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Culture and practices ‘significantly improved’ at Southern Health, according to independent assessment

31 January 2018

Southern Health has published the findings of an external audit assessing progress against the recommendations made in the Mazars report*. The audit has found significant improvements in the way the Trust investigates and reports patient deaths and involves family members in this process, as well as a culture of increased openness and transparency.

GP talking to a patient

The audit report concludes:        

“The Trust has made significant improvements in all of the areas that were recommended in the Mazars report. We believe that the Trust has changed the culture within the organisation to the point that continual improvement is very likely and the areas that have not been fully impacting will do so over time.”

The auditors also praised the appointment of a dedicated family liaison officer to support bereaved families and noted the positive impact this has made."

The audit was carried out by Niche Health and Social Care Consulting and Grant Thornton LLP during 2017. It involved a detailed assessment of Southern Health’s actions to see if changes had been made and whether they were embedded in practice.

Unrestricted access was granted to the auditors who reviewed over 250 documents, interviewed key members of staff, observed meetings in progress and carried out a survey of staff to assess the extent to which changes were embedded within the organisation.        

The auditors assessed and graded 80 out of the 108 actions on the trust’s plan, grouped the actions into themes linked to the Mazars recommendations. Each theme received a grade of either A or B, meaning changes were complete and embedded, with evidence of impact in many areas.

The findings did highlight areas for further improvement, for example ensuring that investigations were of a consistently high quality. The trust is addressing this through regular staff training and review by a senior panel that includes a member of the executive team.     

Dr Nick Broughton, Southern Health’s Chief Executive said: “Improving quality is our top priority so I feel encouraged by these findings which suggest Southern Health is making genuine progress. We recognise there is more to do and there will be challenges ahead, but we will not stop working to create the culture of constant learning and improvement our patients and their families deserve.”

Lynne Hunt, Chair of the Trust said: “The Mazars report was a watershed moment for Southern Health and triggered wide-ranging changes which are still continuing to this day - and we still have much to do. The findings of this audit give the Board assurance and additional confidence that our new approach is making a difference and I hope this will reassure people using our services.”

In addition to this action plan the Trust has carried out a raft of other changes and in the last 12 months has appointed new, permanent Chair and Chief Executive as well as new executive and non-executive Board members. In July 2017 the Care Quality Commission published a report following inspections of the Trust which found it had ‘turned a corner’.

*The Mazars report is the independent review of deaths of people with a Learning Disability or Mental Health problem in contact with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, April 2011 to March 2015. It was published in December 2015.