Panel review into deaths linked to Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust begins

AN NHS trust nursing director has admitted that failings were made after a number of patients died under their care.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 5:00 pm

NHS England has commissioned a review into Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, into five deaths between 2011 and 2015.

The trust provides services in mental health and learning disabilities.

Today, the review process commenced with an opening statement by Nigel Pascoe QC, and the questioning of witnesses from inside the trust.

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The death of Edward Hartley from Wickham is one of five that sparked this investigation

It is hoped that this review will lead to Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust improving its complaints handling, communicating better with families and examining the supervision structure.

Questions focused on the complaints procedure, how things were escalated and staff engagement with the complaint process.

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Julia Lake, deputy director of nursing, said there were lessons to be learned from the deaths.

She said: ‘We’re not perfect – some people felt there were better people to respond to complaints than themselves.

‘But we don’t see recurring themes so that would be our measure in closing issues.

‘We are much more confident of the processes we have in place and there is a clear rigour in place too.’

Ms Lake explained that following the deaths, the NHS trust has put in place feedback surveys for complainants, and follow these up with phone calls.

She added that 48 per cent of all carers now also have a communications plan – 1,204 in total.

In her role, the deputy director of nursing reviews complaints twice a week, and engages with the trust’s quality improvement group.

Nigel Pascoe QC, who is overseeing the review, believes it is ‘crucial’ that changes to how the trust operates are brought in.

He said: ‘Meeting these family members, I experienced the very considerable dissatisfaction – their anger was palpable and had to be addressed.

‘In the cases I had been considering, there had been significant, serious and deeply regrettable failures by the trust into their proper examination and investigation.

‘There had also been insensitive and inappropriate communication with immediate family members.

‘Those combined failings caused long-lasting hurt and damage to good and innocent people.’

Campaigner Geoff Hill has been fighting for reform in Southern Health for many years and has supported the families.

He said: ‘Nigel Pascoe QC said the panel members cherished their independence – but that is complete nonsense.

‘Everyone on this independent panel has ties to the NHS, in some form or another.

‘It’s the equivalent of marking your own homework.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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