kept anonymous, including Steve Trenchard, Carolyn Green, Brian Denness and Deborah Seed, and the truth was hidden. It seems that DHCFT think they can use their position of power to maliciously and dishonestly control everything to serve their interests and act with utter contempt for any notion of fairness or respect and consideration of others.

31. I have now found out that according to Ms Green, it was her and the Trust who ‘hated‘ the petition and wanted it removed: “we hate it. We are exploring voluntary or legal removal.” It seems the prosecution was driven through by Ms Green to protect DHCFT’s reputation and not the individuals who were only told about my actions by the Trust’s Management many weeks later for the purpose of writing statements for the prosecution. A number of lawyers have reviewed the evidence of this conviction, including a QC. It is the QC’s opinion that it was a ‘malicious prosecution’.

Alison Fuller’s attack

32. Shortly after this, I began to receive anonymous comments posted under my online petition. There were nearly 300 comments in total and they appeared at all hours of the day and night over the course of about ten months. The comments were directed at me by name and were calculated to cause as much emotional injury, distress and hurt as possible. They were mocking, vile and deeply malicious and became increasingly threatening and oppressive: the poster knew where I lived. Eventually, I had to report them to the Police. The Police refused to investigate because the poster had gone to great lengths to conceal their identity and had set up a profile using fake details. It was left to me to identify the abuser myself and make them cease their abuse in the civil courts.

33. It turns out that my abuser was Mr Denness’ friend and colleague at Lincolnshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, another therapist called Alison Fuller who lives in Wragby, Lincolnshire, and who was registered throughout the time of her abuse with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP). Her aim seemed to be to bully me into removing the petition. I don’t know to what extent Mr Denness or DHCFT was behind Ms Fuller’s crimes but I believe the intimate details she knew about me can only have came from Mr Denness.

34. Ms Fuller’s cyber bullying led to her being found guilty of harassment. However, she was outraged to be held to account and felt totally justified in her actions. Bringing Ms Fuller to account cost me a huge sum in legal fees. The court awarded me most of this in damages and costs. However, Ms Fuller refused to comply with the court order and refused to pay a penny. When I took steps to enforce the court order she promptly declared herself bankrupt, which has little effect on her as she put everything into her partner’s name, Mr Martyn Fuller.

Clinical negligence claim

35. I obtained independent expert advice that supported a claim of clinical negligence and in 2016 I brought proceedings against DHCFT. One of the country’s leading experts on psychotherapy wrote an independent report identifying numerous and significant failings in my care that had caused me harm and placed all patients at DHCFT at risk.

36. I acted as a litigant in person throughout proceedings. DHCFT was represented by a solicitor from Weightmans, Ms Melanie Isherwood. The claim went to trial in summer 2019 and judgment was handed down by HHJ Nigel Godsmark in August 2019. It was dismissed.

37. DHCFT’s defence strategy was founded upon denying everything and attacking me, the accuser. Their strategy turned the tables onto me, shifting the case away from “was their clinical treatment negligent” to “is the patient believable.” I found I was put on trial by DHCFT who employed vilifying tactics to stigmatise, malign and undermine me and paint me in as negative a light as possible. Their submissions and cross examination were filled with ugly criticisms, insults and falsehoods calculated to destroy me, my credibility and reputation.

38. DHCFT deliberately made much of my criminal record, thereby creating a natural bias within the judge toward me. Just as they had done in the Magistrates Court, they continued to peddle their lies that the Ombudsman, the Professional Regulator and themselves had all investigated my complaint but none had upheld it, therefore the allegations of negligence could have no basis.

39. Ms Isherwood deliberately manipulated court directions and Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) to obtain advantage and prevent a fair process from taking place. By adopting a creative litigation strategy and developing an array of procedural tactics plagued by misconduct and fraud, as outlined below, Ms Isherwood ensured due process did not happen. In addition to her gross misconduct as outlined below, Ms Isherwood’s lies became so frequent that it got to the point nothing she said could be believed, from her falsely informing the court she was on holiday to obtain favourable time extensions, to her informing the Information Commissioner’s Office that she had sent me documents that she hadn’t…Ms Isherwood’s lies became routine.

