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.
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:
"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."
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.
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.
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.
The chief executive of under-fire Southern Health trust will keep her job, despite widespread criticism over unexplained deaths.
The future of Southern Health NHS Trust chief executive Katrina Percy is under scrutiny as part of a review by the interim chair.
Southern Health will launch a full investigation into an alleged 'abusive' voicemail sent to Dr Sara Ryan, mother of Connor Sparrowhawk.