Grieving father cautious about apology from health trust into uninvestigated deaths

Elmleigh Hospital in Havant, which is run by Southern Health Foundation Trust
Elmleigh Hospital in Havant, which is run by Southern Health Foundation Trust
  • Pub landlord from Clanfield says lessons need to be learnt
  • Trust outlines changes it will and has made
  • Report looked at more than 1,000 deaths of people with learning difficulties and mental health problems
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A GRIEVING father who blames the death of his 30-year-old daughter on a health trust has cautiously welcomed an apology from the chief executive.

Chris Lynch says his 30-year-old daughter Joanna Lynch died because of mistakes by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Yes, it’s good she has apologised, but she needs to be sincere about that and in doing that, do something about it

Chris Lynch, father

Yesterday, Katrina Percy, chief executive of the trust, ‘apologised unreservedly’ after a report found the organisation did not investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 mental health and learning disability patients properly.

Mr Lynch, landlord of The Rising Sun pub in Clanfield, said: ‘The problem I have with it is we have heard it all before.

‘At Joanna’s inquest, we had a whole load of apologies.

‘But actions speak louder than words.

‘It’s obvious that since my last conversation with them, nothing much really happened.

‘We have seen this pattern before where they come out and say everything is going to be okay and nothing happens or they don’t get to the root cause of the issue.

‘Yes, it’s good she has apologised, but she needs to be sincere about that and in doing that, do something about it.’

Commissioner NHS England South paid for auditors Mazars to look at more than 10,000 deaths at the trust between April 2011 and March 2015, of which 1,454 were unexpected.

It found just 195 – 13 per cent – were treated as a ‘serious incident requiring investigation’ and the likelihood of an unexpected death being investigated depended hugely on the type of patient.

Ms Percy said: ‘We fully accept our processes for reporting and investigating deaths of people with learning disabilities and mental health needs were not always as good as they should have been.

‘We also fully acknowledge that this will have caused additional pain and distress to families and carers already coping with the loss of a loved one.

‘We apologise unreservedly for this and recognise that we need to make further improvements.

‘In the past, our engagement with families and carers of people who have died in our care has not always been good enough.

‘While we have already made substantial changes in how we approach this, we have more improvements to make.’

The trust said it has since made changes which include:

n Strengthening executive oversight of investigations and ensuring appropriate measures 
are in place to address any issues, and all learning is shared and implemented across the trust.

n New executive level doctors and nurses joined the trust board from July 2014.

n Setting up a new central investigation team which is improving the quality and consistency of investigations and learning.

n Capturing conclusions of inquests more effectively to identify and act swiftly on areas for improvement.

n Launching a new system for reporting and investigating deaths in consultation with our commissioners to increase monitoring, scrutiny and learning.

n Providing every family with the opportunity to be involved in investigations.

On July 4, 2014, Joanna was found dead at home in Horndean after an overdose of prescription medication.

Miss Lynch had been in touch with the trust’s mental health helpline Hospital 
at Home and had begged for help in the weeks before her death.