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Barton woman's calls for investigation into Southern Health over sister Jo Deering's death rejected

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THE government has rejected calls by a Barton woman for an investigation into the death of her sister who took her own life whilst in the care of the NHS.

Maureen Rickman wrote to the Prime Minister asking the government to "authorise a genuinely independent investigation" into Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which is based at Tatchbury Mount in Calmore and provides mental health services in Hampshire.

Her sister Jo Deering died aged 52 in 2011 after being discharged from hospital, and Ms Rickman (60), a teacher, claimed Southern Health failed to carry out “honest and transparent investigations” into the circumstances.

Maureen Rickman (left) and her sister Jo Deering
Maureen Rickman (left) and her sister Jo Deering

But health minister Nadine Dorries has written back to say that in light of the ongoing investigation into the trust's policies following a damning report into the deaths of four former patients between 2012 and 2015, the government will not be insisting on another.

As reported by the A&T, the families of these patients – Robert Small, David West, Edward Hartley and Marion Munns – withdrew from the most recent stage 2 public inquiry, which recently concluded having started in March, labelling it a "charade".

Mrs Rickman, who also refused to take part after losing trust in the process, has always maintained the investigation, commissioned by NHS Improvement, should have included Jo’s death.

She wrote in her letter to the PM: “Like other families, my family has been left, quite literally, without any formal acknowledgement of the circumstances of a death that was entirely preventable – that is not acceptable, and neither is the fact that we have been left in this interminable and unresolved purgatorial state for almost 10 years.

“For these reasons I am requesting that you please intervene on behalf of my family and authorise a genuinely independent investigation into the death of my sister."

But in her reply, Ms Dorries wrote: "When the death of an individual is likely to provide significant national learning and all other routes have been exhausted, independent investigations can be requested by ministers, but this is very much the exception.

"Given the stage 2 hearing, I hope you will understand that we have no plans to commission a separate independent investigation into the death of your sister."

Ms Rickman slammed the response as "shockingly inadequate" and questioned the logic behind Ms Dorrie's reasons for rejecting her appeal.

"The granting of investigations should not depend on whether or not the death is ‘likely to provide significant national learning'," she said.

"This is a dangerously flawed standard that ignores serious individual cases of service failure and malpractice, and turns a blind eye to the safety and welfare of other service users in the care of a trust."

Led by Nigel Pascoe QC, the second stage of the investigation followed a previous report published in February 2020 that found “significant, serious and deeply regrettable failures” by the trust in the past.

It looked into Southern Health policy including communication and handling of complaints. It is expected to report back in the summer.

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