Southern Health fined £2m following deaths of two patients

Oxford Crown Court. Picture: Robin Stones / CC BY-SA 2.0.
Oxford Crown Court. Picture: Robin Stones / CC BY-SA 2.0.
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AN NHS trust has been fined £2m following the ‘avoidable deaths’ of two vulnerable patients at a heavily-criticised care unit.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust appeared at Oxford Crown Court this morning for sentencing after pleading guilty to two counts of failing to discharge its duty relating to their care.

It follows the deaths of Teresa Colvin, in 2012, and epileptic teenager Connor Sparrowhawk, in 2013, at Slade House care and assessment unit in Oxford.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith said the fine was justified by the ‘terrible consequences’ of the trust’s actions.

He said the penalty was ‘a just and proportionate outcome that marks the seriousness of the trust’s offending, the terrible consequences of that offending, and the other material factors that I have indicated’.

Southern Health provides mental health and community care across the south including in Gosport, Havant and Fareham.

Dr Nick Broughton, chief executive of the trust, said: ‘Southern Health pleaded guilty to the charges and we fully accept the failings.

‘Since I joined the trust in November I have looked closely at what happened to Teresa and Connor and the events that followed.

‘I feel deeply saddened and am truly sorry that we let them down with such devastating consequences. Their deaths were avoidable, entirely preventable and should never have occurred.

‘Personally, and on behalf of the trust board, I apologise unreservedly.’

Mr Broughton added: ‘I know that words can do little to ease the enormity of the respective families’ losses and pain.

‘But Teresa and Connor’s deaths have been genuine catalysts for change, and I sincerely hope our actions to improve care as a direct result provide some comfort, however small.

‘These actions mean our services are now safer. Our approaches to supporting patients with epilepsy, and to managing the risks of ligatures, have been overhauled.

‘Health and safety practice has been comprehensively improved from the board to the ward, and includes a dedicated health and safety team and guardians at all levels across the trust.

‘Crucial to these and other improvements is the contribution from many families and individuals dedicated to bringing about change.

‘Whether working alongside us, or indeed as campaigning activists, their courage, dignity and insight is making a difference and deserves recognition.

‘The job of improving safety and quality is never complete and it remains the single highest priority for me and my colleagues.’