Criticised Southern Health 'improving'

Connor Sparrowhawk Image copyright Sara Ryan
Image caption Issues at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust came to light after 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in a bath at one of their facilities in Oxford

A health trust criticised for not investigating hundreds of patient deaths is improving patient safety, according to a health watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said Southern Health had made improvements in identifying risks to patients.

The trust has prioritised safeguarding patients with mental health disabilities, the watchdog said.

Issues at the trust came to light after an 18-year-old man drowned in a bath at one of its Oxford facilities.

'Under intense scrutiny'

In January the CQC issued a warning notice to the trust following "concern" that "little action" had been taken to improve patient safety.

The results of a inspection in September, published on Friday, showed that "there had been a number of significant improvements in identifying and prioritising risks" and the warning notice has now been lifted.

Interim chief executive Julie Dawes said: "The CQC has recognised improvements have been made and I would like to thank all our staff for their hard work and commitment to patients, service users and families in improving standards of care."

Issues at the trust came to light after an inquest jury found that neglect led to the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath at the trust's Slade House facility in 2013.

Image caption The trust's executive board caused controversy when heavily-criticised former chief executive Katrina Percy was offered a new role at the trust on the same salary

In December 2015 an investigation commissioned by NHS England found that only 272 of 722 deaths in the trust over the previous four years were properly investigated.

The trust was similarly mired in controversy in October after a BBC investigation found the heavily-criticised former chief executive Katrina Percy was offered a tailor-made post at the trust on the same salary, which she has since left.

Deputy chief inspector Paul Lelliott said: "[The trust] has been under intense scrutiny.

"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."

Southern Health provides mental health services to patients across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

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