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Friday, 29 July 2016

Southern Health: Unexplained Deaths and Dodgy Connections

Since the end of 2015, Denise and Andrew have worked with other campaigners for real and lasting change at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. You can see our actions on other posts on this website.

Councillor Andrew Pope has once again asked Labour and Conservative councillors on Southampton City Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel to have a vote of no confidence in the Board of Southern Health. For the second time this year, they have refused to even hold the vote.

We and other councillors were appalled when Labour Adult Social Care Cabinet Member Councillor Dave Shields tried to gag councillors from commenting on Southern Health.

We were aghast that Councillor Shields stated in response to a question at Full Council from his Tory opposite Councillor Ivan White, that he thought the new Chair of Southern Health, Tim Smart, would not be a "patsy". This was most peculiar language. So using Cllr Shields' words against him, Andrew asked him who he thought at Southern Health was a patsy? Councillor Shields refused to respond to that question. And Councillor Shields has consistently failed to properly intervene to protect Southampton residents from the neglect of Southern Health.

Why is this? 

Is it because Tim Smart is stated on the May 2016 Declaration of interests for Southern Health, and we quote:

"Member of Labour Party"

Interests must be declared.

And interests must not be abused.

We must be told whether this interest, or other interests, were influential in decision-making.

Now via the BBC this morning, we learn of allegations of connections between Southern Health and Tony Blair's Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell:

"The BBC has also learned Southern Health has access to the services of former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell, after it hired Portland Communications to help with its ongoing problems."
It was also reported by the Press Association via the Daily Echo.

Questions arise:

1. Is this the same Portland Communications that has been accused of causing splits in the Labour Party?

2. Are the Labour connections one reason why Labour councillors in Southampton are silent on the neglect of Southern Health? 

3. Is this why Labour Councillor Paul Lewzey, who sits on the Board (Council) of Governors at Southern Health, refused to back an independent investigation into the failings of Southern Health?

4. And in the light of today's revelations, isn't it interesting that Katrina Percy has not declared any interests. Why? Other people in the declaration of interets have mentioned associations with others. She has mentioned none. 

5. Such revelations also raise questions about the Audit Committee which were checking the decisions made. From the Press Association article:

"The Trust's Audit Committee were aware of the contract development but were satisfied that the market rates had been tested and that for a number of reasons, it was in the best interests of the Trust for their work to continue"

We have asked for the minutes of the Audit Committee. They do not appear to be readily publicly available - but then information on Southern Health is very hard to find. Further, the Terms of Reference of the Committee are not exactly encouraging tough scrutiny. For example, a quorum of two is very low - as low as they can go. This is very worrying.


To repeat.

Interests must be declared.

And interests must not be abused.

We need to know the answers and now.

In the meantime, we were saddened to hear that one of the few Southern Health governors to actually work for change, John Lewis Green, has now resigned. We completely understand why he did.

We were heartened by the rebellion of a new Governor, Mr Bell.

There remain many vacancies on the Board of Governors. We know why. They have been treated with contempt by the Trust Board of Southern Health. But many of them simply are not up to the job of holding the Trust Board to account. And when we have tried to "educate" them in their responsibilities, the vast majority have ignored us.

The above questions need to be answered.

Southern Health needs to be broken up.

It is too big.

It is too unwieldy.

It has failed and is continuing to fail the health and wellbeing of so many people.

And the entire Trust Board and (the non-rebel) Council of Governors need to be sacked by the Minister or new elections called for the entire Council. Now.

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