The main areas of procedural irregularity and misconduct in proceedings were as follows:

i. DHCFT’s lead expert witness, Dr Michael Drayton, lacks expert credentials in NHS psychotherapy. Dr Michael Drayton describes himself as a self-employed “organisational consultant and executive coach” and states that he specializes in ‘Executive coaching, workplace relationship building, building positive workplace environments …’ He works for himself for his own limited company called Opus Performance,’ writes blogs and he is a Mediterranean cruise ship entertainer. He hasn’t worked in the NHS since 2004 and that was in a management role. 

ii. Dr Drayton misled the court on his expertise under oath and presented himself to the court as someone he is not. By way of examination in chief, Dr Drayton was asked to give his name and confirm he is a clinical psychologist. He was then asked ’Are you in full time clinical practice?’ to which he replied ‘Yes, I am’. When Dr Drayton was next asked where he practices as a full-time practicing clinical psychologist, he replied ‘8, St James’ Square, London’. However, Dr Drayton’s evidence was proven to be completely false. Evidence obtained from 8 St James’ Square confirmed it is a club house that hires out office space and it does not offer psychological facilities. 8 St James’ Square confirmed that Dr Drayton has limited club membership and only attends ‘once every one to two months’ for a couple of hours for business purposes.

iii. While giving oral evidence under oath, it was put to Dr Drayton, ‘You’re not registered with a professional psychotherapy body, are you?” his reply was “Yes, I am.” However, the UK professional psychotherapy bodies, including the BACP, UKCP and the psychotherapy section of the British Psychological Society, have all confirmed that Dr Michael Drayton is not registered with them. There is no independent evidence anywhere that Dr Drayton has experience or qualifications in psychotherapy, nor has he been able to offer any himself. It can only be that Dr Drayton was deliberately misleading the court under oath about expert credentials that he does not have.

iv. It was not surprising, given Dr Drayton’s lack of expertise in psychotherapy, that he didn’t know what common psychotherapy terms meant. In his evidence, Dr Drayton demonstrated a lack of understanding of the principles of patient confidentiality, he was dismissive of patient centred care and disrespectful of people as individuals, these are core values in NHS care but Dr Drayton was completely clueless. Dr Drayton, scoffed at NICE treatment protocols and told the court they do not apply in NHS practice, when in fact they are national policy; his claim that community mental health teams only accept psychotic referrals illustrates just how out of touch with clinical practice he is and he was sneery about the psychological effects of trauma. According to Dr Drayton, multi-disciplinary teams are made up of only one discipline.   

v. Dr Drayton wrote three psychological expert reports for the court without meeting me or having access to my evidence. All he knew, is what DHCFT reported to him and all the evidence he relied upon came from DHCFT. In breach of his obligations to the court to be impartial, independent and objective he made no effort to try to check DHCFT’s information with other, independent, sources or even take into account my evidence. Instead, he made savage comments about me and my character despite never meeting me. He made claims that were not evidence based and attributed psychiatric labels without formal evaluation or reference to professional guidelines and he tried to make out my complaint was pathological.

Dr Drayton’s reports contained significant inaccuracies and omissions; he excluded entirely the only formal diagnosis I have been assessed to have which was an adjustment disorder (a form of PTSD) in 2014. This was an incredible omission because 2014 was the specific period Dr Drayton told the court he was scrutinising. He displayed a lack of understanding of PTSD. All in all, he made criticisms that were malicious, maligning and demeaning in his strenuous efforts to discredit me and defend DHCFT but without any supporting contemporaneous or objective evidence. Dr Drayton bent over backwards to tell the court that my “perception is not real” and therefore I could not be believed. He lashed out with personal criticisms at anyone who disagreed with him, including Dr Denman and Dr Thomas.

