Friday, 31 October 2014

Email from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 that caused me pain, wounding me with its underlying blaming and shaming

I received an Email from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 at 17.07 which caused me pain with its underlying blaming and shaming of the person I am and the work that I do.  It was a personal attack on my character, behaviour and intentions.  Copied in to others.

I contend that it was slanderous and defamatory.  However I am an unpaid carer, on £61/week Carers Allowance, live in a council house, separated from my husband, supporting my son 24/7 after his dehumanising treatment in Stratheden Hospital, Fife, in February 2012.  I can't afford to take my case against Geoff Huggins to a solicitor.  I'm not on benefits and wouldn't be entitled to legal aid.  

You might describe me as "poor" in comparison to Scottish Government civil servants.

This Email wounded me to the extent that I had to cancel my presentation on the Mental Health Act Safeguards at the INTAR Liverpool Conference the next day, 25 June, and then on 27 June my son had to call out the paramedics because I was feeling very unwell, linked to the high blood pressure condition I have, as a result of taking lithium.

I was targeted with this Email because I had complained about being excluded from the Scottish Patient Safety Programme exchange with the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership.  And was then left out of celebrations at Edinburgh Castle with leading Scottish politicians.  It felt very unfair and unjust.

I responded to the Email later that night of 24 June, justifying my reputation and my life's work, here are the opening paragraphs:

"Geoff I have considered your accusations in this Email and I don't accept them as being an accurate representation of my character and behaviour.

In fact I consider your tone and words used to be both hierarchical and denigrating, unbefitting to someone in your position with Scottish Government.  It's not the first time you've spoken to me like this.  It reads as bullying and undermining, and in the social networking world they would call it trolling."

On 28 June 2014 I raised a complaint about Geoff Huggins' Email, with Paul Gray, Director General Health & Social Care and Chief Executive NHS Scotland.  

My complaint was investigated by Yvonne Strachan, Head of Equality, Human Rights and Third Sector at Scottish Government, and middle man throughout this process was Ben Plouviez, Head of Information Management at Scottish Government.

I received a letter from Paul Gray via Email dated 2 October 2014, saying that my complaint was not upheld and that Geoff Huggins' Email was "direct and robust". 

In the complaint investigation report written by Yvonne Strachan and dated 3 September 2014 one of the recommendations was that:

"Ms Muirhead demonstrates acceptable behaviour in the manner in which she engages and participates in such meetings and events."

Here is the copy of the Email sent to me from Geoff Huggins on 24 June 2014 and copied in to various Scottish senior mental health workers (bolding is mine):
24 June 2014       17:07 



Dear Chrys

I have been reading your recent correspondence with a number of my colleagues in this and other organisations.

In your correspondence with Scottish Government, NHS and voluntary sector staff you indicate a belief that it is part of our terms and conditions that we are obligated to accept to be spoken to in an abusive manner. It is not. If people disagree with you or question your behaviour you describe them as bullying and cite your personal experience of illness and your status as a carer as in some way justifying your behaviour. It is not a justification. If people do not accede to your demands for priority access you say they are not treating you with respect. People have consistently treated you with respect.

We and others have regularly involved you in meetings and events related to mental health in Scotland, making every effort to accommodate you as a full participant. Where you have attended or participated your contribution focuses on your experience and that of your family. That is an entirely reasonable contribution to make, but you make it in a way that excludes or devalues the experience of others and which prevents other voices from being heard. Your tone is consistently belligerent and denigrating of others, including others with lived experience of the mental health system, whether as a patient or carer. 

You trivialise other’s experience with the consequence that people tell us they do not want to speak up when you are present at events for fear of what you will say. That is neither desirable or acceptable. Where we involve others or work through representative organisations you describe them as collaborators and demean their actions. That is not acceptable and we will no longer tacitly tolerate it.

I have read the correspondence about the decision not to allocate you a place at the IIMHL match on patient safety. You had previously selected a different match which had a focus on lived experience and there was no suggestion that you would not have been welcome to attend that match. Ruth and others have set out the reasons for refusing your application to join the session previously and I will not add to their explanation other than to say that I agree with their reasons given previous experience as set out above. As you were not attending the session on patient safety or one of the other matches you were not invited to the reception at the Castle. Had you attended the match on human rights which was also hosted in Edinburgh you would, of course, have been invited to the Castle with the members of Plus Perth.

We will continue to listen to and where appropriate investigate concerns that you raise with us. However, we will no longer give you special treatment or consideration to the detriment of other service users or carers. I would ask you to consider your behaviour and the impact it has on the health and wellbeing of others.

I am copying this correspondence to regular recipients of your correspondence including the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neill MSP, the Chief Executive of the NHS and Director General for Health and Social Care Paul Gray, Colin McKay at the MWC, Billy Watson at SAMH, Nigel Henderson and Simon Bradstreet at the Scottish Recovery Network, Joyce Mouriki at VOX, John Wilson at NHS Fife, Denise Coia and Ruth Glassborow at HIS and Fran Silvestri at IIMHL. I anticipate that you will want to share this correspondence on your blog and request that if you do so that you reproduce it in full.

Geoff Huggins

Geoff Huggins | Acting Director of Health and Social Care Integration | The Scottish Government | 1E.12 | St Andrew's House | Regent Road | Edinburgh | EH1 3DG |Tel: 0131 244 3210 | Mob. 07515 559192


  1. Chrys, I have just read carefully the email above. It seems to me that Geoff Huggins tries hard to intimidate you: he speaks about himself and colleagues as 'PEOPLE'. 'People', 'we and others' - a huge crowd indeed against one brave mother.

    I can't make sense of the email:
    How can it be that speaking about your experience and that of your family 'excludes or devalues the experience of others'?
    How can it be that it 'prevents other voices from being heard'?
    How can it be that people are frightened to hear about your experience and that of your family ( GF admits that you focus on your own experience - how can it prevent other people from telling their stories?)
    What kind of special treatment they used to give you in the past 'to the detriment of other service users and carers'?

    I don't know if the email is 'direct and robust' but it is a good example of bullying, that's for sure.


    1. Zofia thanks for your comment. I am very grateful for your solidarity.

      I appreciate your highlighting of the inconsistencies in the Geoff Huggins Email. The fact that it doesn't make sense and the reference to "special treatment" which has always meant that I was excluded, from 2008 onwards.

      I agree that it was a good example of bullying and it hit the mark in that respect.

      All the best, Chrys


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