Southern Health were issued the largest fine of any NHS Trust after admitting to “systemic failures” that led to the deaths of patients Teresa Colvin and Connor Sparrowhawk.
Following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive, the trust pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws last year and were ordered to pay £995,000 for Colvin’s death and £1.5 million for Sparrowhawk’s.
Colvin died on 26 April 2012, aged 45. She was found dead at a mental health facility in Hampshire. Sparrowhawk was just 18 when he had an epileptic seizure and drowned in a bath at a care unit in Oxford on 4 July 2013.
Further investigation into Sparrowhawk’s death uncovered that Southern Health had failed to adequately investigate the deaths of over 1,000 patients over a period of four years.
The judge who levied the sentence, Mr. Justice Stuart-Smith of the Oxford Crown Court, called the punishment a, “just and proportionate outcome that marks the seriousness of the trust’s offending [and] the terrible consequences of that offending.”
In its submissions to the court, Southern Health acknowledged its own wrongdoing. Statements by the organisation called the deaths “entirely preventable” and said it is “a matter of significant regret” that they did not address the problem more quickly.
“Both Connor and Teresa should not have died. That is a matter of profound regret to me and the organisation, and I am truly sorry. We let them down and we let their families down,” said Dr. Nick Broughton, chief executive of Southern Health.
Sara Ryan, Sparrowhawk’s mother, started a campaign called JusticeforLB to investigate the problems at the trust. Stuart-Smith expressed regret that such a campaign was necessary to shed light on the issue, and at the “entirely unjustified criticism” Ryan suffered as a result of it.
After the sentence was read, Ryan accused Southern Health of “arming itself with a range of legal weapons and dirty tricks.”
Broughton, who was appointed amid a string of resignations at Southern Health, said he hoped that the deaths would bring about change. The severity of the punishment shows that negligence of patients is not taken lightly by the justice system.
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