There must be an investigation into the failures at Southern Health but it must be independent of the NHS, which has a vested interest in covering up. The CQC and Monitor are not independent. They are part of a failed system - a point which Southern Health Governor John Green has made very clear in his heroic work.
|Southern Health Governor John Green|
But the other governors just don't get it - and it's time for them to go!
They must not forget - as campaigner Denise Wyatt reminded them at the Council of Governors meeting in early January - governors are there to protect us and our loved ones.
Why do I say this? For several weeks since we became aware of Southern Health's problems, governance expert Denise and I have been providing advice in good faith to Southern Health, its Company Secretary, Chair and Governors.
We wanted to patiently, in good faith and good grace, try to work with these people to improve the future for the patients, carers and families of Southern Health.
As part of this advice, Denise and I wrote a paper to advise Governors how to fulfill their role properly in holding the Trust Board to account. At our request, it was confirmed by the Company Secretary that this paper had been sent to all Governors. Only 2 governors (of 26) contacted us to thank us for our help, which we provided for free and in our own time.
How could it be then that when Governor John Green put his three constructive and relatively mild recommendations to this week's Council of Governors, that two governors - Helen Keats and Liz Hall - could question whether it was the Governors place to question the leadership of Southern Health? Denise and I were incredulous at such ignorance of the facts, and called out that "It's your job!" - leading to the Chair Mike Petter (also under pressure from the BBC for a conflict of interest) threatening to expel us from the meeting.
Did they read our advice? Did they ignore it? Did they not understand it?
The advice we provided is crystal clear:
"Holding the Non-Executive Directors to Account
The Southern Health Constitution states the Council of Governors are:
18.1.1. To hold the Non-Executive Directors individually and collectively to account for the performance of the Board of Directors;
What does this mean?
“Governors are responsible for appointing the chair and other non-executive directors and may also remove them in the event of unsatisfactory performance.” Quote from Your statutory duties A reference guide for NHS foundation trust governors
In light of the Mazars Report, do you think there has been satisfactory performance?
If not, you must use the powers you have to ensure a satisfactory performance.
You have the powers – please use them !"
If the Governors did not understand our advice, they could have got clarification from us or the Company Secretary. Instead, they ignored it and carried on their ignorance and failing to do their public duty and use the powers they have.
Added to these failures, the Trust Board and Council of Governors tried to explain their way out of the questions I put to both of these Foundation Trust bodies back in mid-December. Despite waiting for a month, I was disappointed that they did not properly answer the questions. Not only this, but they did not pursue the crucial points of the questions...
...that I had requested an investigation using the Nominations and Appointments committees and the proper use of the Governors powers to hold the leadership to account.
John Green was the only one who got it. Every single other governor present (apart from one abstention), including appointed governors Councillor Paul Lewzey (Southampton City Council), and Councillor Andrew Joy (Hampshire County Council) voted against his recommendations to independently investigate.
We were aghast at their negligence.
As the Mazars report states, Southern Health have failed to investigate deaths in a timely or accurate way. But at these meetings, people like Mike Petter and Dr Chris Gordon continue to maintain that the Mazars report did not criticise the care by Southern Health.
If you fail to investigate deaths, that surely shows a lack of commitment to quality of care?
This state of denial by the leadership of Southern Health has to stop.
So can the other SH governors and the current SH leadership do it? No - we've given them a chance but they have blown it. This week's meeting was the final straw.
I have previously blogged that I wanted to give the governors a chance to prove that they could do it. I believed that there was a nucleus of governors that Denise and I could work with. But the Governors' rejection of John Green's recommendations for an independent investigation show that they have no wish to fulfill their statutory duties. My hopes have been dashed.
Anybody who voted against Mr Green's proposals is not fit to be a Governor. They seem to prefer to smooth things over rather than address the problems. They are not fit to represent me as a Southampton resident, nor anybody from across Hampshire and the other counties that Southern Health "look after".
So how are they to be removed?
Elections for the Council of Governors were only held last year. Several governors came to the end of their appointed times this week. And three more governors resigned before this week's meeting, leaving more holes in the proper governance of Southern Health.
Apart from John Green, who seems to be the only governor who understands his duties, every single one of them should resign or immediately receive urgent training to properly fulfill their public duties. I know that new governors are not being given adequate training, because I have asked them - but if they had any gumption, they should be demanding it. Time has run out. It's time for them to go.
If they do not resign, they must be removed by the public in new elections, or by the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt.
Perhaps then the public will have governors who will do their duty and hold the leadership of Southern Health to account.
And then we can reform the governance of NHS Foundation Trusts so that they are truly accountable to local people.