My name is Julie Murray and I’m currently the Director of the Community Health and Care Partnership in East Renfrewshire. When I first got involved with Lennox Castle, it was back I think in about 1993 when I first came to - it was Greater Glasgow then – it’s now Greater Glasgow and Clyde. I moved up in 1993 and I’d previously been working for Mencap in London and I moved into a – it was really a planning role, and it was for the mental health unit then. It was pre-trust days and obviously there’s been huge amounts of re-organisation in the NHS since then but my role was really to help develop some of the strategic plans both for mental health and learning disability and in Greater Glasgow at the time there were a number of big institutions; there were Gartloch and Woodilee and Leverndale, and obviously Lennox Castle was where people with learning disabilities lived.
I remember my very first involvement – and I’m very proud of this but nobody else will remember this. When we were first writing our strategic plans from a mental health unit perspective, I put something in which was suggesting that in time as we helped people to move on and to find their own lives in the community and we looked to re-design health services, there may be no need in the future for institutions like Lennox Castle. I think that was the first time that anyone had raised that within the Greater Glasgow context because at the time they were creating centres of excellence around Lennox Castle and this was a slightly radical step-in as I remember, of a statement, which fitted very well with what had been happening in terms of mental health with Woodliee and Gartloch, but it was the first time it had probably been broached by Lennox Castle. To roll forward, obviously there was a lot of work with Strathclyde Region at the time – I don’t think local authority re-organisation happened until 1996 and it was Strathclyde Region we were working with and I got involved.
I went from my planning job, which was with mental health and learning disability, to work for the health board – to much more of a focus on learning disability and much more focus on how we might look at re-shaping services at Lennox Castle and how we might move to a re-settlement programme. So, I became a sort of project lead there – I can’t remember what we were all called but they had a project team around Lennox Castle and I was involved from an NHS commissioning perspective. I found it was a really good team. There was a lot of buzz; there was a lot of energy. Sam Smith was in the commissioning team. There were a whole lot of other people who have gone on to create their own organisations. Some of the practice that happened then was, I think, ahead of its time and I think it’s only now services for older people etc. thinking about personal innovation, and outcome focussed, they’re only just catching up with some of the very creative work that was done back then.
I just remember having to do huge amounts of work to prove that this might be financially possible because people were not convinced it was. I think everybody thought it was the right thing to do but just being the right thing to do wasn’t enough at the time. It had to be financially viable. So we spent loads and loads of time trying to persuade people that it was financially viable – a lot of times, obviously it wasn’t – but we were helping people to have much better lives. So we went from the early days from thinking about it and turning it into some sort of reality with a plan and I have a number of memories.
The very good memories were of working with that team, with John and Gina and Sam and others in that team. As I said it had an energy and a vision that I think was ahead of its time. We were also allowed – we were given permission or we had the delegated authority to seek help and support and good practice from elsewhere in the country. I talked about Pete Ritchie from the Scottish Human Services, we had Simon Duffy come and work with us, we had a national development team, we had Professor Jim Mansell who sadly just died recently. We had a huge amount of input from people who had really good values and a lot of experience. So that was really the good bit. There were some awful experiences. I remember the first time we were trying to speak to some of the staff about the proposals and the ideas and there was a huge amount of anxiety and not a little hostility.
Where do you think their anxiety and hostility came from?
Well, that was the way people worked and that was the local employment opportunity in that area and I think people weren’t able necessarily to see what was possible, didn’t believe it was possible. People are only used to their own work.
Having said that, a number of the people that we now look to are folk who had previously been at Lennox Castle but they’ve kind of moved away from there into more community settings. One of my most terrifying experiences was to go and speak to the nightshift there. John and I. I actually think I was pregnant at the time which is where he’s probably protected me slightly. And also, to be honest, we had a lot of challenging conversations - particularly the management team at Lennox Caste who maybe were feeling anxious themselves, weren’t sure it was the right thing to do, felt that by saying we needed to help people live a different life we were criticising everything they’d spent numbers of years putting together so you can understand people’s anxiety and hostility we weren’t probably as good at change management in those days. We maybe didn’t go about things entirely the right way. I have a number of other experiences in that a lot of the parents and carers were very, very anxious. Friends of Lennox Castle quickly emerged as a pressure group and there was a lot of anger and guilt and all of that stuff. So that was quite a hostile environment.
