Under-fire health trust created new job for ex-chief executive who resigned
A much-criticised health trust has admitted creating a new job for its former chief executive who resigned after saying her position had become untenable.
Katrina Percy announced her decision to stand down from the top position with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust last week, but added that she was "delighted to be taking on an alternative role" with the organisation.
Ms Percy will get the the same pay and benefits of around £240,000 a year in her job "providing strategic advice to local GP leaders".
The trust's interim chairman Tim Smart told the BBC the new role will address work that "needed to be done".
Asked if the job existed previously he confirmed it did not, said Ms Percy was the only candidate and was "uniquely qualified for it", and said it had not been advertised.
Dismissing suggestions the move was a "fix" he said: "That is not the case. The case is that over the next few months the work that we've asked Katrina to do needed to be done in any event."
The trust has been the subject of independent Government reviews since it was revealed it failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of hundreds of patients between 2011 and 2015.
Commenting on the news of Ms Percy's change of job at the time, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Reports that she will move into another well-paid job advising GPs on strategy are deeply concerning, and will aggravate the sense of injustice felt by the families of those who lost their lives."
Southern has been under intense scrutiny following the deaths of hundreds of patients, including 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.
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.
In December, an independent investigation found Southern Health had failed to probe the deaths of hundreds of people since 2011.
Southern Health is a mental health trust providing services to 45,000 people across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
It employs around 9,000 staff at more than 200 sites, including community hospitals, health centres, inpatient units and social care services.
Mark Aspinall, who resigned from the council of governors of the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in April, said the decision was "strange".
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "The idea that the role has been created purely to move Katrina Percy sideways seems very strange."
Mr Aspinall said the whole board must take responsibility for the problems at the trust.
He added: "There are questions for the remainder of the board as well. You do start to wonder if there's a bit of wagon-circling going on here and whether they are starting to worry about their own positions a little."