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NHS Trust failing to protect patients from risk of harm, says watchdog

Connor Sparrowhawk died after having an epileptic seizure in the bath Credit: JusticeforLB/PA Wire

A scandal-hit NHS trust where a teenager drowned in the bath is still failing to protect patients from risk of harm, a watchdog has found.

The health secretary ordered the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to carry out a report following problems at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust's chairman Mike Petter resigned "with great sadness" hours before the review was published.

"The trust has recently undergone a significant amount of scrutiny in some service areas and given the challenges it faces I feel it is appropriate for me to allow new board leadership to take forward the improvements," he said.

Southern has been under intense scrutiny following the deaths of hundreds of patients, including 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk who died in 2013.

Mike Petter was appointed trust chairman in 2015. Credit: Southern Health

In October, a jury inquest ruled that neglect contributed to the death of Connor, who drowned after an epileptic seizure at Slade House in Headington, Oxfordshire. CQC inspectors found that robust arrangements to probe incidents, including deaths, had not been put in place, resulting in "missed opportunities" to prevent similar events.

Concerns highlighted previously by the CQC of ligature risks had still not been properly addressed by the latest inspection, which was carried out over four days by a 22-strong team in January.

And in December, an independent investigation found Southern Health had failed to probe the deaths of hundreds of people since 2011.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health at the CQC, said: "I am concerned that the leadership of this trust shows little evidence of being proactive in identifying risk to the people it cares for or of taking action to address that risk before concerns are raised by external bodies.

"Along with partners, including NHS Improvement and NHS England, we will be monitoring progress extremely closely. We will be looking not only for evidence of improvements, but for evidence that this board is actively planning to protect patients in their care from the risk of harm." An action plan has been supplied by the trust and a further inspection will take place to check that improvements are being carried out.

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