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Former Southern Health chief handed £190,000 payoff to quit advisory role

Published 07/10/2016

Ms Percy will step down from her advisory role
Ms Percy will step down from her advisory role

The former chief executive of a troubled mental health trust has been given a £190,000 payoff after she left her latest role.

Katrina Percy's role leading Southern Health had become untenable but there had been "no legal grounds" on which to dismiss her, a spokesman for NHS Improvement said.

Ms Percy faced repeated calls to resign over Southern Health's failure to investigate hundreds of deaths.

She stepped down in August but went straight into a role specially created for her at the same trust with a £240,000-a-year salary and benefits.

Ms Percy has now left that advisory role, but will receive a £190,000 settlement deal - the equivalent of one year's salary - the trust confirmed.

Southern Health said in a statement that it had "listened" to feedback from the public, patients and families expressing their "concerns" about her new role.

"Both the trust and NHS Improvement believe it is no longer possible for Katrina to continue in her new advisory role.

"Katrina shares this view and we have worked with NHS Improvement to come to a settlement where she will leave Southern Health with immediate effect, to pursue other opportunities."

NHS Improvement said that dismissing Ms Percy would "open the trust and the wider NHS up to potential litigation and the very real possibility of significant costs to the taxpayer".

A spokesman for the organisation explained that it had worked with Southern Health to renegotiate with Ms Percy for her to leave its employment immediately.

He said: "Her contract with Southern Health entitles her to six months' pay in lieu of notice. She will also be entitled to a further six months' pay as part of the settlement. She will need to repay both of these payments if she gets a role in the NHS within the next 12 months.

"We know that this won't please some who think she ought to have received no payment at all, and in situations like this, a perfect deal is not possible.

"But the strong legal advice we have received is that to do anything else would have a much greater cost to the public purse and, as a consequence, would go against good management of public money."

The trust hit the headlines after it was revealed it failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of hundreds of its patients between 2011 and 2015.

This included 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, who died in 2013.

In October, a jury inquest ruled that neglect contributed to the death of Mr Sparrowhawk, who drowned after an epileptic seizure at Slade House in Headington, Oxfordshire.

But in April, inspectors concluded that the trust was still failing to protect patients from risk of harm.

Care Quality Commission inspectors found that robust arrangements to probe incidents, including deaths, had not been put in place, resulting in "missed opportunities" to prevent similar events.

The Twitter account for JusticeforLB, which is partly run by Mr Sparrowhawk's mother, Sara Ryan, said: "Utterly disgraceful that (KatrinaP) should receive any sort of settlement."

Deborah Coles, director of Inquest, which has supported Mr Sparrowhawk's family, said: "The resignation of Katrina Percy should mark the end of Southern Health's denial of responsibility for systemic failings and the start of vital work to protect the lives of the people in its care."

In June, Southern Health accepted full responsibility for Mr Sparrowhawk's death.

Former health minister Norman Lamb said: "It was insulting that Ms Percy was offered this very lucrative advisory position at the trust ... and for her now to be offered such a generous payout is a completely unjustifiable reward for failure."

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