By Michael BuchananSocial affairs correspondent, BBC News
image captionThe families of (l-r) David West, Robert Small, Marion Munns, Edward Hartley and Jo Deering want better patient safety
Five bereaved families claim they have been “misled, misrepresented and bullied” by the NHS.
The group has spent years working with healthcare leaders to improve Southern Health NHS Trust, one of the biggest psychiatric trusts in England.
But they have “lost all trust” in a process that has become a “charade” with the trust and NHS England.
A spokesperson for NHS England said it was “disappointed that the families have decided to take this step”.
“We remain committed to ensuring any lessons are identified and learned,” they added.
The families believe poor care from the trust contributed to their relatives’ deaths.
They also claim they had been “gaslighted” – a term described as psychological abuse where false information is deliberately presented to make the person question their own memory and perception of events.
- Maureen Rickman, sister of Jo Deering, 52, from New Milton, Hampshire, who died in 2011
- Diane Small, mother of Robert Small, 28, from Fareham, Hampshire, who died in 2012
- Richard West, father of David West, 28, from Southampton, who died in 2013
- Ian and Jane Hartley, parents of Edward Hartley, 18, from Wickham, Hampshire, who died in 2014
- Angie Mote and Kim Vella, daughters of Marion Munns, 74, from Southampton, who died in 2015
In 2016, they were asked to work with Southern Health to ensure that learning was embedded into how staff treated patients.
But in a statement released earlier, they said their efforts to have their voices heard had been met with a “belligerent dissonance” by senior managers.
The BBC understands the families were extremely disappointed with an initial report published last year containing significant revisions from the draft they had seen.
image captionThe trust was fined £2m due to failings in relation to two patients, including 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk
They reluctantly agreed to continue working on the next stage of the process, a series of public evidence hearings before a panel of experts.
But in their statement, the five families said the panel was “heavy with NHS management” and the process was destined to fall far short of what they have consistently been working to achieve for many years.
“We must remain true to our cause and in honour of our lost loved ones and refuse, through our participation, to legitimise the charade that this hearing has become,” they said.
A spokesman for Southern Health said the main concerns of the families “seem to lie with the procedure and process” of the next stage of the review which had been developed independently of the trust.
In 2015, the trust was found to have failed to investigate hundreds of deaths. The scandal led to the chief executive and chairman having to resign.
The trust was also fined £2m due to failings in relation to two patients, including 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, who drowned in a bath following an epileptic seizure while under the care of the trust.
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