RONNIE ALLAN 1953 to 2011 – Dead and Buried
In fact Ronnie was not buried – he was cremated on 5 May 2011 after killing himself with three shots from a nail gun, hired for that purpose.
At the time Ronnie was in the care of the States of Jersey and had been farmed out, at considerable public expense, into the world of a private, so called, “Luxury Residential care home” in
His suicide should have come as no surprise. He had written a handful of “suicide notes” a year previously and these had been disclosed to the appropriate staff and the police – but nothing was done officially to help him, so far as I know.
I knew Ronnie for just one year – the last year of his life – because I was already visiting a friend incarcerated in the same “luxury care home.”
Unlike Ronnie, she (F1) was severely disabled by strokes, was visibly unhappy and often talked about wishing to die. Yet she was initially well enough for a few of us to take her out on her birthday to a restaurant and she seemed to enjoy that well enough.
Yet her care was so inadequate that another old friend (OF) and I both contacted the Chief States Regulator of Care homes in April 2010 to express our disquiet about her treatment and some other aspects of the home in general.
We understand that enquiries were made – but nothing was done. Nothing improved.
We heard no more.
To give an example of my concerns, on one occasion whilst I was visiting F1, another resident of the home entered her room and without speaking a word seized the beaker of fluid from her bed-table (it might have been medicine), drank it and departed. He was of course a man with problems of his own, but apparently he frequently entered her room, at any hour of the day or night, causing her considerable distress. She had complained but nothing was done to prevent his access.
F1’s mental and physical state deteriorated rapidly during 2011 and she died soon after Ronnie killed himself.
Towards her end, both OF and I were refused admittance to the care home to see her. Previously she had complained that staff had “broken her leg” and I expressed concerns about this to the Deputy Viscount (DV) when arrangements were in hand for Ronnie’s inquest. F1 had begged me not to raise the matter with the care home staff.
The DV made enquiries and reported to me that he was assured that her leg had not been broken, but I do not know her cause of death and the DV rejected my suggestion that her subsequent death should be subject to an inquest too.
Coincidentally, soon after I began visiting F1 at the home, another friend started working there and it was her (WB) who introduced me to Ronnie Allan.
He was then a charming, modest, articulate but very lonely man of 57, who desperately wanted to leave the “luxury care home” to live on his own in
St Helier where he would be near his circle of friends. At the home he was often “locked in” or “locked out” (having no key or knowledge of the lock combination number), finding the walk into town both difficult (it involved a steep climb back from town) and subject to weather conditions.
Ronnie was admitted to the
following an accident at or near his town lodgings over Christmas 2009 and had suffered a head injury. He was subsequently taken into care at this Luxury Care home at public expense because General Hospital Jersey’s Health service is desperately short of suitable placements and wants to farm out many such cases to the “private sector.”
This particular care home is registered for just a couple of dozen residents but has had a chequered existence since it ceased trading as a private treatment centre and was converted, at considerable expense.
The main buildings are superficially attractive and comfortable but the
owned management attempts to care here for a very wide age and disability range, from Autistic teenagers to very elderly and fragile people with intense nursing care needs. UK
Respite care is one area of provision that the home seems particularly keen to offer at the present time and it is understood to be currently bidding to provide this service, for the Jersey Health Department, for the next few years.
parent business is deeply in debt to the tune of £800 millions due to be settled this September. This was reduced from £1.5 billions in 2009 following a rescue deal when the Bank of Scotland took a 40% share. UK
Adverts on the Internet show how the care group is constantly recruiting staff (of which there is a general shortage) from all over the world for its many establishments and it is apparent that there have been difficulties in finding suitable, qualified and competent staff for the group’s several Jersey homes.
Ronnie must have recovered well from his injuries but whether he was ever properly assessed or re-assessed is not known to me. When I met him he assured me that he felt fit enough and able to look after himself (although he hardly ate) but was desperate to leave the care home where he shared a room with an aged, alcoholic smoker with a heavy cough. Ronnie found it difficult to sleep there.