Dr Denman, who is an independent GMC registered Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director, was of the expert opinion that Dr Dayton’s reports were “exceptionally unreasonable and partisan”. She was highly concerned that someone acting as a court expert was submitting psychological reports to the court about an individual they had never met.

vi. Ms Isherwood manipulated court directions so as to follow them in reverse. This meant she obtained my expert reports on breach upfront and she then drafted carefully tailored witness statements to deny and rebut all the allegations. She then gave these tailored statements to her lead expert, Dr Drayton, to base his response to the allegations on. Of course, he disagreed with all the allegations of breach made by the independent experts because he based his opinion exclusively on statements carefully drafted in 2018 to deny and rebut each of them but which presented a different version of events to those under examination in 2012/13. Dr Drayton simply repeated what was written in DHCFT’s statements and gave an untrue version of events without even attempting to analyse the contemporaneous evidence or obtain independent evidence. This was in breach of his fundamental duties as an independent, objective and impartial witness to the court. It was also in breach of the court directions that ordered sequential and simultaneous exchange for parity and fairness-Dr Drayton was ordered to provide objective analysis NOT respond to my experts’ allegations simply based upon DHCFT’s statements written to deny them all. This manipulation of court directions by Ms Isherwood was substantially prejudicial to my claim, it amounts to wilful abuse of process on the part of Ms Isherwood and a complete disregard of his duties to the court on the part of Dr Drayton.

vii. DHCFT’s second expert witness, Professor Daniel Wilcox, is an American forensic psychologist who works in the private sector for his own limited company called ‘Wilcox Psychological Associates Ltd. He specialises in learning disabilities. He has no expert credentials in either psychotherapy or the NHS. Once again, in breach of civil procedure rules, Ms Isherwood withheld all my evidence and records from him so his opinions could only be partial. In breach of his own obligations as an expert witness, Prof Wilcox did not obtain the claimant’s statements and evidence or even the contemporaneous records. Nor did he disclose his instructions or the source of his information in his reports. Based upon these fundamental breaches of his obligations to the court, it would seem that Prof Wilcox has little idea of what his duties as a court expert are.

viii. There are two reports from Prof Wilcox: a ‘final’ one dated 25 August 2017 and an ‘updated’ one dated 14 March 2018 which was the report that was filed and served. The March 2018 report is fundamentally different to the August 2017 report. Five new pages and two substantial paragraphs have been added. The new additions make legal argument; they are mean spirited and repeat over and over again that I am “duplicitous”. However, Prof Wilcox continued to refer to his August 2017 report as if it was his final report: he did not know that his final report had changed into the new report of March 2018.

ix. A court order was made, dated 21 February 2019, that ordered Prof Wilcox to explain why, after the date of his purported 14 March 2018 report, he continued to refer to his August 2017 report as his final report. My barrister told me that Ms Isherwood was extremely uncomfortable and became visibly distressed and tearful. In the end, she was forced to accept the order but she demanded there be three weeks to respond instead of 24 hours or even seven days and demanded that everything to and from Prof Wilcox must go via her.

x. However, despite ample time being granted for a simple request, the reply that I received to this court order was late and came via Ms Isherwood. But, above all, it did not comply with the court order in that it did not even attempt to explain why Prof Wilcox continued to refer to the August 2017 report as his final report. Bizarrely, instead of providing the explanation required by the order, the letter addressed something entirely different. The letter wrote: “I hope I can clear up any confusion in relation to my assessment of you.” The letter also appears to be a photocopy and not the original as ordered by the court. It seems that the letter was not written by Prof Wilcox at all, as the court order required, but by Ms Isherwood and was an effort to deflect the matter and kick it into the long grass.

xi. Prof Wilcox’s report of August 2017 is not very damaging to my claim; his report of March 2018 is. There is no person who could have tampered with Prof Wilcox’s expert report other than Ms Isherwood.

Dr Denman’s expert opinion was that the updated report of March 2018 was “mean spirited and quite ghastly” that she could “take apart at the seams”. It begs the question, what kind of court expert who is under oath to act impartially, independently and objectively about allegations of clinical negligence would write a report that is mean spirited and ghastly about the patient and start every paragraph accusing the patient of being duplicitous?

xii. At trial, Prof Wilcox’s oral evidence revealed further alarming concerns with regards to his report dated 14 March 2018. By way of examination in chief, Wilcox was instructed by Ms Isherwood to confirm that his report dated 25 August 2017 was updated to the 14 March 2018 report after receipt and review of Dr Denman’s report, to which Prof Wilcox replied under oath: ‘Yes, it was’. However, Dr Denman’s report was dated 19 May 2018 so this was impossible, as both he and Ms Isherwood knew very well.

