Katrina Percy, the former Chief Executive of Southern Health Trust, has been under pressure to stand down for months after the mental health trust she led failed to investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 people with mental health and learning disabilities between 2011 and 2015.
This catalogue of disasters in a Trust that states its aim is: “to provide high quality, safe services which improve the health, wellbeing and independence of the people we serve”.
Her LinkedIn profile describes her as: Passionate about leading organisations through transformational change of their clinical service; placing a very strong emphasis on the leadership and team development throughout the organisation to enable this.
That’s her opinion. An independent review found that “a failure of leadership” had led to these deaths going unanswered but she resisted efforts to resign until this week.
Announcing her resignation she said “I have reflected on the effect of the ongoing personal media attention has had on staff and patients and have come to the conclusion that this has made my role untenable.
I have, therefore, come to the difficult decision to step down from my role as chief executive after nine years.
“I am delighted to be taking on an alternative role, providing strategic advice to local GP leaders as they work with others to transform the way in which health services are delivered across Hampshire, and I feel that now is the right time to take on that new challenge.
I know and understand that many will say I should have stepped down sooner given the very public concerns which have been raised in the past months. I stayed on as I firmly believed that it was my responsibility to oversee the necessary improvements and to continue the groundbreaking work we have begun with GPs to transform care for our patients“.
Not one word of apology or any sign of contrition. This “I’m the only person who can fix it” attitude, despite getting the Trust in a mess in the first place (she was CEO for 9 years), is not uncommon. It’s also been used by Police Chiefs and other public sector chiefs.
And of course she’s delighted with her new role – she’s still being paid very generously – on the same £180,000 + benefits – in a consulting role. But why would GPs take advice from someone who has been criticised for leadership failures?
It now turns out that the post was created especially for her, there were no other candidates and no interviews. This is not the way to recruit top executives in any organisation.
And what were the chair and board members doing about the independent report? Well the Trust’s Chairman Mike Petter resigned days before the publication of the Care Quality Commission report which said that the Trust was still failing to protect people.
The interim chairman, Tim Smart, says “Katrina has ensured that Southern Health is now working more closely with other health and care organisations in the region to provide more joined-up care, so more people receive support at the right time and place”
But Andrew Smith, the MP for Oxford East, said that her continued employment was evidence that the Trust was “not fit for purpose“. He also said “it’s disturbing too that her comments and those of the Trust blame her resignation on media attention rather than acceptance of her ultimate responsibility for the abject and fatal failings of Southern Health”
The mother of a vulnerable teenager who drowned in a bath after having an epileptic fit , an incident a jury inquest ruled as caused by neglect, also criticised the Trust. “It’s good that she’s no longer CEO and hopefully there will be more movement at board level. To reward her with a made-up post at the same salary is simply scandalous”.
I think most people would agree with that sentiment.