Mike Petter

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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