xiii. In the course of his oral evidence, the Judge asked Prof Wilcox under oath if he had written his reports of August 2017 and March 2018 having ‘seen and read the transcript of the therapy sessions’. Prof Wilcox confirmed he had ‘read and seen the transcript’ for his reports. However, this is impossible because the transcript was only created in February 2019 and did not exist before hand. Prof Wilcox’s oral and written evidence under oath was proven to be entirely unreliable.

xiv. Ms Isherwood was required to instruct a Consultant Psychiatrist. However, despite going from expert to expert over the course of a year not only was she unable to get support from a Consultant Psychiatrist, but she was unable to gain the support of any independent clinician, GMC registered doctor or even a registered psychotherapist to support her defence. This is ‘expert shopping ‘ and is forbidden by the court as an underhand tactic to try and cherry pick favourable experts. Eventually, in addition to her reliable ‘go to’ expert Dr Drayton, the businessman and cruise ship entertainer, she resorted to a private American forensic psychologist who specialises in learning disabilities, Prof Wilcox, as her two ‘experts’ in NHS psychotherapy treatment; her requirement to instruct a Consultant Psychiatrist was quietly dropped.  

Judgement 

40. Acting in person I did my best at court, but the judge, HHJ Nigel Godsmark, made no attempt to see fair play and he conducted proceedings in an extraordinarily irregular manner. After the defendant had given their oral closing submissions, the judge prevented me from making my own oral closing submissions. Instead, he told me to submit my closing submissions in writing and he took them away out of court. This means that the submissions I made and the evidence I relied upon were excluded from public record.

41. Just as the judge prevented me from making oral submissions that kept my evidence out of the public arena, he also excluded much of my evidence from his judgement. He makes no mention whatsoever of material evidence; he presents a distorted and inaccurate version of events that, in many areas, is not supported by any contemporaneous evidence at all and he closed his eyes to the numerous breaches of duty on the parts of Ms Isherwood and her hired gun experts and the ways in which they had acted in contempt of court to deliberately prevent my claim being dealt with fairly and properly. He may disagree with the allegations but he can’t simply pretend the evidence does not exist.

42. Based upon DHCFT’s and Dr Drayton’s calculated vile and undermining representation of me, the judge singled me out for criticism and presented me in an unfavourable light repeating many of Dr Drayton’s insults and derogatory criticisms of me in order to put me down. On the other hand, the judgement reads as a promotional press release for DHCFT. In court, I legitimately queried Dr Drayton’s absence of expert credentials in NHS psychotherapy; tried to understand how Prof Wilcox’s report had changed into a fundamentally different one without him knowing it and highlighted the unreliability and gross inaccuracies of both expert reports — pertinent issues to raise in any claim of negligence, including my own. However, for doing this, the judge attacked me with vitriolic criticisms while at the same time excluding from the judgement the evidence upon which these allegations were based. It seems to me that HHJ Godsmark was more concerned with hiding the truth and protecting the public face of DHCFT than truth and justice.

43. Regarding the false evidence Dr Drayton gave to the court under oath about his current practice as a full-time clinical psychologist practising from 8 St James’ Square, the judge stated ‘I regard his initial acceptance of the term ‘full time clinical practice’ as an inadvertent slip’. It is inconceivable that an expert giving evidence to a court would make a ‘slip’ of this fundamental nature to a very direct, clear and simple question about whether he is or is not in full time practice and then to continue with this error when asked where he practices from. Far from being in full time clinical practice, Dr Drayton is not in clinical practice at all. The judge excluded Dr Drayton’s false evidence that he had lied on oath relating to his practice as a full time clinical therapist and the false evidence Dr Dayton gave under oath that he is registered with a professional psychotherapy body.

44. Regarding Prof Wilcox’s report, the judge excluded all the evidence. Instead, he simply states: “For my part I accept Prof Wilcox’s evidence. I accept that he wrote the March 2018 report following further reflection upon the case. I find nothing sinister in the evolution of his thought processes about the case.’ However, the judge excluded the explanation Prof Wilcox gave in his oral evidence under oath that he updated the 25 August 2017 in response to Dr Denman’s report, which didn’t exist in March 2018. The judge excluded the evidence that twice after the March 2018 report had been served Prof Wilcox continued to refer to the August 2017 report as his ‘final’ report in court documents and expressly failed to provide an explanation for this, including at trial. The judge ignored the fact that Prof Wilcox was in contempt of court for failing to comply with the court order dated 21 February 2019. The judge excluded that Prof Wilcox had not at any time been able to explain how his ‘final’ report had changed from a moderate one into one that was mean spirited and ghastly and made legal argument without him knowing it.

