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Defiant governors break ranks with leadership at Southern Health

There's been more trouble at under fire Southern Health Trust, as the rift between senior staff grows wider.

Rebel governors went ahead with a meeting critical of the leadership , despite it being cancelled by the Trust management.

It was originally convened to propose a vote of no confidence in Chief Executive Katrina Percy, but instead a small group of governors took questions from the public.

Just three of the 18 governors attended, after the interim chairman Tim Smith called for the meeting to be delayed. Mr Smith said it was because any decision could be open to legal challenge.

The Trust - which covers Hampshire and Dorset - has been criticised for failing to properly investigate the unexpected deaths of around 1,000 people since 2011.

Watch Richard Slee's report below:

Richard spoke to Peter Bell (Governor) and Tim Smart (Chairman) from Southern Health Trust

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Southern Health governor slams bosses for 'frustrating their efforts' to address problems

Credit: ITV

A Governor of Southern Health says he feels as if he's banging his head against a brick wall, after the Trust postponed a meeting at which a vote of no confidence in the executive board was expected.

Chair of the board of Governors Peter Bell had previously been highly critical of senior board members at the troubled Trust, and has called for greater transparency in tackling some of the issues raised in a damning report by the Care Quality Commission.

Peter Bell has launched a scathing attack on Southern Health Credit: Linked In

On Friday he called for a vote of no confidence in senior staff, including Chief Executive Katrina Percy, and tabled a motion to be discussed at an Extraordinary Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday May 17th.

But on Saturday the interim Chairman of Southern Health, Tim Smart, who was appointed less than two weeks ago, said he could not allow the meeting to go ahead, for legal reasons.

In a statement, he said that after taking advice from NHS Improvement and the Trust's solicitors, he'd taken the difficult decision to postpone the meeting:

Tim Smart was appointed as interim Chair less than two weeks ago Credit: ITV Meridian

"It has been brought to my attention that the resolutions put forward by Governors for discussion at the meeting do not comply with NHSI guidance, and any vote would not be legally robust.

"While I understand there is considerable public interest in these resolutions, the potential of not following the correct process is that any decision made by the Council of Governors next week could have become subject to significant challenge, including judicial review.

"In order to avoid this, the Trust has offered to provide independent legal support to the Governors, in order that their resolutions can be given full consideration at a future public meeting, having been submitted using the correct legal process."

"This is far from ideal but having been appointed to bring change to Southern Health and to lead in developing a proper way forward following all the considerable problems at the Trust, I am determined that what we do everything correctly, whatever the short term difficulties along the way."

– Tim Smart, Interim Chairman of Southern Health

In response, Mr Bell launched a scathing attack on Mr Smart's decision, and issued an ultimatum- giving the Trust one last chance to re-consider, before threatening legal action himself:

"I am beginning to feel like the families who have being pursuing changes at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and appear to have been banging their heads on a brick wall - I am tempted to shout out

'ARE YOU LISTENING?'

This is beginning to look like just another attempt to frustrate the wishes of the Governors who have been trying (some for several years, it seems) to get matters addressed.

If this was not such a serious matter I would be laughing out loud at such tactics. But this is no laughing matter. This is deadly serious and I really hope that the Interim Chair begins to understand just how serious this is.

– Peter Bell, Public Governor

Mr Bell questioned the legal basis of the Trust's decision to postpone the meeting, and has threatened legal action himself if his concerns aren't addressed.

"So Mr Smart - it seems you are not the only one thinking about Judicial Review.

I have warned you that I am prepared to seek an injunction to force you to act correctly.

Do we really need to resort to the Courts in the first 2 weeks of your appointment?"

You can read Mr Bell's full response here.

The death of Connor Sparrowhawk sparked a huge inquiry into Southern Health Credit: ITV

Southern Health - which cares for vulnerable people in Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Dorset - was slammed by the Care Quality Commission for not doing enough to protect patients. It also pointed to bad leadership and a lack of connection between management and staff.

One patient - Connor Sparrowhawk - who was 18 - and had epilepsy - drowned in a bath in 2013 at a Southern Health unit. The Trust agreed his death could have been prevented.

NHS confirms appointment of Southern Health Chair

Southern Health has appointed Tim Smart as Interim Chair after regulatory action taken by NHS Improvement in response to serious concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission.

Tim Smart will carry out a review of the capacity and capability of the trust's current board.

NHS Improvement say they will work closely with the new Interim Chair, who takes up his post. They are also deciding whether to take further regulatory action against Southern Health.

Credit: King's College University

The people that rely on our services and their families will be at the heart of everything we do. Two of my immediate priorities are to make sure that the quality and safety of our services improve and to make sure the Board functions more effectively

– Tim Smart, Interim Chair at Southern Health

Tim Smart has previously worked as Chief Executive of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for 7 years.

Police investigate 'malicious' phone call to bereaved mother

Thames Valley Police have confirmed they are launching an investigation into an abusive voicemail received by Dr Sara Ryan.

A spokeswoman said the message, allegedly sent by an employee of Southern Health, "has now been recorded as a report of a malicious communication and is currently under investigation."

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"I felt horrified" - mother of Connor Sparrowhawk responds to abusive voicemail

Dr Ryan's son Connor Sparrowhawk drowned while under the care of Southern Health

The mother of Connor Sparrowhawk says she felt horrified by an abusive voicemail, allegedly sent by an employee of Southern Health.

Dr Sara Ryan only heard the message yesterday when she noticed a voicemail had been left on her work phone.

She told ITV Meridian:

I felt quite sick, I felt horrified and couldn't believe what I was hearing. We posted it online and the response we've had has been immediate. People are disgusted by it and shocked by the whole thing

– Dr Sara Ryan

Listen to a recording of the voicemail below:

Connor Sparrowhawk drowned while under the care of Southern Health. The NHS Trust has been criticised by NHS England and the Care Quality Commission for failing to investigate hundreds of unexpected deaths.

Watch our special feature on damning report into Southern Health

The Care Quality Commission has issued a damning report following an inspection of the way the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust looks after the people in its care.

The organisation has come under increased scrutiny following the revelation that there were failings in the way that it reported and investigated hundreds of unexpected deaths, particularly of people using its mental health and learning disability services.

The chief executive of the trust, Katrina Percy, has refused to step down, despite criticism about Southern Health's leadership.

You can watch our full special report on the Care Quality Commission's report into Southern Health NHS Trust below:

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