What do you think their major concern was? You know, obviously their loved ones and their friends were moving out of Lennox Castle. What do you think their major concern would be for those individuals?
Well, that they would be safe I suppose. I think there was also a degree of guilt on behalf of some families which you can understand but that was not custom in practice years back when they were advised by the medical profession who they all looked up to and you know, this was best for your son or daughter so suddenly some young whippersnapper is saying ‘Actually no, this is not the right thing’. It would have been very, very difficult and they’d have to re-think the way they had justified, I suppose, what had happened in their lives.
The other hostile group were when we were actually doing some of the public discussion. We were asked to go to public meetings about where we were trying to find places for people to move to and houses and a lot of communities got very angry. Again it was about the unknown and it was about change. I remember it being quite a challenging role.
The good stuff - great team, and also from having met a number of the folk who lived in Lennox Castle, just knowing that people could have a much better life and when people did start to move out and get a life, and get their own home, that sustained you. I also remember John and myself and the commissioning team trying to attract a different range of support providers to Greater Glasgow and Clyde. We had come up with the idea of suggesting ’These are the characteristics of individuals, or small groups of people’ - this was part of the procurement, I suppose, process you’d call it now – ‘How would you respond to the needs of this small group of individuals?’ We asked providers to come back and the idea was to test creativity, but when we had this event to discuss it and to bring providers together (providers from down south, we wanted to create new providers, Inclusion was created on the back of that) the trade unions had got hold of this and completely misrepresented it and it was a Daily Record headline the next day. It was Sick for Sale suggesting we were auctioning people off so completely the wrong end of the stick! It was the first time I was pulled in to talk to the Chief Executive of the health board. But again, we were naive about the whole communications process, with which people are much slicker nowadays when they think about these things, they don’t stumble in. So some really actually quite difficult memories about it because it was such a struggle and trying and to win hearts and minds was not easy.
Your team that you were working with, that you were talking about obviously were very driven and very supportive to make sure that this actually happened as the right thing to do.
Absolutely, the majority of them did. Absolutely, and John was a very good, charismatic and principled leader - maybe not pragmatic enough for some people in the health board and local authorities at the time. So yes, I remember that being good and that’s sustaining as I say being able to go out and see how people’s lives had improved because it only took visiting some of the wards just to know that this wasn’t the way to treat people.
Is there anything that you’d like to share with us about wards that you observed?
I suppose I kind of knew what to expect because my father was a head teacher of a special school up at – it was a children’s hospital for kids with learning disabilities in Aberdeen years and years and years ago so I’ve kind of grown up in and around institutions and knew that that wasn’t the right way to treat people so I suppose I wasn’t necessarily shocked and I think actually there had been a bit of a scandal a few years before – I can’t remember the history of it but some of the people you’ll talk to will know, but I think Lennox Castle was featured in a documentary having had very poor conditions and I think things had improved considerably, so much so that there had been some quite significant investments in the site with new headquarters and new day service area and a cafe and I think Michael Forsyth opened it – it was pre-devolution.
When I first came to Greater Glasgow in, I think, ’93 the site had actually been through a terrible scandal. They’d improved things a lot, they were looking at becoming a centre for excellence and of course things have moved on now because I don’t think institutions would be centres of excellence and I think that now they’re even still looking at ‘what is the role of the NHS? and people should have good lives’ and they’re still working through that all these years later. They’re starting to claim that the NHS shouldn’t necessarily be a long-term landowner to the site. So, I think the wards had improved a lot by the time I got there and to be honest, I think I’ve blanked a lot of it from my mind.
Okay, so there are things that you recall that maybe weren’t the way they should be and obviously moving ten years on now, are you in touch with anyone? Do you know of anyone that lived in Lennox Castle and is now out of Lennox Castle?
