Southern Health admitted there had been “systemic failures” following the deaths of two patients in 2012 and 2013 and that those deaths had been “entirely preventable.” Following the incidents, a report found that more than 1,000 deaths of mental health and learning disability patients between 2011 and 2015 were not properly investigated.

For any patient, whether suffering from mental health or physical injuries, admission to hospital is a last resort. It is a decision taken when an individual, or their relatives, is unable to provide the standard of care they require to manage a condition or recovery and professional assistance is required. It is hoped that following a period in hospital the patient can be discharged in a much improved, if not fully recovered, condition.

One patient, Connor Sparrowhawk, was not so lucky. He was a patient at Slade House, a learning disability unit. He enjoyed taking baths and would often spend a prolonged period of time in the bath. He was also epileptic. On the day of his death in 2013 he was found submerged and unresponsive in the bath having suffered an epileptic seizure and drowned. Slade House was subsequently closed down.

Mr Sparrowhawk’s death was preceded by another death in 2012 in which a woman, Teresa Colvin, admitted to Woodhaven Adult Mental Health Hospital was found unconscious, just 48 hours after her admission, and later died.

An inquest into Mr Sparrowhawk’s death held at Oxford Coroners’ Court in 2015 found that, although staff were told to check on Mr Sparrowhawk every 15 minutes whilst bathing, no formal log was in place to record those observations. The jury found Mr Sparrowhawk’s death had been “contributed to by neglect.” A later investigation found that the “level of observations in place at bath time was unsafe and failed to safeguard.”

At a recent hearing, the Trust pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws in respect of both Mrs Colvin and Mr Sparrowhawk’s death. They received fines of £950,000 and approximately £1 million respectively. Although these fines were in relation to criminal charges, if the families pursued claims for compensation for medical negligence within 3 years of the respective deaths, they may have been entitled to compensation also.

All medical professionals owe each and every patient a duty of care. As part of this duty they are required to provide a reasonable standard of care. Where the standard of care falls below what is reasonable and this causes injury or damage the patient, or relative if the patient either does not have capacity or has since deceased, may be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation for medical negligence. At Jordans solicitors we have a dedicated medical negligence team able to advise you on a range of accidents and injuries suffered as a result of medical negligence.


If you have suffered loss or injury as a result of the actions or negligence of a medical professional and would like advice in relation to making a claim for compensation please contact our medical negligence department on 01924 457 171. Alternatively, please visit our website and request a callback.

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