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Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust fined £2m

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust have been fined £2m after admitting failures in respect of two patients who died in its care.

Theresa Colvin, 45, died in Hampshire in 2012 and Connor Sparrowhawk, 18, drowned in Oxford in 2013.

In 2017, Southern Health admitted to “systemic failures” and pleaded guilty in Oxford Crown Court to breaches of health and safety laws. Mr Justice Stuart-Smith today passed sentence, saying both deaths were an “unnecessary human tragedy”.

The £2m fine represents a payment of £950,000 for Mrs Colvin’s death and just over £1m in respect of Connor Sparrowhawk’s death.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith paid tribute to the families of Mrs Colvin and Connor Sparrowhawk, and said it was a “regrettable fact” that they had to campaign to uncover problems at the Trust.

The Judge acknowledged the early indication from the Trust that it would plead guilty and Southern Health had made it completely clear it would not attempt to shift responsibility from the Trust collectively to individuals.

What does this mean for your Trust?

The prosecution of Southern Health, and the sentence imposed by way of a £2m fine has significant implications for all Trusts.

NHS Trusts must have appropriate management systems and arrangements for employees, service users and visitors. They must be able to demonstrate that they have identified risks and taken reasonable steps to address those risks. A failure to do so may result in a criminal prosecution.

The level of the fine imposed upon Southern Health NHS reflects the current sentencing guidelines which have resulted in a significant increase in fines imposed upon Defendants in both the public and private sectors.

The various statutory investigations arising from these deaths also shine a light on a need to imbed a culture of candour, with proper systems in place so as to ensure that in the event of an adverse incident, those immediately affected, and the public generally, can have confidence in the transparency of the internal investigation and learning by the Trust.

How can we help?

Ward Hadaway works with NHS Trusts towards improving patient safety. Our lawyers are experienced in:

  • Duty of candour
  • Serious Incident investigations and reports
  • Facilitating sharing from adverse incidents
  • Supporting Trusts in inquests
  • Representing Trusts in relation to criminal investigations and prosecutions

If you would like to discuss the implications of this case at Board or Senior Management level, or would like to hear more about how we can support you in delivering safe, efficient and candid quality care to patients, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Jeffrey Keeble or a member of the team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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