Deaf ear no more from public bodies for election candidate Andrew Muir
On the campaign trail – Andrew Muir, , who is standing for election on an anti-corruption ticket, pictured with his wife, Claire.
Since when were people whom we consider eccentric not permitted to follow the advice of ordinary folk when they feel they have been let down by a public authority?
“I would write to them right away and complain” … “I would take it up with them” … “I would ‘phone them and tell them what you think” … “That’s ridiculous”.
No one would disagree that the Houses of Parliament have their share of eccentrics, as does Holyrood and, thankfully, for the moment at least, people can still take their case or complaint to Brussels.
Some would go as far as to say that these places are full of eccentrics.
For example, let’s take Boris Johnston, the Prime Minister no less. Perhaps not. He is most definitely not “normal”.
That is why I was delighted to see that Andrew Muir has put his name down as an Independent candidate for the West Dunbartonshire seat in the forthcoming General Election.
Andrew is not normal either. He plays chess, after all. He was the best chess player in the whole of Scotland at one time. That’s definitely not normal.
He is 61 years old, a pensions actuary, employment for which one has to be something of a brainbox, and he lives in Dumbarton with his wife, Claire, and daughter, Katherine.
Andrew is a regular church attender at St Patrick’s, Dumbarton. He is proud of the fact that his mother, Marjorie, used to run the Life shop in Dumbarton High Street, which provided baby clothes and essential other items for young mothers who could not afford the expense of having a baby.
Marjorie Muir was married to his late father, William, for over 60 years.
He told me: “I am standing against the human rights policies of Martin Docherty and as the anti-corruption candidate.
“In July, Martin Docherty went out of his way to vote in favour of abortion in Northern Ireland.
“[My wife] Claire asked Mr Docherty to attend a parliamentary meeting to discuss the Mental Health Act, also in July, but he had better things to do.”
Andrew is well known as a campaigner for better provision in this area for people with mental health problems.
The authorities pay lip service to what needs to be done, but when push comes to shove, they have “better thing” to do and there is no money in the budget.
Mental health is not a vote catcher. Sufferers are often stigmatized rather than given the assistance they require.
Mr Muir said: “Ever since I have been in Dumbarton, it has been alleged that the health board and the council have been corrupt, with officers walking away from the area with large salaries and pensions,whilst covering up mistakes.”
He added: “I have found the legal authorities unjust too with it being very rare for a public sector employee to be prosecuted and the police intolerably slow to investigate crimes.”
Like a remarkably high number of people, Andrew considers West Dunbartonshire Council to be a basket case.
His views about the Health Board not being fit for purpose appear to have been borne out this week when the Health Secretary, Jeanne Freeman, put that organisation into special measures, which means top officials are being sent in to run it properly.
This could happen soon to the Council, which is forever at the centre of controversy, covering up scandals and cutting off communications with journalists anxious to find out what they are up to.
Provision has been made for the public to ask questions at an “Open Forum” at West Dunbartonshire Council meetings.
The only anomaly about this supposedly “open” forum is that it is closed. At least it’s closed to Andrew Muir.
At least it is closed to some people such as Andrew Muir who has been a pain in the tail for the administrators of West Dunbartonshire Council, the associated Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Andrew has every right to be an irritant to these organisations whose usual stance (only stance?) is that they will brook no criticism.
They seldom, if ever, admit their mistakes and tie people up in endless miles of red tape, such as the mothers of the children who died from drinking contaminated water at the new £100 million hospital complex in Glasgow.
They are prepared to spend thousands of pounds of public money, your money, to protect their sometimes-indefensible position and their self-perception of infallibility.
Someone should tell the Council, the HSCP and NHS Glasgow that a person who never made a mistake never made a discovery (Samuel Smiles).
These large organisations are also prepared to be sleekit about the way they go about their business.
For example, since they have a great deal of time and money on their hands, they want to obfuscate, ridicule and confuse the public. It’s all about them and very little about us.
Andrew Muir is what people in the public service business call a red flag person.
This means Andrew should be avoided at all times by any pen pusher worth the ink in his biro.
West Dunbartonshire Council Chief Executive Joyce White knew just what to do when Andrew’s request for an Open Forum Question landed on her desk.
She shunted it off to the Health and Social Care Partnership, a sort of Limbo organisation between the council and the NHS health board.
Rather pompously, one of the great army of highly-paid public service administrators was delegated to send a letter to Mr Muir telling him he would not be allowed to appear before the Open Forum.