Yes, a number of folk who came to East Renfrewshire. I think the thing I remember most when I think about the ward – there were people who had significant reputations and I suppose C-Change work with a number of folk with significant reputations, but for me it was the people who really sat in a corner and weren’t particularly challenging, didn’t demand a lot of staff attention. When you went round and visited there were people who I think could go from one day to the next with very little interaction and they were no trouble and some people with very profound disabilities as well. But as I say, big wards, congregate settings, unless the staff took a particular liking to someone or they were particularly challenging or needed a lot of attention, I think it was quite easy for people to be invisible. The other thing is when we did go through the assessment process and were looking at the big picture stuff to see who had family – some people hadn’t had visitors for years and years and years and years and some people had been in for fifteen years – you just couldn’t imagine that sort of impoverished life in terms of interaction with other people.
I see folk because I came to East Renfrewshire and quite a number of people moved to East Renfrewshire and I visited them and obviously we worked in Merchiston Hospital as well so we visited a number of folk. So occasionally we see people who we haven’t seen for a long time. I’ve actually just met some people recently because I’m now back working in learning disability again in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde context and I’ve met some people who are actually still living in what is left of the NHS long stay accommodation so I’m really pleased to be going back into that and finding out what’s changed, how can we move things on?
Undoubtedly closing the hospital was the right thing to do –
Absolutely. And I don’t think anybody lost out. There were so many people who for financial reasons, or economic or employment reasons, or for reasons of anxiety and protection didn’t want it to happen. Once we had started, the national policy context really caught up and then we had the Same As You and there was inevitability. But actually, at the very beginning, in Greater Glasgow there wasn’t inevitability about whether we were going to do this or not. People didn’t have that conviction other than us. We had to persuade them and work very, very hard.
How many people do you know maybe that were re-settled round about the time that you were involved Julie?
Well to be honest I didn’t work with individuals. My job was in the commissioning planning so I obviously met a number of individuals. I know a lot of names but I didn’t do assessments. My role was much more strategic, making sure the commissioning plans and the finance plans worked out, looking at the resources.
But we know there were a lot of people.
Oh there were hundreds and hundreds of people. I remember vividly because I planned my second child around the top site closure which we had to have closed by the end of March 1998 and Johnny was born in June 1998. I wasn’t there when the final closure happened because I had moved to East Renfrewshire by then. By that time there was inevitability about it.
Can you tell me if there is anything else that you want to share at this point, any other recollections that stand out for you? You’ve been really helpful and you have given us a really good overview of your experience. Is there anything else that you want to share?
Well, I think there is the big picture stuff but I think it is when you talk to individual people about what their hopes are, and actually I think the work that we did in Lennox Castle at the beginning around that it was the first time that we had used that potential lifestyle planning and really thinking about what people’s gifts were, what they were good at, what they liked as well as the whole list of opposites and challenges represented. I think that kind of opened eyes and started seeing people as people and when people did get to go to a couple of planning sessions it became real and the people started being men and women and not the label that they had been previously, challenging or profoundly disabled, they were men and women with hopes and dreams.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There’s another memory. When we first started working with Simon and established Inclusion Glasgow, we managed to persuade our [accountant] – and she worries about it even now, all these years on – we were working with a family and we had to be quite creative in the way we’d get funding to enable them to get the outcomes they were looking for. They had two sons at the time and they weren’t in Lennox Castle but they were in the short stay admission unit that we had in Greater Glasgow and the costs of these beds were significant and they had been there a long time and really the only prospect of them moving on was to help the family get a bigger house and to put in support around that.
It was one of the first individual budgets that we had ever done and we were quite creative in that we managed to give Inclusion some funding as a sort of start-up funding and used it to help the family buy a bigger house. I always remember the accountant at the health board being really, really worried. It just wasn’t common practice. And it wasn’t common practice and it still wouldn’t be but it was the whole agenda around supporting individual budgets which now is what we need to do, be creative but at the time it was really quite scary and new. That sort of funding would have been half the cost of supporting these two boys in the institution for a year. It paid for itself. I think one of the boys since has died with a degenerative condition –
But he could be with his family
He could be with his family, they could be together and we were able to provide support to the family and we were able to enable them to have breaks because it was a very creative package and I suppose that’s the fore-runner of some of the support work that is there now so that’s another good memory – trying to persuade the accountant that it was going to be alright!