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Woman who gave evidence over investigation into NHS trust sent 'truly shocking' intimidating messages

Southern Health's base at Tatchbury Mount in Calmore, Totton
Southern Health's base at Tatchbury Mount in Calmore, Totton

THE chairman of a panel investigating an NHS trust that serves the New Forest has condemned “truly shocking” intimidating messages sent to a witness.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs operations across Hampshire, is under scrutiny after a report looking into the deaths of five patients between 2011 and 2015 found “significant failures”, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

A public inquiry began on 4th March this year chaired by Nigel Pascoe QC. This week he told a hearing that there “must be no further attempts of any kind to intimidate, abuse or harass future witnesses”.

He said the panel had been made aware of “truly shocking” messages directed to a woman who gave evidence at the hearings earlier this month.

Mr Pascoe said the witness was a Southern Health employee and the intimidating messages came from members of the public.

The messages came from three Twitter accounts, he said, but he did not disclose any further details.

He added: “The panel do not think it would be proper to name them. However, the view of the panel is that, taken as a whole, those messages, sent to a witness, are totally unacceptable, damaging and deeply disturbing.

“That is indefensible. They appear to have been targeted both to intimidate and to demean the recipient.”

He said the messages received by the witness had caused her distress, and that any intimidation should be brought to the attention of the panel.

Mr Pascoe added: “We are of the strong view that if they were made public any reasonable member of the public would be outraged.”

The inquiry, which is expected to end on 16th April, will look into the handling of complaints at Southern Health as well as a number of policies including communication with families and patients.

Last year Mr Pascoe looked into the deaths of five Southern Health patients between 2011 and 2015 and found “significant, serious and deeply regrettable failures”, as reported by the A&T.

Talking at the start of the hearing earlier this month, he said there had been “insensitive and inappropriate communication” with family members. But he also recognised the “fresh and important work” the trust had begun to do.

In January 2020 the Care and Quality Commission raised Southern Health’s rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’.

This article was amended on 6th April 2021 to clarify the sources of the intimidating messages reported by Nigel Pascoe.

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