Can you state your full name and current job title please?
John Dalrymple. I’m the Director of an organisation called Neighbourhood Networks and I’m on the Board of In Control Scotland.
Thank you. John, could you tell me please what your involvement was with Lennox Castle and how you became involved?
I had been working as the principal officer for learning disability in the social work department of Strathclyde Regional Council which by the mid-nineties was being wound up and local government was being reorganised. Just at the point that this reorganisation was happening there was a fresh impetus towards the closure of Lennox Castle between the social work department and the health board in Glasgow so the two things kind of coincided and I think not knowing what to do with someone like me in a role that was going to no longer exist, they reallocated me to the post of Joint Project Manager of the learning disability programme based at Lennox Castle. I think it was ‘The Greater Glasgow Joint Learning Disability Project’ and I was the manager of that in conjunction with Julie Donaldson, who you’ve already interviewed, so I moved physically out to Lennox Castle and that was my office space from sometime in 1995 until the summer of ’98. Our job was really to coordinate the whole assessment and commissioning side of the work; to re-commission services for people who were living in the hospital.
My job was to have an overview of the two different teams. There was an assessment team who were meeting individual people and getting to know people who had been there a long time and working at the detail of that with a view to what would be appropriate for those people if they weren’t living in the hospital; where could they live? Where should they live? Who should they live with? We had another team whose responsibility was to go out and commission support services that would be required on the back of that assessment work and that developed a third arm which was the commissioning of the housing that was required because quite quickly we realised that the big bottle-neck in all of this was going to be the absence of places for people to live. It wasn’t that were weren’t support providers, it wasn’t that people couldn’t leave hospital because that was the only place that they could possibly live, it was the fact that we hadn’t worked out where the physical housing resources would be coming from. By the end of ’98 we had reached the stage where the – there was a top site and a bottom site, and strategically the emphasis had been on closing the top site first and by, I would think, around April/ May of ‘98 the top site had been closed and the focus was shifting to the bottom half. That was the point at which I left and phase two of the closure program began.
So you were associated with Lennox Castle for about three years before the closure of it?
Three years. I suppose the job I had with Strathclyde in the run up to ’95, I was involved in discussions with Greater Glasgow health board about the future and what we were going to do and I think if you went back there was a resettlement team consisting of social workers in place out at the hospital since about 1990 or even earlier perhaps, but nothing much seemed to be happening as a result of that. I had a colleague whose job it was to go out and meet with those people once a month and there was no concerted collected will to actually make things happen. There was no overall plan that the hospital should close.
Why do you think that was?
Well at one level you couldn’t do anything, you couldn’t close the hospital without the permission of the Secretary of State for Scotland and that applied to any hospital at the time, it didn’t need to be a long stay institution, and there never had been that political will and we were going through a stage where I think the Secretary of State was somebody like Michael Forsyth. At some point Michael Forsyth came out and opened a new bowling green in the early nineties at Lennox Castle. The feeling was that while the national politicians would welcome some people moving out, they probably wouldn’t endorse a full closure. It was a sensitive issue politically. They hadn’t quite worked out their policies for the future and it was also a sensitive issue locally for local politicians around employment of people who lived in Lennoxtown and around the Campsies who’d always worked there and their families had always worked there. So there was that kind of feeling at that political level.
I think beneath that we didn’t really have any concerted agreement between the health board and the social work department that this was something that they should be pushing for, they should be saying to the Secretary of State ‘this is an outdated mode of looking after anyone and it’s high time we moved onto something better’. I think probably towards ‘94/ ’95 they finally thought ‘we are going to be serious about this and put our collective needs behind it’. Even at that point there still wasn’t Secretary of State approval and that didn’t come until much later, probably around about the time I was leaving, or earlier that year. Then there was a change of government. Donald Dewar was the Secretary of State by that time and I remember Julie going to meetings through in Edinburgh and beginning to get more sympathetic noises made that he might be willing to give consent.
So quite a challenge to even get confirmation that the hospital could close then?
Oh, yes. Absolutely. And as I say, I think what emerged around about the time that we went out to work there in ’95 was more of a joint understanding between health and social work that really we should be making this happen. Another complication, however, was the fact that the health board was split between the board and the trust. Lennox Castle was run by – I can’t remember the name of the trust – so whereas people on the health board were agreeing with folk in social work at quite a high level to put their weight behind this, there were folk in the trust who weren’t really buying into it. Especially when you got out to Lennox Castle and the local hospital managers and senior staff based at the hospital, the last thing they thought was going to happen was the hospital closing, no matter what the health board said.