She made it clear that while it was open to others, it certainly wasn’t open to him.
Her reply said: “The criteria for Open Forum questions includes that Questions should not seek to raise an issue where Council has provided an alternative appeal or other procedure to be followed.”
She maintained that from the material Andrew Muir had sent with his letter, his case fell into that category.
Beth Culshaw, Chief Officer, West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care partnership in December 2017, advised Mr Muir that she was unable to identify any new issues that had not already been fully investigated as part of his original complaint made in 2008.
This complaint, which was considered by the Social Work Complaints Review Sub-Committee on 30 October, 2008, was not upheld.
So, ten years on, Ms Culshaw was therefore unable to reopen the case or listen to any new evidence or changes in circumstance that might throw new light on the situation.
“I regret I can be of no more assistance to you in this regard,” wrote the clerk who signed the letter to Mr Muir.
Andrew Muir and his wife, Claire, who was an Independent candidate in the last Westminster election in the West Dunbartonshire seat won from Labour by the SNP’s Martin Docherty-Hughes, was once again been left swinging in the wind.
He was not being allowed to ask his Open Forum question on March 5 when the council meets.
It would seem that whenever the bureaucrats and politicians around here have a serious problem which might reflect badly on them and their organisation, they close ranks and opt for the red flag solution.
It could be argued that this stigmatises complainers with mental health problems or related mental health problems and makes them persona non-grata.
It would appear that SNP council leader Jonathan McColl is dodging the issue despite the fact that Andrew Muir has been courteous to a fault to him and his fellow councillors.
John Brown, Jane Grant and Jonathan McColl
Cllr McColl’s opinion of the Health Board, whose chair is John Brown and Chief Executive Jane Grant, is illustrated by the fact he thought in August that it would be better for him to sit in his office answering his mail than attending one of their meetings.
Mr Muir is asking for is that the council, through the health and social care partnership, have another look at the case he has brought to them. He claims he has new information on the case of his wife, Claire, who was detained under the Mental Health Act.
“New information shows that the previous investigation in 2008 was inaccurate and incomplete,” he told them.
Mr Muir added: “I don’t see that it should be particularly expensive to have a fresh investigation and the benefits to the community will be great in having the NHS under greater scrutiny and higher quality services. You will need to find three people with unbiased and inquiring personalities.
“You have previously said that a question cannot be asked about individual cases. If so this is an unnecessary barrier to the truth and explains why the NHS is authoritative, unaccountable and why they have closed much of our hospital [the Vale] in the last 15 years with impunity.”
What questions do Andrew and Claire Muir want answer to? There will be no peace of mind for them until they receive satisfactory answers.
They want full transcripts of the Mental Health Tribunals which Claire attended along with a letter from the Mental Welfare Commission detailing that the Mental Health Officer interview was “short”.
They also require a copy of an assessment by Dr Kirk Russell on the day of Claire’s admission to the Christie Ward at Vale of Leven Hospital which stated “patient not obviously detainable”.
The Muirs are of the opinion that the correct procedures were not followed during the admission process. That is that there was no interview by the Mental Health Officer or contact with Mr Muir before the Short-Term Detention Certificate was completed.
It is Mr Muir’s view that Claire has never had a mental illness and has never posed any risk to anyone and that she received unnecessary medication throughout her detention.
He alleges that on or about 5th September 2006 she was ill-treated by being given a dangerous amount of medication and suffered severe bruising as a result.
And at Lochgilphead Hospital she received an unnecessary physical sexual examination
Community activists Councillor Jim Bollan and community councillor Rose Harvie can find nothing in the council’s standing orders which would prevent him putting his questions to the council in open forum.
Although Cllr Bollan considers that he may have to re-frame at least one of his questions.
Mr Muir claims it is nonsense to suggest he be barred from appearing when only recently a woman brought her own case before them. It involved a pony and access to a field where it grazes.
Perhaps the council considers the well-being of horses more important than the mental health issues of housewives?
Is their commitment to more sensitive treatment for mental health patients by the NHS and related organisations anything more than fine sounding words from politicians, officials and public relations people?
If these words mean one thing though, it is that mental health issues have not received the attention they merit in the past.
Patients and their relatives deserve better, much better from the authorities and the council, which has taken the HSCP under its wing, should see to it that they are no longer treated as second class citizens.
There are people who suffer from the fact that to others they appear to be eccentric, but that doesn’t mean they are mentally ill. Who is “normal” after all?