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12.01.16

Help for Southern to implement death investigation recommendations

An improvement director will be sent to Southern Health NHS FT to help implement recommendations around death investigations highlighted in a scathing report last month, Monitor has confirmed.

The provider has been under fire since the Mazars report identified a series of failings concerning avoidable deaths at the trust, particularly within patients with learning disabilities or mental ill-health.

The health regulator stepped in shortly thereafter to ensure the FT can improve its reporting and investigative standards, as well as its ability to engage properly with families - particularly significant when individuals have a disability and thus may be less able to speak for themselves.

Southern Health has since been subject to regulatory action to address these issues as quickly as possible. It has agreed to implement the Mazars report recommendations and to receive expert help across planning and safeguarding improvements, part of which will include an improvement director to “support and challenge” the provider along the way.

The trust's chief executive, Katrina Percy, said the provider has agreed to draw a comprehensive action plan specifically designed to implement recommendations from the report.

“We take Monitor's concerns extremely seriously. Ensuring our patients receive safe, high quality care is our top priority and we have already made substantial improvements. This includes changing the way we record and investigate deaths,” she said. 

“We welcome the opportunity to work more closely with Monitor in the coming weeks to ensure the necessary changes are made.”

Claudia Griffith, regional director for Monitor, added: “We have taken action to ensure that Southern Health improves the way it investigates deaths among people with a learning disability and/or those who are experiencing mental illness.

“However, it is also clear that more work is needed across the NHS to identify and spread best practice for reporting and investigating deaths among people with a learning disability and/or mental illness.”

The wide-reaching issues around avoidable deaths was strongly emphasised in the original Mazars report and quickly addressed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who asked national bodies to work together in improving standards.

The regulator is working closely with the CQC, for example, to assess how the deaths of patients with disabilities or mental health issues are investigated, and what further action is needed across both the trust and the whole health service.

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