Katrina Percy has resigned as chief executive of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, saying her position had become untenable due to ongoing personal media attention.
Southern Health has been under fire for some time after a number of failings were uncovered during Percy’s tenure. For instance, in December 2015, a report compiled by Mazars at the request of NHS England found that the trust failed to adequately investigate hundreds of unexplained deaths – many of those were people with learning disabilities.
In addition, in April, Care Quality Commission reported serious concerns about the safety of patients with mental health problems and learning disabilities in some locations operated by Southern Health – despite it being previously warned to improve.
Southern Health also accepted full responsibility for the death of Connor Sparrowhawk and admitted that it was negligent and violated Connor’s and his family’s human rights in June.
Connor Sparrowhawk, aged 18, died on July 4, 2013 while in the care and custody of the Short Term Assessment and Treatment (STATT) Unit, Slade House, which was run by Southern Health. However, this admission only came at the end of a 3-year campaign – #JusticeforLB – by Connor’s mother, Sara Ryan, to establish the truth of what happened.
However, a June review into Southern Health by its interim chair, Tim Smart, advocated that Percy remain in post.
In a statement, Percy said: “I was pleased to have his [Smart’s] endorsement and support to carry on in my role as chief executive and I have been humbled by the overwhelming support from staff and other colleagues.
“Since then I have reflected on the effect the ongoing personal media attention has had on staff and patients and have come to the conclusion that this has made my role untenable. I have therefore come to the difficult decision to step down from my role as chief executive after 9 years.”
Percy is now taking on a new role, providing strategic advice to local GP leaders as they work with others to transform the way in which health services are delivered across Hampshire. “I am delighted to be taking on an alternative role… and I feel that now is the right time to take on that new challenge,” she added. “I know, and understand, that many will say I should have stepped down sooner given the very public concerns which have been raised in the past months. I stayed on as I firmly believed it was my responsibility to oversee the necessary improvements and to continue the ground breaking work we have begun with GPs to transform care for our patients.
“I would like to thank all of our staff for their unstinting daily support and dedication to delivering the best possible care for all those we look after. I wish everyone at the Trust, and everyone who has supported it, especially over the past year, all the best.”
In another statement, Smart said: “Katrina has come to the conclusion that, due to the significant focus on her as an individual, it is in the best interests of the trust, patients and staff for her to step down. I have agreed, on the basis that her position has become untenable because of ongoing personal media attention. Katrina is taking on an alternative role working with local GP leaders providing strategic advice on the transformation of local health services. There is vital work that needs to be done for which she is ideally suited.
“Katrina has shown great resilience, devoting herself to the patients and staff of Southern Health since it was created in 2011. In addition, the recently completed independent board capability review found Katrina to be well suited to lead the Trust forward.
“Katrina has ensured that Southern Health is now working more closely with other health and care organisations in the region to provide more joined up care, so more people receive support at the right time and place. Katrina leaves the Trust financially sound and well-positioned to create a new form of multispecialty community provider in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I wish Katrina every success in her future endeavours, and thank her for her years of service.”
Julie Dawes, who joined Southern Health in May this year as director of nursing and quality, has been installed as interim chief executive officer. “She will be supported as and when required by Dr Matthew Patrick, chief executive officer, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and Jon Allen, non-executive director and former director of nursing at Oxford Health,” Smart added. “It is important that patients and our staff have confidence that Southern Health’s future is in safe hands.”