Were you around when the hospital was going to close, to see what kind of thoughts people had about it? I mean, obviously it was people’s jobs, it was their livelihood. In terms of some of the staff that were there, do you think any of them, in your eyes, felt that it was the right thing to do?
I think there were clearly some individual members of staff who thought it was the right thing to do. We didn’t tend to meet those people necessarily. We tended more to meet the people who thought this was a disaster, this was very wrong and should never happen.
And what were their reasons for thinking it shouldn’t close?
At one level, they thought that this was how you looked after people with a learning disability. This close community in their eyes – mistakenly as far as I would consider – but in their eyes this was safer and better and they also linked that view to the views of some relatives whose sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had been in the place for many, many years and who’d come to an adjustment in their lives that this was the right thing and their relatives would be there forever and suddenly they were being confronted with a new thought for the future.
There was an alliance between staff who thought it was the best thing and some relatives who were outraged at the thought their son or daughter was going to ever leave Lennox Castle. The third arm of that was ultimately the trade unions associated with the staff who were saying ‘not only do we think this is the best way to go but our job is to protect the hospital, protect jobs’ so we began to encounter quite a lot of opposition which all came to a head one day with a front page of the Daily Record and the headline was Sick For Sale and the unions had some local politicians and even some national politicians – I remember Sam Galbraith was the Minister for Health – this was before we had our own parliament so he was in the Scottish office with a remit for health but he was also one of the local MPs for out there and he’s joining in the whole thing at some level. And as I say, suddenly one day driving to work, I hear on the radio that the front page of the Daily Record is all about Lennox Castle and how we are selling people off to the lowest bidder, these poor sick people that couldn’t possibly live outside the hospital.
And obviously that’s not what happened in terms of the lowest bidder. I assume that there was some kind of criteria in terms of providers that you would be looking at. What were the main characteristics of providers that you were looking to have these people resettled into the community with?
We were looking for providers that had a commitment to an individual approach, to people and a commitment to the possibilities for people, the potential for people to live more fulfilling lives and a commitment to – in the jargon of the day – community care, and not providers who were half-hearted about it and only coming in because it was a bit more work that they could take on.
And did you find that there was an abundance of these providers out there?
Well, what we had to do was we had to advertise nationally. I think the regulations at the time required us to advertise nationally. I don’t think we felt we had enough providers or a sufficient provider base in Glasgow, and so we had to advertise. The commissioning team had to go and meet providers, interview them, sometimes going south to meet organisations that didn’t work in Scotland even, and coming back and making recommendations about ‘I think we should work with this one, we shouldn’t work with that one kind of thing.’ We then had to report that back through the social work reporting system, back through the council. At the end of the day there wasn’t a shortage. I think we were criticised a bit for not developing more local organisations or helping existing local organisations grow or develop in such a way that they could play a larger part in it but we were under lots of pressure in terms of timescale and impact of costs.
We were certainly under a lot of pressure in terms of timescale and once the health service and the social work department had got it back together and thought ‘right, we’re going to go for this’, it then became this kind of mind-set that what you do is you close one ward at a time and when you close a whole ward, then you make significant savings on the site because you stop having to provide food and electricity to that building and you can de-commission a whole building whereas if you have a more person-centred approach and you’re working with people in different wards in a more walk-in principal way all of those wards stay open much longer so we had that kind of pressure upon us and there was a constant ‘hurry up, hurry up, hurry up’ message to us, who were working on it then. So, from that point of view, it was important for us to have providers around who could take the work on to the next stage although that was never as difficult as finding housing. That became a major block for a while until we developed links with housing colleagues who were able to match the people who were being assessed to housing that could be obtained.
And the team that you worked with. Who was in your team?
In the commissioning team there was Gina Heagin and she was the manager of the commissioning team. Within the commissioning team itself, there was Margaret Wheatley, Sam Smith, Michael McClemont, Nicky Bruce, a range of people from the social work department in Glasgow who had been recruited to these specific posts. And then there was an assessment team which ran in parallel to that which was headed up by someone called Norma Lynch. She was a senior social worker so Norma and Gina worked quite closely together coordinating the work of their teams and I was the manager for both Gina and Norma. Another major part of my job was to link in with Julie from the health board but also Susan Brown, who was the hospital manager who was at the other end of the corridor and was much more associated with the view that this would never really happen even though by that time she was getting strong messages that it probably would.
So obviously the hospital did close back in 2002... 2001?
