Petition update

Important statement about Bob Harvey and his little dog. Please read!

TRACEY STREIT
Carlisle, United Kingdom

Mar 28, 2017 — Written by Arthur Shuter

Almost 4 months ago my attention was brought to an online petition because it was seen to be just the sort of thing that I get my teeth into. I read it, signed it and then monitored progress.

I became increasingly concerned by what I was witnessing and, due to the implications of the wider issues being exposed, I joined in as 'Team Bob' expanded from being a former work colleague of Bob Harvey and his daughter to an array of people with varying expertise from all over the world. Team Bob now consists of 18 - 19 people who are firm in their belief that this case must be fought and won - not just for Bob and Darkie, but for vulnerable care home residents in the private care sector across the whole of the UK.

Even so, I was based in London and Bob and Darkie are ten miles across the border into Scotland. My outlook on this case was based entirely on information coming through from people on the ground and this was completely at odds with the repeated position taken by the Care provider involved.

The defence being put forward for the apparently unspeakable actions of Mead Medical Holdings/Services Ltd was that they had a duty to protect the best interests of their vulnerable residents and they were faced with a tenant who owned a dog which he could no longer take care of, which was increasingly out of control and which was becoming unpredictable and aggressive and this situation placed the residents at risk.

Despite the fact that experts were reporting that Darkie was a mild-mannered dog with no temperament issues and had lived amongst the frail residents at the Care Home for 4 years and fully appreciated the need to avoid getting in their way as they moved around, Mead Medical rigidly adhered to their stance that Darkie was a constant trip hazard and was out of control.

Having been very vociferous in my condemnation of what was happening at Burnfoot Hall and with increasing concerns as to the way things were heading, I took the decision to drive to Ecclefechan last week and I spent 3 consecutive days with Bob and Darkie.

Before travelling, I contacted Mead Medical via their solicitors. I suggested a meeting to discuss the situation so as to seek an amicable solution to this stalemate. I believed that the overwhelming public support afforded to Bob and Darkie might have encouraged them to consider the position they were taking and to deliberate on their handling of this matter.

The response from their solicitors was brief and concise:-

● There will be no meeting.
● Bob and Darkie must be gone no later than 19th April 2017
● I was permitted to visit Bob but must make no attempt to enter any communal areas at the home or to have any contact with other residents. If I failed to comply I would be immediately removed from the premises.

These threats were as empty as Burnfoot Hall was because Mead Medical and senior management at the Home were conspicuous by their absence. Those members of the management who were present made every attempt to keep out of my way and constantly scurried away as I moved freely and unchallenged around the premises.

I came into contact with members of the care team and front house staff. They appeared to welcome my presence and knew who I was. But they were also clearly not willing, or able, to say anything. I will add here that the carers who do the real work at Burnfoot Hall are amazing and totally blameless. They are committed and are thin on the ground, doing a thankless job for little reward, other than their devotion.

So I met Bob and Darkie his pet dog.

I will be 60 years of age next month and have spent my whole life around animals of all descriptions. When I came across the out of control, aggressive dog who would squat or cock his leg and do his business anywhere without warning, as described by Michael Best, I found the timid, well behaved, well trained and controlled Miniature Schnauzer which is the real Darkie.

As for Bob. He is a genuine and likeable chap. This whole situation has clearly told on him. Having suffered a complete kidney failure 17 years ago, he is kept alive by 3 x 6 hour trips to the specialist renal unit at Carlisle Infirmary where he undergoes dialysis.

After 55 years of marriage to Margaret, her condition deteriorated rapidly due to worsening dementia. Bob decided to sell their home and move to a Care establishment where Margaret's increasing care needs would be catered for.

Privately run Burnfoot Hall was chosen because they had specialist care for dementia sufferers, agreed to accept Bob as a tenant and because they had an open pet policy and were quite willing to accept Darkie, their pet dog of 6 years, as part of the package.

The management at Burnfoot Hall at the time were extremely helpful and assured Bob that the 3 of them were welcome and that, if they chose Burnfoot Hall, they would 'have a home for life'.

Margaret continued to deteriorate and sadly passed away 2 years later. Bob was given the option to stay on as a tenant or to become a resident. He chose a Tenancy.

In 2013 Bob signed a Tenancy for himself at £115 per week. There have been 3 annual increments and his fee is now £300 per week. We will not now know what his fee would have been from mid-April.

Margaret was accepted as a full fee paying resident due to her constant care needs. I do not know what her weekly fee was to begin with or what increases were made after they moved in. Unfortunately, Bob is still grieving and bursts into tears virtually every time her name is mentioned, so I have been unable to get details.

Bob is terminally ill and is being kept alive by kidney dialysis machines 3 times each and every week. He has general health issues, which any 87 year old man would.

However, despite his ailments, Bob is amazingly aware, determined and of strong mind. This, I now believe, is the heart of the problem.

