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Health services watchdog starts further inspection of Southern Health

Move follows last month’s report into trust’s failure to look into hundreds of deaths

Caroline White

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The health services regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has returned to Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust as part of a focused inspection, it has announced. The last health check report of the trust was published in February 2015.

The inspection follows the official publication last month of an independent report commissioned by NHS England. This highlighted the failure of the trust to investigate hundreds of deaths of people in receipt of care for learning disability and mental health issues at the trust over a four year period.

The team of inspectors will also check on improvements which had been required in some of the trust’s learning disability and forensic services following previous inspections.

Dr Paul Lelliott, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (and lead for mental health) said that the inspection will scrutinise the trust’s approach to the investigation of deaths, including how the trust is implementing the action plan put in place following publication of the independently commissioned report.

“At the time, the trust was criticised for failing to engage properly with families. As part of this inspection, we will seek to hear from patients and carers about their involvement in investigations and any communications they have had with the trust since April 2015,” he said.

“We will also look at whether Southern Health have made the improvements that we identified in our comprehensive and focused inspections. This inspection will have a specific focus but we will return at a later date to look at the other services provided by the trust as part of our continuing programme of inspections of all NHS services,” he added.

CQC had previously inspected the trust as part of its comprehensive inspection programme in October 2014, returning in August 2015 to check on the progress.

This latest inspection will focus on improvements within mental health and learning disability services, in particular acute mental health inpatient wards, learning disability units, crisis/community mental health teams, and child and adolescent inpatient and secure services.

Reports from this inspection will be published in Spring 2016. ​

Monitor has already appointed an “improvement director” to work with the trust, which has formally apologised for its failings, but has not demanded any resignations.

The Patients Association, which has worked closely with the family of Jo Deering, a mental health patient who committed suicide after receiving poor care at Southern Health Trust, welcomed the CQC’s announcement.

Its chief executive, Katherine Murphy, said: “The Patients Association has repeatedly asked for an honest explanation into the death of Jo Deering. We remain concerned that it has taken so long for an investigation to occur and the unnecessary distress that this has caused Jo’s family.”

She added: “As an organisation, we no longer want to just hear assurances from Trusts that they will implement action plans. The Patients Association now wants to see real evidence of change. [We] would like to see a whole system change. What we need is a well-structured investigative system, and not a bureaucratic complaints process.”

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