Saturday, 30 July 2016

Failing and flailing: the Southern Health Annual Report 2015/16

Every year, Southern Health (as an NHS Foundation Trust) has to present to parliament its Annual Report and Accounts. About two years ago I looked at the 2012/13 Annual Report to get a sense of what the Trust was reporting about itself, particularly with reference to their services for people with learning disabilities. The 2013/14 Annual Report successfully repelled me, but I’ve managed to have a look through the 2015/16 Annual Report and Accounts.

There is an awful lot of it (the document bundle for 2015/16 runs to 197 pages), so in this extremely long blogpost I’ve tried to focus on those aspects that jumped out at me as being relevant to #JusticeforLB and the many other people trying to gain some measure of accountability from Southern Health. I’ve also generally stuck closer to the numbers so I can report some trends over time (sometimes looking back at older Annual Reports), although some choice examples of Southern Health reporting speak are included.

[GIF from ]

Under pressure

Overall, the 2015/16 Annual Report presents a picture of a failing and flailing NHS Trust. It reports that Southern Health are shrinking, by ‘withdrawing’ (their word) from providing TQ21 services in Oxfordshire (April 2016) and Hampshire and Dorset (2016/17), and learning disability services in Buckinghamshire (Sept 2016) and Oxfordshire (December 2017 possibly?) [page 7].

Without explicitly saying so, many of the Trust’s 13 ‘Key Actions’ for 2016/17 [pages 7-8] reflect serial failures, including:
·        “Delivering the SIRI and Mortality Action Plan in response to the Mazars report”
·        “Continuing to deliver our quality programme in response to the findings of the CQC comprehensive inspection in Oct 2014 and subsequent inspections in July 2015 and Jan 2016”
·        “Restoring public confidence in the services provided by the Trust by demonstrating delivery of high quality services, and engaging with our service users, their families and our staff” [NHS Improvement enforcement actions, a CQC warning notice and the reasons for the lack of public confidence in Southern Health services are not mentioned]
·        “Transforming the provision of secure mental health and learning disability services within a limited capital budget” [note the lightly veiled pleading for extra capital funding there, even though the acquisition of the former Ridgeway Learning Disability Trust in 2012 came with over £8 million in reserves]
·        “Ensuring the safe transfer of Learning Disability services to new providers in Oxfordshire and Bucks” [this is apparently a “Key Action to introduce new models of care to meet the needs of tomorrow”]
·        “Recruiting and retaining sufficient staff with the skills and competence required to deliver high quality care, and minimise the level and cost of usage of agency staff in line with nationally set targets” [the closure of a major inpatient mental health service, Antelope House, for at least 8 months due to their inability to recruit staff, is just one illustration of their problems with recruitment]

Money’s too tight to mention

Overall, Southern Health’s income has deteriorated over the last few years, from £353.9 million in 2013/14 to 332.8 million in 2015/16 (a drop of 6% in two years without even taking inflation into account). An operating surplus of £5.4 million in 2013/14 has turned into deficits; £6.2 million in 2014/15 and £5.8 million in 2015/16.

Southern Health report this as an improving position in 2015/16, as a wave of redundancies will not recur once Southern Health has shrunk. In 2015/16, Southern Health spent £2.2 million on ‘staff exit packages’ for 122 staff, compared to £1.4 million in 2014/15 on exit packages for 43 staff.

They also say that a major reason for their improved finances in 2015/16 “has been a better position with respect to the use of out of area beds within Adult Mental Health services (2014/15 £4.8 million vs 2015/16 £1.4 million). Not only does this improve our financial position, but it also provides a much better service to our service users, their families and carers.” Indeed, but the closure of Antelope House and shipping people off to a private sector Huntercombe Group hospital in London instead will blow a rather large hole in these arguments for 2016/17.

How does Southern Health spend its income? Overall, from 2013/14 (£348.5 million) through 2014/15 (£344.2 million) to 2015/16 (£331.6 million) there has been a steady drop in expenditure reflecting the drop in income (a drop of 5% in two years).

As with pretty much any NHS Trust, by far the biggest expenditure is on staff. For staff (excluding Directors), spending has also dropped, from £258.9 million in 2013/14 through £258.1 million in 2014/15 to £236.6 million in 2015/16 (a drop of 9%, mostly in one year).

Spending on Non-Executive Directors has stayed fairly static (£143,000 in 2013/14; £139,000 in 2014/15; £146,000 in 2015/16).

Bucking the trend is expenditure on Executive Directors: this has increased from £1.0 million in 2013/14 through £1.3 million in 2014/15 to £1.5 million in 2015/16. This is an increase of 48% in two years, at a time when the Trust (and its income) is shrinking.

While the Chief Executive, Katrina Percy, has the largest salary (£185-£190k per year), if pension contributions are added (hers was £52.5-£55k) then she falls some way down the league table of Executive Director pay. Chief Operating Officer Chris Gordon (who seems to have become the de facto Chief Executive of Southern Health) had a salary of £180-£185k in 2015/16 (with possibly an additional £60-£65k of salary from a time when he wasn’t on the Board, although I’m not sure if this is additional or folded into the £180-£185k). His pension contribution of £175-£177.5k in 2015/16 bumps him up to a total of £360-£365k. Even this doesn’t outstrip relatively newly promoted Medical Director, Lesley Stevens, who had a salary of £140-£145k in 2015/16 (with a possible additional £45-£50k in non-Board salary), and a £222.5-£225k pension contribution, taking her to £365-£370k in total.

