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Scandal-hit FT 'starting to get to grips' with safety, says CQC

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Leaders at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust are “starting to get to grips” with underlying issues putting patients at risk, according to inspectors.

The Care Quality Commission inspected the beleaguered trust in September, as part of a “focussed” probe into its safety procedures.

The recent inspection was a follow up to a previous visit to the trust in January that resulted in Southern Health being issued a warning notice. Reasons cited by the CQC at the time included:

  • Failing to address “significant risks” posed by the physical environment
  • “Inadequate” arrangements to ensure the proper investigations of incidents, including deaths
  • Not ensuring it “learned from incidents to reduce future risks to patients”

The most recent inspection found the trust had made “significant improvements” to identifying and prioritising risks in the physical environment, including ligature points, falls from height and patients absconding.

Paul Lelliott, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said the trust had taken sufficient action to meet the requirements of the warning notice, but warned there was more work left to do. He added: “Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has been under intense scrutiny.

Care Quality Commission

Dr Paul Lelliott

Paul Lelliott

“I am pleased to report that during this inspection we have found signs that the trust’s management team was starting to get to grips with the underlying issues that were putting patients at risk,” he said.

“The trust leadership has recognised that there is still significant work to do and that the new systems need to be embedded to demonstrate long term improvement,” he added.

As noted in the CQC’s latest report, published today, Dr Lelliott said that there were still areas of concern about specific sites, particularly the Elmleigh inpatient unit in Havant.

“We raised these issues again at the time of our recent inspection so that the trust could take immediate action,” he stated.

“The trust has assured us that it will continue to working on the outstanding breaches. We will be monitoring the trust’s progress closely – returning to check that the required improvements have been made and are being sustained,” he added.

Following the warning notice, NHS Improvement said it could make management changes if the trust did not improve, and it imposed Alan Yates as new interim chair at the trust earlier this month.

“The trust’s management team was starting to get to grips with the underlying issues that were putting patients at risk”

Paul Lelliott

Mr Yates was brought into the trust by the regulator as improvement director in April, but was made chair after Tim Smart resigned from his interim position in September, after less than five months at the trust.

The trust has been experienced significant upheaval since chief executive Katrina Percy first resigned from her position to take up a strategic role in August, then resigned from that position last month. Some of the trusts services have also been broken up.

Ms Percy had been under huge pressure since the publication of a report by the audit firm Mazars, which highlighted failures at Southern Health to investigate and learn from patient deaths.

The Mazars report was commissioned by NHS England following the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath at Southern’s short term assessment and treatment unit in Oxfordshire in July 2013.

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