Jeremy Hunt slams NHS over 'utterly unacceptable' failure to probe deaths


Jeremy Hunt has blasted the NHS over allegations health bosses failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of more than 1,000 people since 2011 as "totally and utterly unacceptable".

A leaked investigation found a "failure of leadership" at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust meant the deaths of mental health and learning-disability patients were not properly examined, according to reports.

Responding to an urgent question on the issue in the House of Commons the Health Secretary said: "Firstly, it is totally and utterly unacceptable that, according to the leaked report, only 1% of the unexpected deaths of patients with learning disabilities were investigated."

Mr Hunt said the whole House would be "profoundly shocked" by the allegations.

He said there is an "urgent need" to improve the investigation and learning from the estimated 200 avoidable deaths that happen every week across the system.

He outlined a three point plan to improve things.

"From next June we will publish independently assured, Ofsted-style ratings of the quality of care offered to people with learning disabilities for all 209 CCG areas," he said.

"This will ensure that we shine a spotlight on the variations in care allowing rapid action to be taken when standards fall short.

"Secondly, NHS England have commissioned the University of Bristol to do an independent study into the mortality rates of people with learning disabilities in NHS care and this will be a very important moment to step back and look at the way we look after that particular highly vulnerable group.

"Thirdly, I have committed to the House previously that next year we will publish the number of avoidable deaths by NHS trust."

The leaked draft report, obtained by BBC News, looked at more than 10,000 deaths at the trust between April 2011 and March 2015, of which 1,454 were unexpected.

Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said: "These are truly shocking revelations that if proven reveal deep failures at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust."