Southern Health criticised for poor family communication

Connor Sparrowhawk Image copyright JusticeforLB
Image caption Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, who died at a Southern Health facility, had epilepsy and experienced seizures

An NHS trust criticised for failing to properly investigate hundreds of deaths must improve the way it deals with patients' families, a report has found.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust came under fire following the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath at Slade House in Oxford.

Now an internal report has criticised the trust's "poor or non-existent" communication with families.

Its boss Katrina Percy resigned earlier this month after public pressure.

The report was carried out by psychologist and researcher Stephany Carolan, who spoke to 17 people from 12 families.

All of them had family members whose deaths were investigated by the trust between April 2013 and March 2016.

Ms Carolan said one father found out about his daughter's death "via a convoluted route that involved Facebook" when the trust had his contact details.

Image caption Chief executive Katrina Percy came under intense pressure to resign

She said: "Many of the families interviewed expressed intense anger about the experiences that they had, and scepticism that this review would result in any change.

"This anger came from repeated failures by the trust to communicate with them."

Julie Dawes, interim chief executive at the trust, said the report "makes very difficult reading for us".

She said: "I want to personally apologise for the distress our investigation processes may have caused in the past.

"We know we need to improve and we are committed to doing things better."

She added that an update on the changes would be given to the families involved in six months.

Southern Health Timeline

July 2013 - Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, drowns after an epileptic seizure at Oxford unit Slade House. An inquest later rules neglect contributed to his death

11 December 2015 - The BBC reveals details of a leaked Mazars report which highlights a "failure of leadership". Jeremy Hunt says he is "profoundly shocked"

17 December 2015 - The report is officially published and shows out of 722 unexpected deaths over four years, only 272 were properly investigated

6 April 2016 - The Care Quality Commission (CQC) issues a warning notice to significantly improve protection for mental health patients

29 April 2016 - A full CQC inspection report is published, which says the trust is continuing to put patients at risk

30 June 2016 - Following a review of the management team competencies, it is announced that Katrina Percy is to keep her job

29 July 2016 - The BBC reports the trust has paid millions of pounds in contracts to companies owned by previous associates of Katrina Percy

30 August 2016 - Ms Percy announces she is standing down

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