Today is the 31st anniversary of my sister Alison's suicide. Alison stepped in front a train at Rotherham Station on the afternoon of December 13th, 1991. She was twenty-five. It was almost ten years later we discovered what had gone on in the years preceding her death.
In 1987 and 1988, Alison had been in the “care” of the NHS in a mental health hospital on the outskirts of Carlisle as both an inpatient and an outpatient. During this time, and unknown to us, she had been groomed and abused by an older male nurse and had endured a crisis pregnancy while she was mentally ill and vulnerable. On 12th August 1988, she had an abortion as a result of the illegal acts committed against her. Others in the hospital helped the nurse brush the consequences of his acts under the carpet, including the Consultant Psychiatrist treating my sister. Alison was then subjected to a hastily arranged abortion and left alone to deal with the consequences. She fled Carlisle as soon as she felt able and went to be with Mum in Doncaster. We had entrusted her to the NHS because she needed professional help and compassionate care, but because of the selfish acts of one man and the willingness of others to look the other way, Alison emerged more damaged and confused than when she had first been admitted.
Alison was fragile, not equipped to deal with the emotional aftermath of what she had been put through. After a long battle with depression and secretly wrestling with incredible levels of religiously fueled guilt about the abortion, Alison chose to take her own life around what would have been the third birthday of her baby. Such dates are known trigger points for people who have had abortions, and the impacts are amplified massively by mental illness. She removed her coat and placed her handbag on the station platform before stepping in front the train. Alison had been used to gratify the sexual desires of a thoughtless man, who when things had become complicated, concealed his actions and cast her aside to fend for herself.
Surely no civilised person can think it is “ok” for nurses in NHS Mental Health Hospitals to have sex with the patients they are supposed to be caring for. For vulnerable patients to be the subject of their nurse’s desires is the stuff of nightmares; like fish in a tank at the mercy of the unscrupulous. I often wonder where managers and staff were as a 35yr old male member of staff engaged in sex on the hospital premises with a young patient,?
We buried Alison on a bitterly cold, dark, and unforgiving Christmas Eve. We could not see her body before the funeral, the injuries to her face and body were so severe. When Alison stepped in front of that train on a cold Friday in December, the nurse who took advantage of her, the staff and managers who turned a blind eye, each had a hand on her shoulders guiding her into the train’s path. There are reasons for the professional boundaries in healthcare and they should not be broken, the consequences can be disastrous and the impact on those left behind lasts a lifetime. Nobody has yet been held accountable for what happened to Alison.
After more than thirty years in which the truth has been concealed, this morning we were told that our Barrister will be asked to present our case for a new inquest for Alison to The High Court in January. This is the final hurdle we must jump before we secure a fresh and meaningful inquest into my sister's death. I have felt strangely sick in my stomach all day. I have had so many false dawns and dashed expectations before that I don't allow myself to become overly optimistic now. My faith in the system has been stolen by the thieves of ineptitude and denial, who have occasionally been accompanied in their tasks by self-interest and duplicity. I daren't hope too much. The thought that one person with the wrong information or the wrong intent could, just as before, throw the whole process off track is almost unbearable. I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up on the day of the hearing...