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10.06.16

‘Multiple systematic and individual failures’ led to death of 18-year-old at Southern

The beleaguered Southern Health trust has admitted responsibility for the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk in its care.

Following a mediation process, the trust announced that it is paying £80,000 compensation to Sparrowhawk’s family and said that it will publish a statement explaining the failings that led to the teenager’s death within a month.

After the death of Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath at Slade House in Headington in 2013 following an epileptic seizure, it was found that Southern Health had investigated just 13% of 1,454 unexpected deaths of mental health and learning disability patient deaths.

The Southern Health statement said: “The trust accepts that it was responsible for the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, an 18-year-old boy who was a much loved son, brother and friend.

“He died on 4 July 2013 while in the care and custody of the short term assessment and treatment (STATT) unit, Slade House, for which the trust was responsible. Connor’s preventable death was the result of multiple systemic and individual failures by the trust in the care provided to Connor on the STATT unit.”

The trust said that these failings included a lack of clinical leadership on the STATT unit, lack of adequate training for staff on epilepsy safety procedures, and serious safety failings in relation to Sparrowhawk’s bathing arrangements.

The trust also accepted it was negligent and breached Sparrowhawk’s right to life under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The mediation follows a three-year campaign, named ‘Justice for LB’ after Sparrowhawk’s nickname, Laughing Boy, and led by his mother, Dr Sara Ryan.

In April, the CQC issued a notice warning that serious safety concerns are still ongoing at the trust, and NHS Improvement appointed Tim Smart as the new chair at the trust.

Charlotte Haworth Hird, of Bindmans, the family’s solicitor, said: “This full admission finally shows what Connor’s family have known for years – that Connor and they were repeatedly failed by Southern Health. It comes after a three-year struggle by Connor’s family and the #JusticeforLB campaign.

“They have fearlessly fought for truth and accountability in relation to Connor’s death and at last, the full extent of the trust’s failings in Connor’s care have been accepted. It is shameful that this was not done sooner. Over an extended period, Connor’s family have had to learn of the harrowing circumstances of his time at the Statt unit and of his death.

“In the face of that horror, they have remained dignified and dedicated to ensuring that no other individual receives the treatment that Connor and they have. I am therefore glad that the trust has also publicly acknowledged that Sara Ryan has conducted herself and the #JusticeforLB campaign in a dignified, fair and reasonable way. Nothing less could have been said of her.”

(Image c. JusticeforLB/ PA Wire)

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