Care Quality Commission

NHS Trust finally owns up to leadership failures

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Southern Health NHS Trust has pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety law this week.

This follows the tragic death of 18 year-old Connor Sparrowhawk who drowned in July 2013 while taking an unsupervised bath. He suffered from epilepsy, was autistic, had learning difficulties, and had a seizure in the bath. The Trust’s interim chief executive, Nursing Director Julie Dawes, admitted that his death was “entirely preventable” and the Trust accepted full responsibility.

Slade House, the care and assessment unit where the death occurred, has since been closed. Dawes accepted that the young man’s death continued to have a devastating impact on his family and she said the the Trust was truly sorry that they didn’t keep him safe.

She also said “the effect of his death had been far-reaching and had led to significant changes and improvements in the Trust”

In addition a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing a month ago found that Valerie Murphy, the lead clinician responsible for his care, had failed to carry out risk assessments on him before he took the bath. She now faces being struck off.

All this follows an independent inquiry into the Trust commissioned by NHS England after the Sparrowhawk’s death which found that over four years it had failed to properly investigate the deaths of 1,454 patients with mental health problems or learning disabilities. The inquiry team criticised the Trust for a failure of leadership and accused senior managers of not investigating and learning from the deaths.

The previous chief executive Katrina Percy eventually resigned after serious pressure along with the Chairman Mike Petter but not before some shenanigans about giving her another job and protecting her salary, and in the end not without a £200k payoff.

It’s good to know that there can be consequences sometimes for these management failures although not much satisfaction for the bereaved family.

NB A new chief executive has now been appointed along with other permanent senior staff so let’s hope they can turn the Trust round and provide a quality service the public is entitled to expect.

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NHS can’t afford to reward failure like this

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hEFGqWFbq4rM2_uOeHbVLAwqtt1UqJeYUGU5cjJmrhSXx7TLIftY0Sy8Z6V9GiDxQzIaEJA=s151Katrina 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.

3016053_Katrina_Percy_14th_MayAnnouncing 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.