45. In breach of civil procedure rules, Prof Wilcox did not set out his instructions in his report. In each of Prof Wilcox’s subsequent sworn court documents and again at trial under oath he gave widely different accounts of what his instructions were. It was strange, therefore, that the Judge felt able to decide for himself what Prof Wilcox was instructed to report on. Everyone is confused as to what Prof Wilcox’s instructions were, even Prof Wilcox, and it was wrong for the judge to make them up.

46. The judge bizarrely stated that Dr Drayton’s evidence was ‘impartial.’ This is a perverse statement to make when it was impossible for Dr Drayton’s evidence to be impartial because Dr Drayton had never met me and did not have access to any of my evidence or statements, this is in violation of Dr Drayton’s duties to the court. The judge excluded all the ways the experts’ reports breached civil procedure rules and their overriding obligations to be independent, impartial and objective. He excluded entirely the way the court directions were manipulated by Ms Isherwood whereby Dr Drayton relied exclusively upon the tailored evidence of the defendant. These were fundamental procedural irregularities that amount to abuse of process and contempt of court, but the judge closed his eyes to them.

47. DHCFT instructed a pseudo expert for which permission had not been given and for which I was not permitted the equivalent. Laura McAra, service manager for DHCFT, had never met me, was not given access to any of my evidence and was not even allowed access to the contemporaneous records. Instead, she simply recited DHCFT’s defence as her evidence. This is one more example of how HHJ Godsmark breached his judicial duties to uphold civil procedure rules and failed to ensure fair play between parties.

48. A barrister who represented me at the first part of trial told me how strong and winnable my claim was. However, at trial he insisted on holding conferences with me live in the court room. It should never have happened, however, the judge bizarrely twisted this prejudicial stance around and used it as another means to blame and criticize me.

49. The judge’s finding that Dr Drayton is a ‘properly qualified expert’ in NHS psychotherapy is perverse, even a cursory glance at Dr Drayton’s cv demonstrates a complete lack of expert credentials. The judge ignored the evidence Dr Drayton gave under oath about his expertise that was independently shown to be false. What is even more perverse, irrational, is that HHJ Godsmark preferred the opinions of Dr Drayton, a businessman and cruise ship entertainer, over those of Dr Denman, an NHS Medical Director and a practising medically qualified psychotherapist who is registered with a psychotherapy professional body (the BACP).

Dr Chess Denman acted as one independent expert witness. She is a Consultant Psychiatrist, one of the country’s leading experts on psycotherapy and the Medical Director of an NHS Foundation Trust similar to the one that had treated me. She wrote a detailed report setting out a number of significant failings throughout the course of my treatment and afterwards. Her report was supported by evidence and based upon analysis of all the contemporaneous records and evidence available from both parties. The systemic failings that she identified in her report mean that all patients at DHCFT are exposed to risk.

50. Dr Denman considered the reports of Dr Drayton to “take up exceptionally unreasonable and partial positions;” it was her expert opinion that he lacked the clinical expertise for this case and she was alarmed he wrote psychological reports to the court about an individual he had never met. The CVs of Dr Drayton and Dr Denman are below.

51. Dr Drayton describes himself as an ‘organisational consultant and coach“, he writes blogs and is an entertainer on Mediterranean cruise ships; according to himself, he is “devastatingly entertaining.” Based on the widespread evidence available, Dr Drayton loves to be the centre of attention, is extremely self promoting and always has to be right. It seems he would be better off applying for roles as a showman than pretending to be an expert in niche areas of which he has little or no experience or knowledge.