I think so, yes. I had moved on by that time. Yes, 2002, and before that you’d had the Same As You coming out in 2000 I think. There was a policy document for Scotland saying that all hospitals should be closed by 2005 so by 2000 we had reached the stage where instead of having to get individual consent for each hospital through the six year stage, at this time we had a national policy saying yes, all these hospitals should close. I guess that was the final push behind the whole thing and the opposition by that time had faded away to some extent.
I mean, obviously the role you were in, you were saying earlier on that you didn’t really meet a lot of the residents that were in the hospital at the time but in your current role, do you know of anybody that was in long-stay institutions or Lennox Castle and how their lives are now?
I do know some of the people who were in Lennox Castle and someone like Tommy Morrison springs to mind quite a lot because he was one person – do you know Tommy?
I think I’ve heard of him, yes.
Tommy was never going to leave Lennox Castle. He didn’t want even to contemplate the idea and he was the sort of guy, very unusually - he wasn’t typical, but he’d made links on every ward in the place. Everybody knew Tommy. Tommy did wee jobs for different people in different wards and he’d been there since he was a boy and he’d made his whole life as a survivor really out of the hospital. He couldn’t think what life would be like if he moved on. Eventually, he did move out into his own house and I saw him recently and he seems to have thrived. There was a big thing there about how did you make the future real, or concrete, to people who, whether they were residents of the hospital, or relatives of people, how could you spell out to people what the future would look like? I think to them it just sounded like words, it wasn’t based on any experience.
If relatives, for example, were giving their concerns over, you know – what’s going to happen to my son or daughter, they’ve lived here all these years, how can anybody support them the way that the hospital does? What kind of things did you have to say to these people?
We’d try and persuade them that not only could it happen, but that it could be better, there could be a whole better quality of life for people in their own homes with better levels of staffing and more individual attention. We did some work with individuals and groups going to look at other services in other parts of the country where people had gone through this transition. Sometimes that really helped, that concrete business of saying, ‘well here we are’ – it was quite intrusive, but we’d go into people’s houses and go looking at the lives they had maybe 10/ 15 years after moving out of hospital and that did persuade some people.
I remember one father who – there was something created called the “Friends of Lennox Castle” – and he was quite a leading player in that, and we’d had some really, really difficult meetings at the hospital but I remember this particular chap whose son was in the hospital and he saw, he went to look at two or three things, and he came back slightly sheepishly to say ‘If you can do that for my son, I’m all for it’. It was a wee bit like ‘don’t tell my friends in the “Friends of Lennox Castle” but...’ I think you had to make it kind of tangible and not just rhetoric and some of the things us professionals maybe took for granted were we know what it looks like, we know what can be done and we know it will be better. Some of that stuff we had to think ‘it’s obviously not working telling people this, or saying that this can be done’, we had to take people and show them. I think at the end of the day it did boil down to ‘if you can make it work for my son or daughter in the way that I see you’ve made it work for some other people’ – and by this time we were beginning to see people move on and we weren’t needing to go down to Manchester to show them things, there were already people out of hospital in Glasgow – ‘if you can achieve that, then I’m right behind you’.
Is there anything else you want to add, any other recollections that you have that you think might be worth us hearing about?
I mentioned the time pressures we were under. Those time pressures were associated with cost pressures as well. At the end of the day we didn’t achieve the financial targets that the powers that be would have wanted us to but there was this kind of hurry up message, ‘get it done quickly, get whole wards closed as fast as you can’ kind of thing, but that was combined with ‘do it for this cost’, x thousands of pounds a year sort of thing, and that led to us I suppose not having a huge amount of imagination after a while because you knew they wanted it done this fast, and they wanted it done for this amount of money which we were struggling to achieve anyway.
So we did start to churn out group homes and it’s not – it’s still better, and I would swear my life on that. Although I hadn’t worked very long at Lennox Castle, I did go in and out of wards sufficiently to see the poverty of the lives that people were leading with their wee bed, their cupboard and their in-active lives. So, it was a hugely worthwhile thing to do but if you were going back to do it again no doubt we would be faced with the same kind of pressures of time and money, but you would want to really try and encourage the most senior people to take a long hard think about ‘is this the way you really want to do this, or could we do it in a better way if we understood the issues of time and money a bit better’?
That’s all the questions that I have to ask. I suppose the only one is your understanding that closing the hospital was the right thing to do?
Absolutely no doubt. One hundred per cent yes. I moved on to work for an organisation in Lanarkshire and our remit was to help people move out of similar but smaller hospitals in Bothwell and Lesmahagow and there were absolutely amazing stories of people who had gone in as six-year-olds and they were coming out as forty-year-olds, and it was a huge thing for them but it was still better. To leave aside staff, I’ve yet to meet the person to say ‘No, I wish I’d never left’.