Katrina Percy

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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I’ve said it before, the NHS can’t afford to go on rewarding failure like this

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Following the shambles surrounding the disgraced CEO Katrina Percy – who eventually resigned from her overpaid, invented position along with her previous chairman, we now have yet another example.

Again a failing Trust, and again the NHS don’t seem to have the determination to deal with a highly paid CEO  who is not delivering.

03cdc52Miles Scott, the former CEO of St George’s University Hospital Trust which has been put into special measures, has walked into a new job on a fixed term secondment to health regulator NHS Improvement on a £220k salary.

He’d been at St George’s for five years (and CEO at Bradford prior to that) so plenty of experience at board level. But he failed to stop the trust being put into special measures by the Quality Care Commission this week.

Sir Mike Richards the chief inspector of hospitals said “I am disappointed that we have found a marked deterioration in the safety and quality of some of the trust’s services since we inspected two years ago, as well as in its overall governance and leadership.”

Worryingly we found that areas in which children and young people with mental health conditions were cared for had not been checked for ligature points and that half the medical staff working with children and young people had not completed level three safeguarding training”

Scott is reported to be “undertaking specific change management projects and providing additional support to the executive team” On £220k a year! Rather overpaid for that remit I think.

Can no-one see the irony of someone who led a deteriorating (in terms of safety standards, governance and leadership) NHS Hospital Trust for two years advising other trusts on how to raise standards? The same with Katrina Percy. What are they thinking of when they make these appointments? Do they think people will really take advice from them in the circumstances?

4982778To make matters worse at St George’s, according to a report in the Times ,his successor, Paula Vasco-Knight, who was the Chief Operating Officer at St George’s before Scott left last month, was suspended after less than two weeks in the job.

This followed serious financial allegations by her previous employer, Devon NHS Trust, that she defrauded them by abusing her position to bypass normal procurement arrangements and essentially siphoned off money to her husband’s company – which she has denied in court.

A statement by St George’s said: “As a result of serious allegations being made against her, Dr Paula Vasco-Knight has been suspended from her role as acting chief executive at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The allegations are financial in nature and relate to her work at a previous employer.

At one time Mrs Vasco-Knight was NHS England’s national lead on equality and diversity matters, was the first female BME Chief Executive in the NHS, received an honorary doctorate in Law from Exeter University and a  CBE in 2014 for her work on equality and diversity. So obviously ticking a lot of the right boxes.

However that passion for equality obviously didn’t extend to recruitment as she was accused of nepotism by two whistleblowers for giving her daughter’s boyfriend a job at Torbay Hospital for which she was criticised by an employment tribunal.

She tried to play the race card at the tribunal saying “On a personal level I found the allegations as nothing less than personal slander and I wonder if a white middle class male chief executive officer would have been treated with such disrespect.”

However that didn’t wash with the tribunal judge Nick Roper who ruled:”We find that there was a concerted effort by the South Devon Healthcare Trust to manipulate the investigation, accuse the claimants of malice, suppress the report and to mislead the other parties as to its contents, with the apparent aim of protecting Dr Vasco-Knight and Mrs Murphy against the force of the claimant’s allegations.

Mrs Murphy was a senior colleague in whom the whistle blowers confided who told them they would lose their jobs ‘through dirty means’ which left them feeling ‘bullied, threatened and intimidated’.

“This was completely contrary to the protection which they should have been offered under the Whistle Blowing guidelines.” said the judge. One of the whistleblowers returned to work, the other received £230,000 in compensation.

You don’t get the impression of a healthy culture under her leadership do you?

That event led to her suspension from the Trust and her eventual resignation. The official line was that she moved North for family reasons and for a time worked for East Lancashire NHS Trust as a management consultant, reportedly on £1,000 a day.

Her LinkedIn page, currently closed down, reportedly gave her roles as a “turnaround director/director of transformation” for Solitaire healthcare, where she says she had been since July 2014, and interim chief operating officer, a role she has held at St George’s since September 2015 where she worked under Miles Scott. So wasn’t she as culpable as him for the failures there? Why then appoint her?

Yet again we have a number of embarrassing failures of leadership or worse and the NHS seem incapable of dealing with them. No wonder the Taxpayers Alliance is up in arms. John O’Connell, the CEO, said “there is a worrying trend of impunity in the public sector where fat cat salaries don’t seem to reflect performance and nobody is held accountable for the failure to provide taxpayers with the services they pay for and expect.

“How can a Trust put in special measures possibly justify such a ludicrously large salary for its former chief executive and – bizarrely  – continue to pay him even after he’s taken on a new role elsewhere?

My point exactly. Why wasn’t he just sacked for poor performance? Why do we have this continuous revolving door of failed executives? Why are we still rewarding failure?

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.