Ronnie had previously given up smoking (so he said) but re-started whilst living at the home and it was also subsequently claimed, by others, that he too was an alcoholic showing Korsakoff’s symptoms.
If Ronnie did ever have a drink problem I was not aware of it.
During the year that I knew him he sometimes drank coffee or a half pint of lager which often took him an hour or more to consume.
He claimed to be uncertain why he was being detained at this home, that he had asked to leave and that he did not knowingly have a social worker appointed.
I began to know Ronnie through giving him lifts into town and learned that he had broken his back in a fall as a carpenter on a
Jersey building site in 2004 and been unable to work since.
I offered to help if possible to return him to independent living and to engage a lawyer through the legal aid scheme to advise him regarding his accidents, current standards of care and housing status. We duly filled out the relevant forms so a lawyer was appointed to investigate and advise. She claimed to have
expertise in care home cases. The legal aid certificate was (finally) issued on 2 August 2010 after some delays. UK
I contacted several States members, including past and present Ministers and officers of the Housing Department, Trusts and Roseneath hostel with a view to obtaining suitable housing accommodation. Ronnie and I attended many appointments together - with the lawyer, the Social Security Department, CAB or elsewhere - and met States members to raise other concerns. We spoke together on the ‘phone many times about any progress - but there was none. This dialogue went on until the end of November 2010. On the 9 November, following many ‘phone calls, I helped him complete an application form to be accommodated by a Trust and returned this to Deputy Green (then a backbencher) and on the 19th of that month wrote again to the Deputy confirming that it was in order for him to contact the Housing Department for any further details.
On the 21st of November I wrote to Ronnie’s lawyers expressing concern at their lack of progress and the non-arrival of certain papers.
The only real success was that following our visit, his bank agreed to re-issue his credit or debit card so that he might access his limited funds. We learned there that the bank claimed to have been instructed by the care home not to issue a card.
Ronnie had rattled off his bank account number from memory on this occasion when asked and this was typical of his ability to remember and recall information.
For a while Ronnie seemed much more cheerful and optimistic, presumably in anticipation that he might soon leave the care home.
At the end of June 2010, WB, had become so concerned about the low standards of care at the home that she “blew the whistle” by contacting the CEO of the group in
and the head of the Jersey Registration and Inspection service. She also resigned her job there and went with Ronnie to consult his GP. England
She also attended a day long interview, in company with Deputy Tadier, on 2 July making a formal complaint to (RO) another Registration and Inspection Officer at the Jersey Health Department.
This complaint concerned many specific concerns about the care of several residents at the care home, including Ronnie Allan and F1, besides more general matters about staff competence and training and she signed a six page witness statement.
The Inspector RO wrote in August that he had completed his investigation of the concerns raised by WB and published his own report - dated 4 August - which included just a few criticisms of the home’s management and offered only minimal recommendations for change.
Deputy Tadier tabled written questions to the Minister of Health on 6 July and 12 October 2010 with regard to matters arising from these concerns.
Meanwhile, from 17 to 22 June 2010 an advertisement appeared in the JEP for a Home Manager for the same care home.
According to the Health Minister’s answer of 12 October to Deputy Tadier in the States, the investigation of the complaint by RO was completed on 23 July and he applied for the advertised job on 26 July, was interviewed on 29 July and received written confirmation offering him the post on 4 August – the same day that he signed his report.
He tendered his resignation the same day and became manager of the care home soon afterwards.
His former job as a Registration and Inspection Officer was advertised in the JEP on 26 August 2010 and a successor appointed “in the last few days” according to the Health Minister (in the States) on 12 October.
Deputy Pryke added…“I am satisfied that the utmost probity has been undertaken by the officers of the Health Protection Service.”…”the appropriate level of investigation has been undertaken”…”I do not consider in the circumstances that it is either expedient or appropriate for there to be yet another investigation. The home will continue to be inspected twice a year in accordance with statutory regulations.”
