Broken Trust? The murky world of NHS management

Katrina Percy

Following the well-publicised resignation of Katrina Percy as Chief Executive of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, the BBC is examining whether Southern Health has done enough to silence its critics. Broken Trust will look at events that led to Percy’s resignation including the death of Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned during an epileptic seizure, whilst in the care of Southern Health in July 2013. Since that tragedy, news of a number of unexplained deaths of vulnerable people whilst in the care of the Trust have been discovered. In many cases these deaths were not investigated.

The NHS is a marvel of a huge machine that cares for and processes thousands of people every day. It is the biggest employer in the country and we should be rightly proud of it and the outcomes it produces. All of us have had good and possibly less good experiences, but it is by far and away the most successful health organisation in the world. However, when things go wrong, the NHS has a reputation for closing ranks and this unnecessarily long running saga of whether a Chief Executive is ultimately accountable for the deaths of many people whilst she was in charge leaves a stain on the NHS. Added to that we now understand that Percy has moved sideways into a job paid the same as her previous role. This may be a pragmatic management of senior staff, but it clouds the accountability of those who run our NHS services and casts a shadow on the worth of young people such as Connor. The NHS has been gob-smackingly arrogant and uneven-handed in its treatment of a patient’s family and its own management.

The outcry against Katrina Percy and Southern Health has been wide and vocal led by his dignified mother. Part of that movement has been Oxfordshire’s self-advocacy organisation, My Life My Choice, who today publish a challenge to the current Chair of Southern Health, Tim Smart. MLMC calls for Leadership with transparency and offers help to the Trust for a better way forward.

The least the NHS can do at this point is to say that they are sincerely sorry and demonstrate that by involving people it cares for. That would be a fitting beginning to ensure that families in the future have confidence in its services and do not have to go through what Connor’s family are going through.