Katie's Diary

Thorough Investigation Needed by Dorothy Jarvis-Lee

16th December 2015

THE sudden death of a loved one is hard to bear.  But it is doubly hard to understand when it was avoidable and caused because of neglect by the very people claiming to care for your relative.  When that organisation is part of the NHS we should all be asking some questions.

Last week Southern Health NHS Trust Foundation, one of the largest mental health trusts providing care for some 45,000 people admitted that 1454 people had died inexplicably.  Worse, it was revealed that investigations into their deaths had been inadequate and left more questions than answers.

Of course we are now going though the public chest beating as government ministers say it isn’t good enough, NHS Trust managers say it won’t happen again, but refuse to take responsibility and resign while families whose loved ones remain in the care of Southern Health NHS Trust Foundation wonder if they are safe.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary has said that from 2016 219 clinical care commissioning groups will face Ofsted style inspections, and he will publish details of all avoidable deaths in the NHS.

Looking beneath the headline figures there was some very unpalatable reading for 21st century Britain.  Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust didn’t learn from its previous mistakes, despite having access to detailed data on the inexplicable deaths it didn’t use it effectively; they investigated too few deaths of people with learning difficulties and in nearly two thirds of investigations there was no family involvement.

The report blamed a "failure of leadership" at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

The Trust was criticised for not learning from the deaths, but society must learn more about the way we treat and care for vulnerable adults in our society.  The whole report has one consistent theme running throughout it.  We have too little regard for vulnerable adults and view their lives as worth less than other members of society.

The culture of neglect within the Trust was summed up by the mum of one young man who died after having an epileptic fit in the bath.

“I can't express how shocked we were, we had no idea at the level of disregard and disinterest that Southern Health were demonstrating towards a group of their patients," Sara Ryan said after the inquest of her son, Connor Sparrowhawk.

Society is judged by the way it treats it most vulnerable citizens.  Vulnerable adults and people with learning difficulties are no less valuable members of society than anyone else.  If we are to create a fair, just and democratic society for everyone we have to ensure that no one is left out and that everyone can expect the same high quality of care and treatment regardless of their mental or physical health.

ubu was set up to enable vulnerable people to become part of their community and to have the same opportunities as everyone else and we are proud to say that everyone here is committed to the very highest standards of care for the people we serve.

It is heart-breaking, as we approach the festive season, to think that some do not respect vulnerable adults or afford them the quality of care they deserve.

If anything must come out of this tragedy it must be that attitudes like this are eradicated from the NHS and that this 21st century kind of scandal never happens again in our civilized society.

For more of our insights follow us @ubsupport. 

Thorough Investigation Needed by Dorothy Jarvis-Lee

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