52. The available evidence shows that Dr Drayton is used repeatedly by the same corporate legal firms, including Weightmans, in a number of different areas of expertise. He tends not to work for individual claimants but for big organisations and insurance companies who pay him enormous fees and from whom he secures repeat business. In one court judgement, acting to defend Loughborough College, he was accused of being a ‘stooge;’ in another he argued that the defendant who he was acting for, a large Primary Care Trust, ‘always acts properly’, unlike the claimant, an individual who Dr Drayton launched a personal attack against in order to undermine and discredit. It seems that this is a tactic that Dr Drayton relies upon: in return for huge fees and repeat business, he defends his instructing party by launching spiteful and contemptuous personal character attacks upon the claimant to undermine and discredit them.

Appeal

53. The judge, HHJ Nigel Godsmark, has left out material evidence; his judgment is not consistent with the contemporaneous records or evidence and he conducted the trial in violation of judicial laws and with extraordinary procedural irregularity. The judicial system requires that courts must not only be impartial and independent; they must also be seen to be so. Thus, an apprehension of bias, if reasonable, would entitle an aggrieved litigant to have the adverse decision set aside.

54. I lodged an appeal. My appeal was dismissed without a hearing. The grounds of my appeal were not addressed.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority

55. Weightmans takes millions of pounds of public money to defend the NHS against legitimate patient claims and the public has the right to trust this is done properly and with due process. I requested Ms Isherwood’s professional regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), carry out an investigation into Ms Isherwood’s conduct as a matter of public interest. However, on hearing this, Weightmans responded in an exceptionally heavy handed and aggressive manner. Instead, of allowing due process to proceed and an investigation to take place in the public interest, they did everything possible to prevent any investigation at all. In a spectacularly devious twist, they presented the judgement as their ‘evidence’ of Ms Isherwood’s probity, when it was the very means by which this ‘evidence‘ had been obtained that was under question. Predictably, Weightmans’ aggression persuaded the SRA not to investigate.

The SRA has been criticised time and time again for its incompetence and eagerness to protect its own kind, who are also the people who pay its fees.

56. We reported DHCFT’s experts Dr Drayton and Prof Wilcox to their professional regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), for acting outside their competence, for failing to comply with their professional obligations and for contempt of court, which means their fitness to practice is impaired and they are struck off the HCPC register. Although the HCPC process has nothing to do with her, we were astonished to hear that Ms Isherwood intervened in the process and ‘represented’ Prof Wilcox. Once again, desperate to avoid any post event scrutiny, Ms Isherwood, Dr Drayton and Prof Wilcox went to great lengths to stall off any investigation into their professional conduct. Once more, they relied upon the NHS judgment as their ‘evidence’ , evidence which they had obtained through nefarious means. They persuaded HCPC not to investigate.

The Professional Standard Authority (PSA) has reiterated its concerns about the HCPC’s fitness to practise process for a number of consecutive years. In fact, the PSA is so concerned that it has written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Ministers in the devolved administrations and the Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee to outline its concerns and the urgent need for improvement to protect the public.

57. It seems this is a common tactic used in cover ups: obtain a favourable outcome by nefarious means and then rely upon this as ‘evidence‘ to support a position and to close down any line of independent enquiry. Its what DHCFT did with the Ombudsman-they obtained a favourable report through fraud which they then relied upon as ‘evidence’ to prevent any independent investigation by any other body. Its what Ms Isherwood has done with the SRA- rely upon a judgement obtained through her own abuse of process and corruption of due process to prevent an investigation into her professional conduct, and its what Dr Drayton and Prof Wilcox have also done with the HCPC- rely upon a judgement obtained by their own dishonesty and underhand tactics to prevent any investigation by their professional regulator.

58. These people, Mr Steve Trenchard, Ms Carolyn Green, Ms Melanie Isherwood, Dr Michael Drayton and Prof Daniel Wilcox, are simply unable to play fair or permit due process. They have to resort to nefarious actions, smear campaigns and lowly deceit and corruption, anything, to subvert the truth. If nothing else, this only reinforces to me the strength of the clinical negligence allegations in the first place and demonstrates just how lacking in integrity these characters are who have no qualms whatsoever about acting as corrupt as they can to the detriment of the patients. I feel sorry for them, they must be unhappy and extremely narcissistic to be so depraved.

59. The allegations of clinical negligence in the claim are not mine, but those of one of the country’s leading experts in the field. The allegations of legal misconduct are not mine but come from senior counsel. In blanketly dismissing all of them, based upon DHCFT’s malicious and carefully crafted portrayal of me as lacking credibility, the judge is saying the top experts of this country are incompetent.