The case of Mary Gray, an 84 year old dementia sufferer evicted from Kingsmead Care Home last year can be viewed on Google at 'bbc radio scotland/Mead Medical holdings'

The reason given by Mike Best in that instance was, although Mary Gray herself had done no wrong, her son and daughter-in-law began finding fault soon after Mary moved in, also 4 years previously, and were 'disruptive'.

Mary Gray was evicted and eventually was relocated to an alternative care home, although she passed away soon after doing so.

There was an obvious clash of personalities between Mr. Best and the son of Mary Gray. Michael Best's egomania won the day and Mary Gray paid the ultimate price.

Nevertheless, no lessons were learned and the challenge Bob poses to the ego of Michael Best has made him the next target.

This raises concerns as to which and how many of the other tenants at Burnfoot Hall, or at any of the 7 Care Homes which Mead Medical run, will soon begin to suffer a similar fate?

We all know about the 7 year itch. But, in the world of the likes of Michael Best, this appears to be a 4 year itch. This seems to be how little time it takes to significantly increase care home fees to syphon away the proceeds of the sale of a family home and then discard their cash cows to make way for equally vulnerable residents with recently inflated bank balances.

This is the most despicable form of social cleansing which I have ever come across and must be brought to an immediate end.

For their part, the solicitors behind whom Michael Best and Mead Medical Services Ltd are currently hiding can be held accountable to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) for any part they play in this case, or any involvement in the deplorable treatment of Mary Gray.

The SLCC are the Scottish equivalent of the SRA in England and Wales. They effectively control regulated solicitors and ruthlessly protect the reputation of the regulated legal profession.

Mead Medical Services Ltd and the Care Sector as a whole are 'regulated' by the Care Inspectorate in Scotland and by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England and Wales.

However, both are merely toothless organisations who can chose to inspect a Care Home at a time of their choosing, can find fault and make recommendations - but little else. They have no power to FORCE a 'Care Provider' to do anything, or not do something. Providers can accept and comply with recommendations, or not, with impunity.

As a result, anyone who places an elderly vulnerable relative in a private care home can never be certain what the outcome will be.

Bob Harvey and his devoted pet dog have become minor celebrities. But their future remains very uncertain.

Bob is now inclined (even desperate) to leave Burnfoot Hall and move to a private bungalow where he will have no security of tenure beyond a standard Tenancy which can be ended at any time. He accepts that he would be at risk and would be isolated and would have little or no care provision. But he now feels he has little choice.

Support from the public and voluntary groups has been overwhelming. But the system and safeguards have let Bob down badly. The local authority have decided, at a very late stage, that they may be inclined to come on board, although they are not falling over themselves to come to the aid of a vulnerable pensioner.

Simply because Bob and Margaret got themselves a lovely black miniature Schnauzer when they were 70+ and chose to call it Darkie, the press and media are nervous to give the case too much attention.

Politicians at the highest level have known about Bob's plight for some time. When the petition signatures topped 100,000 it was not enough. Now I am told that it needs to be 300,000. In a few days time, when that higher target is reached, I fear they will decide that the signatures may not all be those of UK citizens, so do not count.

This is no longer just about Bob Harvey and Darkie. It goes right to the heart of everything which is wrong with the apathetic society which we have created and the most vulnerable in that society are being made to pay the price.

Newspaper editors and programme producers need to grow a pair right now and stop worrying about the pathetic politically correct brigade.

Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon are busy women right now. But it is time to prioritise and to accept the responsibilities which at least one of them was elected to assume.

The CQC and, in particular, the Care Inspectorate, must be given the powers to directly intervene and to take full control of the Care Homes run by Mead Medical Services Ltd before 19th April 2017 (when Bob's Tenancy expires) and need to be given the powers to properly and effectively regulate the private care sector. New Management Teams should be put into Burnfoot Hall within weeks and to replace or monitor the existing management in all failing care homes. If this all requires a change in the law then work on that should begin tomorrow.

The undisputed benefits of pets in Care Homes, particularly those catering for vulnerable residents need to be understood and this should form the basis of the introduction of a common pets policy in the care sector.

The comments made to me by Michael Best when I suggested he was wrong to deprive the residents of Burnfoot Hall of the companionship of the dog, whom they all loved having around need full consideration. His answer was 'but they have alzheimers so do not have the capacity to know what they do or don't want'. With people of such mindset being left to assume responsibility for our most vulnerable pensioners in the final years of their lives, allowing this to continue brings shame on us all.

I have spent time drawing this up as an update for the petition site and for posting on social media.

Before sending it to politicians and the press and media I must first edit out the unmentionable name of Bob's companion and final link to the wife he still grieves for.

A final message to Bob. Do not give in Bob. I, along with all right minded people, stand by you 100%. If Mead Medical Services Ltd and others like them are allowed to get away with this then many people will suffer, mostly in isolated silence.

Full background details can be found on the petition page at change.org/savebobsdog


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