NHS deaths to be investigated after man drowned in bath

Connor Sparrowhawk Image copyright Sara Ryan
Image caption England's health watchdog was prompted to investigate premature deaths of patients after Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in a bath

England's health watchdog is to examine how NHS trust services learn from the deaths of patients, especially those with learning disabilities.

The nationwide review comes after Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust was criticised following the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk.

Mr Sparrowhawk drowned in a bath at an Oxford mental health facility after suffering an epileptic fit in 2013.

Inspectors found the trust's review of deaths was not robust enough.

'Thousands die prematurely'

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced it would inspect 12 NHS trusts to ascertain how services investigate all deaths in hospitals and in the community, and would be "paying particular attention to investigations and and learning from deaths of people with a learning disability or mental health problem".

It will also look at what "support" is given to families of patients who pass away.

Chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: "Every year thousands of people under the care of NHS trusts die prematurely because their treatment or care has not been as good as it could have been."

An inquest into the death of Mr Sparrowhawk found that neglect from Southern Health staff contributed to his demise.

A report commissioned by NHS England showed that of 722 unexpected deaths at Southern Health over four years, only 272 had been investigated.

After an inspection in January, the CQC found there were "longstanding risks to patients" and investigations into deaths "were not good enough."

Image caption Mr Sparrowhawk's mother, Dr Sara Ryan, was "angry and upset" that Southern Health had not improved enough

In March, Mr Sparrowhawk's mother, Dr Sara Ryan, said the family was "angry and upset" that Southern Health had not improved enough.

Southern Health chief executive Katrina Percy said that "good progress has been made" since the CQC inspection.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

  • The trust is one of the country's largest mental health trusts, covering Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire
  • Provides services to about 45,000 people
  • Employs 9,000 staff overall at about 200 sites
  • Provides mental health treatment and support to adults in "secure and specialised settings" and support for adults with learning disabilities
  • Runs an acute adolescent psychiatric service which provides inpatient treatment for 12 to 18 year olds experiencing acute mental illness
  • The trust's board is ultimately responsible for performance and is accountable to a council of governors

Source: Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

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