The following blog has been contributed by an observer of the May Board Meeting of an NHS Trust. You can find out more details about the meeting by looking at the ‘Birmingham Activism’ area of the site. The author used dictating software to write the blog, and the blog was anonymised afterwards.
Into The Twilight Zone: A Mad Board Meeting
Hey LXP Revolution
Sorry it’s been a while. I was enjoying the weather. It’s been a nice weekend. So, just before bed I seem to remember that I promised to write out something for you so I thought I’d better get started. I don’t know what I’m going to call my blog. It might be something you might want to put in as a title I wasn’t sure whether the meeting, or the Twilight Zone or surreal meeting or mad meeting, or just not sure so feel free to pick a title.
So, what I wanted to say was that I was invited to an NHS Trust board meeting, basically it was a public meeting. So members of the public could attend hence why I was there. It seemed as though things looked okay at the beginning when I first joined. But where it started to become a little bit strange was when the chair decided that it was now the public’s time to do a q&a, and I believe we had roughly about 30 minutes, and I was only there for support. But it was quite disconcerting, as well.
So Activist A began her questioning. She had a lovely kind of countenance she had everything ready, everything was all set up. I forgot to say that obviously Activist B was on camera first, and I could feel this kind of cold gust of air, whether it was coming from the screen, the people attending or because maybe I’d left the window open, I’m not too sure. But I felt slightly unwelcome. As Activist B spoke, and it wasn’t because of what she had to say. It was just I felt the dynamics and the energy had changed on the virtual platform which of course is probably a first, especially on a virtual platform.
I ended up listening as Activist A had her questions. And each time, there was a certain member of staff who I shall name, R who ended up constantly having her hand up. So the question hasn’t finished. It’s only started probably about three five words. And there was a hand up going straight up, and there wasn’t really much listening afterwards because I could notice first bring the hand up. Miss, R that she basically had issues with Activist B. And along with Activist A. Every time she put her hand up. She kind of started to sit back and she didn’t look so she was having any kind of issues in, in trying to listen but I think she wasn’t really listening. She looked quite angry, and I felt the adrenaline probably pumping through her veins, hence why she was so quick off the mark with the raise hand button.
Activist A started with questions. R wanted to respond to every single one of them. There was almost a disdain for people with lived experience and lived experience practitioners to be in the meeting. I think she hated the questioning, which of course as a member of the public we are allowed to make. I don’t know what else to say. I just sat there it resembled a slight kind of circus ground. And actually that wasn’t from any of the LXPs that had attended.
It was just a very surreal situation we had somebody giving out a question, firstly being told that if that person has written down that question on paper, they can always send it in. I mean if you have a question. Obviously you’re not going to remember it, especially if it’s got certain things in there. So yeah, it might have been good for them to receive the questions, but you still have a right to finish your questions, and to actually say them. We’re all members of the public, we’re all sat there.
So that made me think so, there was something to hide the responses that didn’t think were very satisfactory was very much about what we don’t know anything, nobody’s told us anything. I think this is where the mismanagement. Well, the managers are so out of touch with their workers, because they all claim to basically know nothing. From middle management to board, there is quite a big gap. But is this supposed to be such a big gap that people don’t know about things such as people being discriminated against.
R has been on many training courses I’ve gathering, and I’ve seen her pop up on social media, talking about how she’s almost anti racist. And that’s all great up to a point, but it was the intersectionality that I was more concerned with, because you have somebody who is mixed race. So, ding, ding, ding, the colour. And then you also have that same person with a disability, but there was no Ding ding ding there. I didn’t understand how somebody who claims that they’re going to be anti racist or claims that they’re so well intentioned because they learned so much from people teaching her about her privilege that she would understand the basics of intersectionality, so I think there is a lot of training there that maybe people actually need. I found it actually quite hard to be in the meeting to tell the truth.
As I said earlier it’s, it just felt like it was a circus from start to finish. And I found myself quite wound up. The fact of LXPs only being paid 20 pounds a day, that really caught my goat up. I felt that was really wrong. And if we can shout about other countries paying three pence per day in the sweatshops abroad. Why is nobody shouting for people in this country 20 pounds a day that’s abysmal. How do you expect to survive on that and then also work on top of it, and you work for, let’s say eight hours 20 pounds I’m just totally lost. That’s just over two pound an hour. And I just thought wow, this is absolutely nuts. Who would work for that slave wage slave labour. So yeah, I found myself getting quite angry about that. As I said intersectionality was not really addressed, etc, so that they had any understanding of what that actually is or what that look like the strangest part of it, which I felt was a minimising exercise was in the middle of speaking.
Somebody put their hand up and I assumed it was probably going to be a question from somebody who was part of their board as a governor. And this woman comes on, lets call her Karen. So this Karen comes on and she starts talking about carers and how it was fantastic about all the work that they’ve been doing and how she’d attended these recruitment sessions. And I thought, Wait, whoa, like, Wait a minute. How can you attend a meeting, and in the middle of a serious conversation about discrimination and discriminatory practices. You come out, and you talk about, like, in the middle of the subject matter, I mean really what planet were you one. Definitely, not on Earth. And actually for me. That’s quite a worry that we have inept. People working within the NHS. I think you really needed to focus on the conversation and to really understand what the situation was. And if the questions have to go in, when do we as members of the public attend that meeting get a response. We wouldn’t that in a lot of ways, cover your own ass behaviour that I’m not such a fan of within the NHS.
Don’t get me wrong. We all want to minimise kind of things that have happened to us, especially about things, but things that are on record things that people know about things that people don’t want to know about, actually, with all the distraction techniques with the anger. But I felt within that meeting, I just thought that this wasn’t really the right place for it. We were all supposed to be adults in that conversation in here feel like it felt very, kind of one sided. And I’m quite sad to think that people with lived experience are not valued at all. I mean 20 pounds a day. Just over two pound an hour, where have we gone wrong. Where’s the country gone wrong. We’re have our officials and the leadership gone wrong. And is this a case of the pretence of being anti racist but actually covering being racist, but actually making it look as though you’re not quite disconcerting. It gets me angry every time I think about it actually, uh no meeting should ever do that to somebody, but actually I just felt that I needed to make sure that I said something about it here.
I know this is such a small blog of what happened, but some of it was just absolutely surreal. The gaslighting. The whole kind of minimization or how has happened to you. None of us did it. We didn’t do anything. No, you really do. You’ve done something you’ve actually invalidated people’s feelings. And that’s something that this place and this time, maybe even in this country, or people matter. And I think on that note, I’m going to leave it there. My recommendation would be that certain staff, if not all of them should get training on what intersectionality is. It’s not enough just to be anti racist. You have to actually know what that means. If you don’t know what that means. I’m sorry but you’re failing.
Observer from May Board Meeting of an NHS Trust in Birmingham.