leadership failures

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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Rewarding failure, again and again

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imageWhatever you think about the New Year’s honours list and its continuing habit of rewarding people, especially civil servants, for just doing their jobs you have to wonder what on earth they were thinking making Lin Homer a Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath.

She has failed in every recent job she has had.

Ten years ago she was criticised for her role in a vote-rigging scandal as Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. A judge said she had “thrown the rule book out of the window in an effort to increase postal applications. Six labour councillors were found guilty of electoral fraud at a council election that the election commissioner said would “disgrace a banana republic”.

In 2010 she was briefly permanent secretary at the Department for Transport where she was criticised by Sir Richard Branson for ignoring concerns over the franchising competition for the West Coast line. Her department was also criticised by MPs for its “irresponsible decisions”

She then became the first Chief Executive of the UK Borders Agency (how do they select people at this level you have to wonder?). She was accused of repeatedly misleading MPs over the size of the backlog in asylum and immigration which would take 24 years to clear.

In 2013 the home affairs select committee, in a scathing attack on her, said it was astounded that she was being promoted to be Chief Executive of HM Revenue & Customs and said “The status quo in which catastrophic leadership failure is no obstacle to promotion is totally unacceptable”. The chairman Keith Vaz said her performance “was more like the scene of a Whitehall farce than a government agency operating in the 21 century”

In her present role she has been accused by the public accounts committee of “an unambitious and woefully inadequatee” response to a National Audit Office report. The HMRC has also been heavily criticised by consumer groups for long waiting times on its telephone helpline service, which has doubled in the last twelve months to an average of 38 minutes with 20% of callers waiting an hour. In the first half of the year half of all calls just weren’t answered – 12 million of them.

In November 2015 the chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee said that customer service was a genuine threat to tax collection and the service was then even worse than had been previously described to her committee. That was also the month that HMRC announced the closure of 137 tax offices to be replaced with 13 regional centres.

This teflon coated serial failure as a leader obviously has a thick skin (or lack of self-awareness) and friends in high places.

She also has sycophantic staff who sent out a tweet on the HMRC account (@HMRCgovuk if you want to say your piece) defending the department’s record and mentioning the Chief Executive by name.

This is the kind of thing that annoys hard-working people. In any other business she would have been sacked long ago. I know bankers and premier league managers profit from their sackings but they aren’t public servants.

Rewarding failure, particularly on this scale over a period of time in different jobs beggars belief.

Photo from East Anglian Daily Times