A leading healthcare lawyer has called on Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust to take action to prevent further deaths following a damning report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into the Trust which has led to its chairman Mike Petter resigning shortly before the review was published today.
Inspectors from the CQC were ordered to carry out a report by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt following problems at the trust and concluded that it is still failing to protect patients from risk of harm.
It follows an independent investigation in December which found that Southern Health had failed to probe the deaths of hundreds of people since 2011.
Today’s report by the CQC is based on a four-day inspection by a 22-strong team in January which found that robust arrangements to probe incidents, including deaths, had not yet been put in place, and had resulted in "missed opportunities" to prevent similar events.
Emma Jones, a partner in the human rights team at Leigh Day who represented over 200 patients at the Stafford Hospital over allegations of abuse reacted to the report suggesting the CQC report makes for ‘concerning reading’.
She said: “the apparent lack of leadership and missed opportunities to address risk are issues similar to those highlighted in the Francis Report following the Stafford Hospital scandal."
"Any Trust needs to be well led and well run to ensure that risks, issues and failings are noticed immediately and action is taken to put things right.”
According to reports the Trust has come under increased scrutiny following the deaths of hundreds of patients, including 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk who drowned in a bath in 2013 after an epileptic seizure at a facility run by Southern Healthcare.
In October 2015, a jury inquest ruled that neglect contributed to his death. Inspectors also pointed out that effective measures to identify, record or respond to concerns about patient safety raised by patients, their carers, staff or by the CQC had also not been implemented.
They also raised serious concerns over the safety of patients who had mental health problems and learning disabilities in some of the areas inspected.
Concerns highlighted previously by the CQC of ligature risks had still not been properly addressed by the latest inspection.
Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health at the CQC, said: "I am concerned that the leadership of this trust shows little evidence of being proactive in identifying risk to the people it cares for or of taking action to address that risk before concerns are raised by external bodies.
"Along with partners, including NHS Improvement and NHS England, we will be monitoring progress extremely closely. We will be looking not only for evidence of improvements, but for evidence that this board is actively planning to protect patients in their care from the risk of harm."