It was one of the saddest scenes in a BBC documentary for a long time: Gerry Robinson's second film about dementia care ended with the residents of the home Robinson had been trying to improve being wheeled out, protesting helplessly. The home had been closed after what Robinson called "some serious allegations" had emerged.
What made it all the more heartbreaking was that we'd seen Robinson making contact with several of the individuals through the film - people who at first seemed almost unable to communicate. Robinson's patience overcame their habitual silence or anger.
Ken told Robinson he'd been a paint sprayer in a car factory. When asked his feelings about the home, he came up with "negative ... destroying". But later, under a new regime brought in by Robinson, we saw him help to paint a new shed. Ken was still far from happy with his life, but he and Robinson seemed to have a bond - until Robinson bade farewell at the end of the filming. And then his home was closed.
Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes?
got a terrific audience in its first week on BBC2 (2.1 million), beating Gordon Ramsey's F Word
on Channel 4 (1.8 million) - remarkable for such a tough subject. Robinson made it easy to watch, being gentle but perceptive with the staff as well as the 'clients', as care homes call them. His decision as a young man not to continue training for the priesthood seemed a mistake.
No doubt, as with all documentaries, what we saw was just the visible tip of a complex iceberg of footage, relationships, and negotiations between presenter, production team and contributors. Given the sensitive nature of the subject, the achievement of making dramatic as well as journalistic sense of it was all the more impressive.
"The Gerry Robinson series was timely because, for the more than 200,000 people diagnosed with dementia and living in care homes, one of the greatest issues is the quality of life.
It is all too easy to assume we're giving the person a good enough quality of life, because it is so difficult to overcome the communication barriers associated with severe dementia.
In many ways the deficiency in the first programme was that, while relatives, proprietors, nurses and care workers were interviewed, those with dementia were not. I understand the challenges but we mustn't see them as insuperable - and Robinson himself was seen to overcome them in programme two.
I think there was a certain naivety in assuming that the quality of life is the key to the business case for these homes. In the real world, that connection depends on substantial funding upfront, in order to recruit and retain competent staff.
And although the series showed some examples of excellent care, small-scale proprietors will continue to struggle to provide the necessary support infrastructure. Today's care homes are in many ways doing the job of the cottage hospitals of the past, caring for people who are extremely dependent and complex in their health needs. They have taken on a huge task, often without the technical back-up or skilled support needed."