What Would You Do?

Let’s imagine this:  you join your new job and get trained.  It’s all very exciting, you’ve wanted to do little else apart from this your whole life.

You start going to work and are asked to undertake one of your reasonably infrequent functions in a particular way.  You see it done like this countless times and although not ideal, it always seems to end up OK.  So you start doing likewise without a thought to the contrary.

You learn later – not because you are told, but because you learn of some unfolding events – that the way in which you have been asked to complete this function is a breach of statutory guidelines that were not really made known to you during your training.  It turns out they were issued by a Secretary of State under the authority of an Act of Parliament and therefore carry a force of law.  You read them and are fairly surprised how little bearing they have on reality.

You learn of this because you see some of your colleagues who have done what you would probably have done, broadly in the way you would have done it, getting into some quite serious trouble.  This is not just, “the boss having a word” type trouble or even “formal warnings” trouble.  The boss has been going along with it too and when they did your job, they did what you and your colleagues have been doing, in the same way you’ve been doing it.   That was the way that they were asked to do it too.  This has been the case for decades and your organisation is getting into trouble along with your colleagues.

The problem is, you have started to realise the ‘trouble’ in which your colleagues and your organisation have found themselves, is actually quite serious legal trouble.  They have been on the receiving end of advice, direction and / or sanction from a statutory regulator because they broke the law.  Sued in the civil courts – successfully; told that they have breached people’s Human Rights.  There have even been prosecutions in the criminal courts and high-profile Coroner’s Inquests.   Some colleagues actually did sit down with their families to start considering how they will live their lives after being sacked and imprisoned.  A few of those discussions ended in personal tragedy:  mental health & well-being affected, physical illness following weight gain, weight loss and problems in terms of marriage-ending conversations and personal and professional problems.

Of more importance than a lot of this, are events that have befallen people to whom you, your colleagues have owed a professional duty of care who have been badly let down, despite the efforts and intentions of you all.

The mustered responses to these suggestions of wrong-doing in these different arenas all somehow sounded horribly inadequate, somewhat like a Nuremberg Defence.  Of course it turns out – but you admit to knowing this all along – your first responsibility is to the law; not to preferences, directions and personal or even professional opinions which are at odds with the law.

So, you read up on this in detail.  What you learn, is that the law wanted you to do it differently all along and if you keep doing what others have done, you could well end up in very serious legal trouble.  The ability to do it properly relies upon others who don’t see it your way and over whom you ultimately have no control; and who don’t end up in such trouble as your colleagues when it goes awry.  But you learn that various things others don’t want you to do are not actually illegal and would considerably assist you in demonstrating that you did the right thing, as far as you possibly could so.

So what would you do tomorrow?


8 thoughts on “What Would You Do?

  1. Wow. This is exactly what happened to a very dear friend. Making a choice in most jobs just doesn’t carry the same weight as in the Police (and a smattering of other jobs too).

    To answer the question, I would do the right thing. Not the easy thing. And hope to lead by example, even when that lead is against the tide.

    1. Thanks for saying so and validating my view because suggestions of doing nothing for patients and attempting to justify police tactics have come in. Ironically, I can name the man who is alive today who would (according to an A&E consultant) be dead if the police had not ‘done the right thing’ by ignoring a frequently offered viewpoint and choosing to comply with the law. The post does not just relate to policing, though or even to policing / mental health issues. Thanks again.

  2. Are you aware of the current problems with the capacitys act. In relation to ambulance staffs requests for police assistance to remove a patient to hospital with us. I believe their have recently been issues in London .
    A memo has been sent I gmp staff advising them they are not to forcibly remove a patient at our request under the capacitys act.

    1. Yes, I am aware. I’m not a lawyer, but I take the view that the ‘Sessey’ case is being misinterpreted because the legal point agreed between the Met Commissioner and the plaintiff in that action was that the police had no power to remove someone whom they believed lack capacity to a place of safety to be ‘plugged into’ the s136 MHA process.

      I’m worried that there will be a job where an incapacitated patient who is at very serious risk of medical nightmares or even death will not get removed to A&E.

      What I would say, is that sometimes requests that I’m aware of personally have been made by MH or Ambo to coerce someone to hospital when actually the threat medical risks being faced were not so serious as to justify that level of invasion into people’s privacy and personal integrity. I think we should only be considering MCA intervention when the risks are quite literally life threatening without IMMEDIATE removal to A&E. If intervention is needed in someone’s own home then there are legal responses to that and MH services and LAs need to understand that. Where MCA intervention to stop someone self-harming could maintain them in their own for th brief period until a warrant under the MHA is obtained or until an addresses is attended for MH assessment, then this would be more justifiable in my view.

      It would be right that the police stood their ground on these points, but it is massively complex area. We need to acknowledge that sometimes these requests are made of the police only because 24/7 MH Crisis Teams lack the capacity and more rarely they lack the will to attend such incidents.

    2. I work for GMP and we’ve had no such email. The biggest problem with NWAS is they regularly confuse MCA with 136 MHA. I’m aware of your training and it’s inconstant and your trainers aren’t really sure what the MCA entails. But then again so do most of GMP staff. Our policy is to always call an ambulance and you take lead on the decision as to wether MCA is to be relied on.

  3. I would like to understand this but it is too abstruse for me.

    I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse but I prefer to be oblivious to its requirements in order not to muddy the waters of my own conscience and judgement. Luckily in my profession (teaching) the consequences are evidently not so profound. If found to be in error I always fall back on the aforementioned conscience and judgement. This eases my mind and lets me hold my head high.

    In short: I wouldn’t do your job for all the tea in China. And Sri Lanka.

  4. this is why i carry a copy of the code of practice with me i have on many occasions pointed out the law and refused to go along with other professionals suggestions and when i have suspected breeches of the law reported them. Its upset a few people along the way but that’s a price worth paying. Admittedly most incidents have been where people were trying to do what they believed was the right thing or because of lack of knowledge but its our job to use the law as it is and if you don’t know get legal advice.

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