Hospital Dr News

Hunt announces a review of the way NHS deaths are investigated following Southern Health

A review of the way deaths are investigated throughout the NHS has been announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

It coincides with the publication of a report on Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, one of the country’s largest mental health trusts. A “lack of leadership, focus and sufficient time spent” investigating deaths has been identified at the trust.

Hunt said he was determined that the NHS learned lessons from the report.

In a statement to Parliament, Hunt wrote: “I am determined that we learn the lessons of this report, and use it to help build a culture in which failings in care form the basis for learning for organisations and for the system as a whole.”

He said the Care Quality Commission would now undertake a “focused inspection” on Southern Health in the new year.

The CQC would “also be undertaking a wider review into the investigation of deaths in a sample of all types of NHS trust in different parts of the country”, he added.

Southern Health covers Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, and provides services to about 45,000 people.

The report was ordered in 2013, after 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk drowned in a bath following an epileptic seizure while a patient at Southern Health hospital in Oxford.

His death was found to have been preventable, with neglect by the trust contributing to his death.

The report showed there had been more than 10,000 deaths at the trust between 2011 and 2015. Not all deaths require an investigation, but of the 722 unexpected deaths, only 272 had been investigated.

And 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”.

And while 30% of all deaths were investigated in adult mental health services, fewer than 1% of deaths of people with learning disabilities were investigated and 0.3% of deaths in older people with mental health problems. The report said there had been a “failure of leadership”.

Read a blog on hospital mortality reviews.

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