Southern Health faces potential management change over safety fears

NHS Improvement could impose management changes at Southern Health NHS FT after the CQC issued a warning notice saying that serious safety failures are ongoing at the trust.

Previously the trust had been strongly criticised for failing to investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 mental health and learning disability patients.

The CQC carried out an inspection in January, which found that the trust was still failing to properly investigate deaths, mitigate environmental safety risks, respond to concerns from patients, their carers and staff, and learn from incidents.

Dr Kathy Mclean, executive medical director at the newly formed NHS Improvement, said: “Patients and service users at Southern Health expect to get safe and good quality care, and it is worrying to see that the CQC have identified patient safety concerns which have still gone unaddressed at the trust.

“The trust needs to ensure that it fixes these issues quickly and that it can spot and quickly mitigate any future risks to patients and service users. If we don’t see enough progress on this we will consider taking action on behalf of patients.”

NHS Improvement will put a condition in the trust’s licence to operate NHS services, which will allow it to make management changes at the trust if it fails to make progress.

They have also appointed an improvement director to support the trust.

The Mazars report was commissioned into the trust last year following the death in 2013 of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath following an epileptic seizure at Slade House in Oxford, which has since closed. The report found that just 13% of 1,454 unexpected patient deaths were investigated. A CQC inspection also rated the trust as ‘requiring improvement’.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced national improvements to implement the lessons of the report. From April 2018, all deaths will be subject to independent medical review.

Dr Paul Lelliott, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “We have made it clear that the safety of patients with mental ill health and or learning disabilities, provided by Southern Health NHS FT requires significant improvement.

“CQC will be monitoring this trust very closely and will return to check on improvements and progress in the near future.”

The CQC’s full report on the January inspection will be published later this month.

Dr Lelliott said that following the warning notice, the trust had committed to improving safety at Kingsley ward, Melbury Lodge in Hampshire and Evenlode in Oxfordshire.

Katrina Percy, chief executive of Southern Health, said: “I have been very clear and open that we have a lot of work to do to fully address recent concerns raised about the Trust. Good progress has been made, however we accept that the CQC feels that in some areas we have not acted swiftly enough. My main priority is, and always has been, the safety of our patients. We take the CQC’s concerns extremely seriously and have taken a number of further actions. The full CQC inspection report, which we expect to receive later this month, will allow us to consider their findings in full.”

Katherine Murphy, CEO of the Patients Association, said:  “The concerns of the Patients Association and others in relation to the extremely poor care received by patients at Southern Health FT have gone unheeded for far too long. 

“Whilst we are pleased that the CQC and NHS Improvement now seem to be taking notice of the appalling levels of care, we remain concerned that it is taking so long to make changes occur. Meanwhile the lives of new patients may be endangered if lessons have not been learnt by the Trust.”

(Image: Ravenswood House, Fareham. c. Peter Facey)



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