Nick joined Southern Health in November 2017 as Chief Executive. He was previously Chief Executive at Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Nick is a psychiatrist by background and has worked as a Consultant in Forensic Psychiatry since 2000.
Having commented previously on Mr Justice Stuart-Smith’s sentencing in R v Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, it is equally important to recognise Nick’s good intentions and the enormity of the task he faces. He started well: in the words of Sara Ryan, Nick:
“Held his hands up to say ‘fair cop’ and accepted systemic failings between 2011-2016…. Broughton’s statement included open acknowledgement of the way in which we’d had to fight for justice and how wrong this was.”
In Southern Health’s public statement after the Hearing, some of Nick’s words were even stronger:
“Their [TJ and Connor’s] deaths were avoidable, entirely preventable and should never have occurred.”
He also had the good grace to credit all those who have contributed to the changes at Southern Health:
“Crucial to these and other improvements is the contribution from many families and individuals dedicated to bringing about change. Whether working alongside us, or indeed as campaigning activists, their courage, dignity and insight is making a difference and deserves recognition.”
Also to his great credit a person, who attended Court, alleged that Nick told Trust’s Counsel to shut up when he asked inappropriate questions of Sara Ryan. A welcome change from the lack of ‘guidance’ to Counsel by another Director at a recent Inquest.
Without apportioning blame, we pose the following questions about the Trust’s statement. They mainly result not from concerns about Nick’s leadership but from doubts about the ability and willingness of some senior and subordinate leaders, still in positions of influence at the Trust, to embrace change fully. For example:
- Is it too early to be sure the Trust is a safer place?
- Nick recognises the contribution, courage, dignity and insight of campaign activists and others. What steps will the Trust take to ensure all senior and subordinate leaders reciprocate by treating activists and others with respect and dignity?
- Many other families lost loved ones as a result of Southern Health’s version of ‘care’: some did not even have the ‘benefit’ of an Inquest. How will the Trust ensure such families do not feel ‘left behind’ by these two high-profile cases?
- Does the Trust agree that, although Teresa and Connor’s deaths may have been catalysts for change, the Trust did not cause the change by self-disclosing incidents to the HSE? For example, a third party reported Teresa’s case to the HSE – almost three years after the event. What steps will the Trust take to remedy this?¹
Regardless of these ongoing requirements (or perhaps because of them), CRASH is confident that most of those recognised in the Trust’s statement will continue to provide constructive criticism and assist transformation, wherever required.
Our recent post about the Sentencing Hearing commended Mr Justice Stuart-Smith’s wisdom in setting a well-balanced penalty. Not being present, we were unaware of his ‘bedside manner’ (pun irresistible) but can now quote some of Sara Ryan’s thoughts:
“A judgement so drenched in sense and fairness it was extraordinary to listen to.
“The sensitivity and commitment of the Judge, Bernard, the HSE team and the media who attended (many of whom have followed the campaign over the years) were also extraordinary. Kindnesses that will stay with us.
“Mr Justice was spot on with his ‘just and proportionate’ outcome.
“[I hope] those more widely implicated [at Southern Health] will absorb some of Mr J’s sense, fairness and integrity and now speak out.”
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
In short, our ‘work’ in respect of Southern Health has not yet ended but we hope that this week’s events mark the end of the beginning of its transformation.
FOOTNOTE 1 – Making life simple in the NHS!
Always keen to
complicate (whoops) simplify life for NHS employees, from 1 April 2015 our leaders complicated simplified reporting Health & Safety incidents by splitting responsibility between the CQC, HSE and Local Authorities.
Now, rather than just ‘phone HSE (not that Southern Health did so very often), there’s a Memorandum of Understanding to read (and no doubt meetings to be held) just to decide who to contact!