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Families of five who died in the care of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust slam investigation and report as a 'sham'

THE families of five people who died while in the care of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust have savaged an independent investigation as "unfair and heavily biased".

As reported in the A&T, they refused to engage with its second phase, which had its report published yesterday (Thursday), and called the entire process a "sham".

They have now hit out after the publication of stage two of the report into the trust, claiming they had been "victimised, deceived, stonewalled and treated with utter contempt".

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is based at Tatchbury Mount
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is based at Tatchbury Mount

Pointing out the five deaths still remained un-investigated, they said not addressing issues was "potentially bequeathing a death sentence to other vulnerable individuals in the care of the trust".

In a statement, the families added: "In this regard, this sham of a report published today yet again illustrates the inability of the government and senior NHS management to address the realities of serious failings within the service and hold to account the individuals and the management of individual trusts and clinical commissioning groups involved."

Among them was Maureen Rickman, sister of Jo Deering, also from New Milton, who died by suicide aged 52 in 2011 while she was in the care of the trust

Southern Health is based at Tatchbury Mount, near Totton, and runs mental health services in Hampshire and several hospitals, including at Lymington.

The trust has again apologised and said it would produce the detailed plan to follow the report's recommendations.

The independent investigation was led by Nigel Pascoe QC
The independent investigation was led by Nigel Pascoe QC

The independent investigation, led by Nigel Pascoe QC, was set up to investigate the deaths of five people between October 2011 and November 2015, which occurred while they were under the care of the trust.

When the first report was published, Mr Pascoe described the events as a "truly deplorable and unacceptable saga".

He embarked on a second phase, choosing a three-person panel to assist, to assess specific policies, such as investigative processes, handling complaints, and communication with service users and families.

It concluded Southern Health still had "difficult unresolved issues". The panel made 39 recommendations and outlined nine learning points to and said there was “is a real need for continuing systematic and practical reform".

But the families said his decision to focus on trust policy as part of the second phase had "effectively prohibited our ability to speak about the trust’s corrupt investigations and the un-investigated deaths".

The investigation "unfairly" pitted NHS professionals against them and they were offered no formal representation, they claimed.

"The partisan structure of the public investigation therefore operated in the interests of the trust and enabled the hearings to quite literally showcase and promote the trust – and did so at the expense of five vulnerable people who lost their lives in the care of the trust," the statement added.

"We, the families, have collectively spent 40 years of our lives on a purgatorial journey pursuing formal acknowledgement and accountability for care failings that led to the preventable deaths of our loved ones whilst they were in the care of the mental health and learning disability sectors of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

"For us, this journey has been about the simple pursuit of the truth – having the deaths honestly and transparently investigated and failings acknowledged, so that learning relating to serious care and service failings at the trust could be used to improve the safety and welfare of others.

"These modest expectations, however, have been repeatedly, callously, and unjustly denied to the families."

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