Southern Health NHS trust 'making progress'

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Connor SparrowhawkImage source, JusticeforLB
Image caption,
Connor Sparrowhawk died at a Southern Health facility in Oxford

An NHS trust criticised for not properly investigating the deaths of hundreds of patients is learning from its past mistakes, according to a health watchdog.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said Southern Health was getting better at investigating incidents, but added there was still much to do.

Issues at the trust came to light after 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in a bath at an Oxford facility.

The trust welcomed the CQC's findings.

It's chief executive Katrina Percy resigned in October and the trust has yet to appoint a new one. Its previous board of directors quit in March.

Julie Dawes, interim chief executive, said: "This report gives us additional confidence that we are taking the right approach to improving our services.

"We are not complacent and fully accept that we have more work to do. We have clear plans in place to improve each area that the CQC has highlighted."

The report, which still rates the trust as "requires improvement", follows an inspection of 44 locations and found an "improved focus" on the the trust's response rates, the quality of its investigation reports and how it dealt with complaints.

'Swifter action'

However, it referred to delays in providing special mattresses and beds for patients approaching the end of their lives and when providing and repairing wheelchairs.

Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: "Some patients and families did express concerns that things hadn't changed enough and they would like to see swifter action with more effective communications when things go wrong.

"The majority of staff we met told us that they believed that the interim chair and interim chief executive were making a positive difference in changing the culture.

"The trust is certainly moving in the right direction and we hope this progress will continue under the new leadership team."

A report, which was leaked to the BBC in 2015, showed that of the 722 unexpected deaths at the trust between 2011 and 2015, only 272 were investigated.

It described a "failure of leadership" and said investigations that did take place took too long, were of "poor" quality and when concerns were raised by coroners and others "no effective action was taken".

The trust currently provides services in Oxfordshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

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