60. Since the NHS hearing, there has been a string of most peculiar court events which only serve to confirm concerns of bias on the part of HHJ Godsmark in the original NHS hearing. For what has happened since the NHS hearing and HHJ Godsmark’s perverse judgement, is that any application I make to the court is taken over by HHJ Godsmark. He has vacated hearings that are already listed, he has combined together unconnected claims and he has arranged for them to instantaneously fail, no matter how compelling the evidence or law, and without even allowing any examination or hearing of the evidence. As the designated civil judge, HHJ Godsmark has unlimited power to distribute cases as he wishes, without having to give any reasons. He has singled out all my applications to be dealt with either by himself or one of his right hand men, HHJ Coe or DJ Davies, and thereby keep them close at hand among himself and his brotherhood and within his own court. They are all dismissed or struck out and issued with the additional order that I am not allowed any review or appeal. This one judge, acting alone and without any accountability, who is abusing his powers, has taken the judicial system into his own hands and is determined to deny me any justice at all, or even access to justice. It seems that the real priority of HHJ Godsmark is to protect the establishment from the public and maintain the corruption and cover ups of himself and his profession, rather than abide by his judicial oath and uphold fairness to ensure members of the public obtain some kind of justice when due.  

Many patients, same story

61. Unfortunately, mine is not an isolated case. I have since come across other patients of DHCFT who have their own sad stories to tell about appalling care and treatment in the hands of DHCFT. Many of them have been left worse off than before receiving treatment from DHCFT. In just the same way as me, as soon as they or their relatives raise concerns, DHCFT fails to listen, refuses to accept any wrongdoing and acts with bias and stigma against patients simply by virtue of them having a complaint and a history of mental health issues. Carolyn Green has covered up the patient safety issues that led to a number of deaths at DHCFT. Everyone who I have spoken to tells me that they do not trust DHCFT and no one who has had dealings with her, trusts Carolyn Green.

Conclusion

62. This has been an exceptionally bad period in my life and I acknowledge I made mistakes, but I am not a bad person and no patient deserves this treatment by the NHS. Everyone deserves to be properly treated in the criminal and civil courts, including me, but DHCFT has to control the process with lies, deceit and manipulation to deny anyone a fair process and secure the outcome it wants. It seems the real priority of our justice system, or at least HHJ Godsmark, is to protect the establishment from the public, rather than to ensure members of the public obtain any kind of justice.

For as long as people in positions of authority have one another’s backs, corruption and injustice will prevail. These individuals may have won in lies, falsification and corruption but they have lost in democratic values, honour and integrity and have their own conscious to live with.

64. To any patient who has a complaint to raise with DHCFT, you should be prepared for DHCFT to label you a trouble maker. They may lie, bully and employ vilifying tactics designed to intimidate, discredit and malign you and protect their own interests, no matter the emotional, psychological and financial cost to you. Do not expect any meaningful response or assistance from the regulators or other professional agencies; the formal channels don’t work when challenging a powerful organisation, they are a waste of time. Be prepared to lose your friends, family, home, career and your mind. Be aware that DHCFT may trash you personally and do anything to crush you into silence.

I make the following recommendations:

i. Executive Director and management accountability is required with a professional regulatory body to maintain standards of honesty, transparency and integrity among Executive Directors and ensure patient care and safety is prioritised and seen to be prioritised.

ii. There should be disciplinary action against any member of staff in the NHS who covers up, including Executive Directors.

iii. Trust Executive Board members should not hold simultaneous posts on their own regulatory bodies.

iv. Lawyers who act for the NHS and commit fraud, misconduct or contempt of court should be prosecuted and face hefty prison sentences as a deterrent

v. To avoid “cash for opinions” and the “hired gun” expert, a joint expert should be appointed from a panel based upon independently verified expert credentials and experts should be paid a fixed flat rate.

vi. Every patient who raises a complaint should appoint an independent advocate to scrutinise the complaints process externally and support the patient to get their voice heard.

vii. The NHS complaints process should not be controlled by the NHS but referred to an external independent body from the start- one that is truly independent.

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