Southern Health NHS Trust, has come in for severe criticism, including from the Health Minster Jeremy Hunt, due to its failure to investigate unexpected deaths at the Trust.
An independent report covering April 2011-March 2015, noted that there were 1,454 unexpected deaths at the Trust. Of those, 272 were treated as critical incidents and just 195 were treated by the Trust as serious incidents requiring investigation.
One of the most concerning aspects of the report was that the likelihood of an unexpected death being investigated by the Trust varied hugely depending on the type of patient involved. 30% of unexplained deaths involving adults with mental health problems were investigated. However, for those with learning disabilities the figure was 1% and among the over-65s with mental health problems it was only 0.3%.
The Trust was criticised in the report for failing to demonstrate that it had a comprehensive systematic approach to learning from deaths, so as to avoid mistakes being repeated. It was also criticised for failing to involve families of the deceased, when undertaking investigations. In fact the leadership of the Trust was specifically criticised, leading Chief Executive Katrina Percy, to offer an apology for the Trusts failings.
In light of this damning report, The Health Minister; Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that there needs to be changes in the reporting culture in the NHS when it comes to unexplained deaths.
Investigating unexpected events is an essential task for all trusts to undertake. It allows an opportunity to identify tragic mistakes and ensure they are not repeated. If unexplained deaths are not investigated, then this opportunity to learn and improve is lost and the same errors will be repeated time and again. It is essential that the NHS puts patient welfare first and that this is not compromised due to fear of criticism. At Moosa-Duke Solicitors we specialise in investigating clinical negligence cases, including those involving deaths at healthcare trusts. We know from experience that pursuing these cases and investigating unexplained deaths, does make a difference in ensuring that lessons are learnt and tragedies can be avoided in the future.