Progress with Ronnie’s appointed lawyers was very slow. Ronnie had asked me to deal with them on his behalf, in part because it was sometimes inconvenient for him to walk into town but also because he wanted his affairs kept private from the care home staff – who he suspected of interfering with his mail. The months rolled by. In spite of many reminders, the Housing Department would not respond positively or at all. Other potential housing leads also remained in limbo.
Then out of the blue one day in the autumn I received a ‘phone call from a woman demanding to know who I was, my full name and address and other personal details. I asked who she was and was told that she was Ronnie’s Social Worker (SW) and she did not like my involvement in his case. Somewhat surprised and having discovered who she was I offered to meet with her immediately to discuss his problem. She declined, saying that she was too busy, was only part-time and would go off duty in about one hour. She could offer no other possible time to meet and was going on holiday.
It was to be a turning point.
I ‘phoned Ronnie who was very upset because she had also advised him to have nothing further to do with me. I said that in the circumstance he had better deal through her and that I would also advise the lawyers accordingly. But we should keep in touch.
Following this intervention my dealings with Ronnie were much reduced. We spoke only a few times by ‘phone and his lawyers refused to speak with me about his case because I was not their client. Ronnie became very subdued.
Ronnie Allan died at the
on 14 April 2011 after shooting himself with a nail gun, at the care home. He had hired the nail gun for that purpose locally. General Hospital
I learned about this after reading a comment on a blog-site and discussed the matter with WB, the whistle-blower who had previously worked at the care home. She proposed sending a copy of her witness statement to the Deputy Viscount and offered to assist him in any way.
I too drafted a statement and contacted the Deputy Viscount to express my concerns. He referred me to the States Police and I attended several interviews on or after 2 May with a view to producing a revised version that better suited their needs.
In fact, I found the Police officers to be generally unhelpful and ill informed. They had no knowledge of Ronnie’s previous “suicide letters” and did not seem keen to discover it. Their purpose appeared to be primarily to “cleanse” my statement of criticisms and I declined to sign their version.
I re-drafted my own statement of six pages and submitted this to the Deputy Viscount on 10 May and asked to be invited to attend the inquest.
I wrote that “there are several issues referred to above [i.e. in my written submission] which warrant further investigation because they suggest inadequate or improper conduct which might;
a) Have contributed to Mr Allan’s state of mind or
b) Warrant censure or
c) Need to be addressed for the protection and well being of others.
…..Also that the circumstances of his detention at [the care home] and the restrictions imposed upon his several freedoms, should be investigated.”
The inquest was delayed but finally took place on Monday 19 September 2011.
It was late in starting on the day because the police had failed to produce important documents.
I had suggested several people to the Deputy Viscount that might usefully be called to speak – including WB the whistle-blowing former employee - and asked that I should be able to comment if necessary. None were called and I was refused permission.
Both the pathologist and the Senior Psychiatric worker called as witnesses had never met Ronnie Allan whilst he was alive. Yet both presumed to describe in detail how he had severe alcohol induced impairments and that his general behaviour, abilities and faculties such as memory were severely damaged.
They described a person who was totally different from the Ronnie Allan that I had known. I specifically asked to be permitted to question the veracity of this evidence but was denied.
Ronnie Allan’s GP was not called although he had been, to my certain knowledge, consulted recently by Ronnie with regard to several ailments and with a view to achieving his “release” from the care home to a more suitable place.
Ronnie’s social worker (SW) spoke for about twenty five minutes.
She described herself as a “social worker with a university degree” and repeated the tale about Ronnie’s “history of alcohol abuse” and how he “was always very charming” but “lacking in capacity.”
She also described how an attempt to have a curatorship initiated was refused by the Crown Officers because he lacked sufficient financial assets to pay their charges and there were no next of kin in
Jersey to assist him.
His bank, she explained, froze his account “due to his lack of capacity,” but it had been arranged for the care home to manage his pocket money and an “unmet need form had been completed.”
The legal basis for these arrangements was not clarified.
On the contrary, SW explained that there was no clear procedure for Ronnie to be sectioned or articled and that the whole basis of the concept of “capacity” was uncertain under
Furthermore, when his GP referred him for re-assessment by a Mental Health Team on 29 June it was decided that he did, in fact have “capacity” and following the whistle blowing (by WB) an “emergency review” took place but SW did not participate in it.
She used the expression “duty of care” on several occasions and how Ronnie wanted “his own front door and key.”
On 12 April 2011 she “reviewed Ronnie in his apartment” and explained how “he seemed positive – there was no evidence of Mental Health issues…but his was a complex case with many issues.”
During September SW must have become aware of my existence because she claimed that I was “verbally aggressive (to her), his lawyers and the bank” and that “we had an adult protection case conference which was not upheld due to lack of evidence.” I presume that this latter was the official and failed attempt by the Health Department to investigate and destroy my character and friendship with Ronnie.
Nevertheless she had clearly felt it sufficiently important to rubbish my reputation and participation for trying to assist Ronnie and the Deputy Viscount clearly deemed it appropriate to allow her to make such unwarranted statements, based largely on hearsay.
I asked to be able to respond to her statement but was only permitted to reply to those comments that referred specifically and critically to me. These comments had, of course, very little to do with the tragic circumstances of Ronnie Allan’s death.
At the conclusion of the hearing the Deputy Viscount outlined his duties as he sees them and that his brief narrative statement would be submitted to the Bailiff for his approval prior to the death being notified to the Parish Registrar for entry in the deaths book.
I wrote to the Bailiff, following the Inquest on 20 September 2011 that I was not satisfied with the proceedings related to Ronnie Allan’s treatment and care, his death by suicide and the subsequent inquiries as carried out under the Deputy Viscount’s authority. I copied my statement of 10 May to the Bailiff, complained that personal criticism of me had been permitted whilst I and others had not been called or allowed to speak and I suggested that the whole “inquest” process needed to be looked at afresh and reformed. I also suggested that there might be Human Rights defects in the inquest process and that the public interest was not being adequately served etc.
The Bailiff referred my letter to the Viscount.
On 1st December I wrote again to the Bailiff that I had received no response from the Viscount nor had I been invited to speak with him or to answer any questions.
The Viscount’s office responded on 6 December to advise that the Viscount would meet me during the week commencing 19 December. A meting duly took place and he personally undertook to investigate the matters complained of.
Following a couple of chance meetings in the Royal Square with the Viscount I learned that the investigation had been completed but it was not clear what action if any he proposed to take, except that he agreed that the acoustic systems at tribunals needed to be improved and that the public notification of inquests should be addressed.
I contacted the Viscount’s office again at the end of March 2012 for news of progress and asked for a copy of his report. This was supplied to me on 29 March and transpires to have been written by an Assistant Judicial Greffier, who sat next to me during the inquest. It is hardly an independent or useful document.
It is dated 2 February 2012 and endorsed;
“This report is confidential and is not to be reproduced, transmitted or shared with any other parties in any format, printed or electronic.”
In the covering letter dated 29 March 2012, the Assistant Greffier also wrote;
“Please note (as stated on the document) that the contents of this document are confidential and are not to be copied, reproduced, transmitted or published in any way and in any medium, printed or electronic.
Please also note that our telephone conversation was also confidential and nothing that I said during that conversation is to be quoted or repeated in any medium, electronic or printed.”
To date, the only useful result of all my efforts is that the day and time of inquest hearings is now posted on the electronic screen in the internal lobby of the main entrance to the courts/States' building.
It is a wholly inadequate response to the tragic events of the past two years.
As a postscript, the Health, SS and Housing Scrutiny Panel has this week published its report on Respite Care for Children and Young Adults (SR 2/2012).
I (among others) asked for this Review to take place although I did want it to look rather wider than just at the facilities for young people.
Suffice to say that the luxury care home that “cared” for Ronnie and F1 features in this Scrutiny Report and I hope that many people will study very carefully the comments that are offered both there and here.
A previous report to the States (on Stakeholder Consultation in January 2010) included the following advice from the Law Officers;
“The current legislation underpinning care homes is no longer fit for purpose.”
That report also questioned whether the regulator should sit within the Public Health and Social Services Department at all.