Also astonishing are payments made to two directors, not as salaries but as fees to private companies owned by the person in question. For 9 months work (she has stopped her Director of Nursing role for Southern Health), Della Warren’s company was paid £165-£170k in 2015/16. New kid on the block is Mark Morgan, a non-voting Director in charge of mental health, learning disability and social care services. His company, Arundel Interim Services Ltd, was paid £285-£290k for 8 months of Mr Morgan’s work in 2015/16. It may be relevant that Mr Morgan has held a series of interim roles, including a post-Winterbourne stint at Castlebeck while it was being readied for sell-off.

Putting these figures together, it’s no surprise that the ratio of the highest paid person in Southern Health to the median staff pay level (the level at which half the workforce are paid less than this amount) has also increased, from 7.22 in 2013/14 to 7.64 in 2015/16.

Another sign of a failing health organisation is the amount the Trust has to spend on clinical negligence cases – this has also been increasing, from £649,000 in 2013/14 through £715,000 in 2014/15 to £1.1 million in 2015/16 (an increase of 69% in two years).

When is a consultant not a consultant?

In another superb piece of investigative reporting, Michael Buchanan of the BBC reported recently the huge amounts being paid out to two consultancy companies, Talent Works and Consilium (Consilium is what you get when you put ‘Advice’ into Google English-Latin translate), in the seeming absence of due process or evidence of results. Southern Health put out a statement saying that all their consultancy contracts were fully justified and procured correctly.

Southern Health reporting of consultancy spending in their Annual Report and Accounts is not easy to make sense of. In the main text of the Annual Report, they state that consultancy spending fell from £1.5 million in 2014/15 to £704,000 in 2015/16, which “followed the introduction of tighter controls”. First, if all their consultancy was necessary and procured properly, why were tighter controls needed? Second, the figure of £704,000 for 2015/16 doesn’t match the figure of £1.06 million in consultancy which they provided in FoI requests. Third, the figure of £1.5 million for 2014/15 doesn’t match the £2.2 million figure they cite in the Annual Accounts at the end of the report.

But, taking the Annual Accounts figures at face value, these show a big decrease in consultancy spending from 2014/15 (£2.2 million) to 2015/16 (£704k). Spending on legal fees increased to a much smaller extent over this time period, from £1.1 million in 2014/15 to £1.4 million in 2015/16. What did surprise me was a massive increase in spending on training, courses and conferences, from £975,000 in 2014/15 to £2.7 million in 2015/16). Is there some shuffling of expenditure categories going on here, or has the training budget almost trebled in a year at time of huge financial pressure?

Will the last member of staff left please turn out the lights (Environmental Strategy 12.92)?

As I’ve mentioned above, Southern Health has cut its (non-Directorial) staff budget considerably, and they’re having such trouble recruiting staff that they are having to temporarily close some of their services. Which staff are being cut?

The Annual Report has a very helpful table of the number of whole-time equivalent (WTE) staff working in Southern Health (page 39). Overall, the number of WTE staff has dropped by 11% in one year, from 7,282 WTE staff in 2014/15 to 6,468 WTE staff in 2015/16.

There are big drops in the number of qualified health staff. The number of doctors/dentists fell from 238 WTE in 2014/15 to 211 WTE in 2015/16 (an 11% drop). The number of nursing/midwifery/health visiting staff dropped from 2,507 WTE in 2014/15 to 1,748 WTE in 2015/16 (a drop of 30%). The number of scientific, therapeutic and technical staff fell from 823 WTE in 2014/15 to 529 WTE in 2015/16 (a 36% drop).

There were also (potentially more welcome) reductions in the usage of agency staff (from 287 WTE in 2014/15 to 211 WTE in 2015/16, a 26% drop) and bank staff (from 461 WTE in 2014/15 to 365 WTE in 2015/16, a drop of 21%).

In contrast, the number of healthcare assistants/other support staff increased from 1,587 WTE in 2014/15 to 2,033 WTE in 2015/16, an increase of 28%. The only other group of staff to buck the downward trend were admin/estates staff: these increased from 1,305 WTE in 2014/15 to 1,370 WTE in 2015/16, an increase of 5%.

It’s no surprise that vacancies constitute 8.5% of the workforce, that the rolling average of sickness absence is 4.8%, or that the staff turnover ratio was running at 18.6% in March 2016. It’s also no surprise that Southern Health’s response rate to the national NHS staff survey, 33%, is 11% lower than the national average.

Candour Crush Saga

Given the state of Southern Health, the Annual Report cannot altogether avoid mentioning Monitor/NHS Improvement enforcement notices, damning CQC reports (including the issuing of a warning notice), the Mazars report, and other evidence of badnesses that have been pushed blinking into the half-light. The relentless spinning of these is more than I have the stomach to share and analyse. But a few quotes stuck out at me in a kind of queasily comic way, so here they are.

Performance Analysis (page 10)
“The Trust continues to meet its access targets and outcome objectives as defined by its regulator, Monitor. We are pleased that our performance against meeting these measures is consistent and strong, and we will continue to focus on improving further”.
[Two things about this. 1) This performance is the only one in the Monitor dashboard that doesn’t have a quantifiable indicator next to it – Trusts rate their own performance and unsurprisingly Southern Health have rated themselves as ‘Green’ throughout. In fact, throughout the whole 197 pages I couldn’t find any specific evidence about the quality of services for people with learning disabilities, the outcomes of their services, or feedback from people with learning disabilities using their services. 2) You have to wait until page 61 to find out that Monitor have consistently rated Southern Health Red for governance and has been subject to enforcement ‘actions’ throughout 2014/15 and 2015/16]

Quality Governance (page 25)
“During 2015/16 the Trust was compliant with using the Monitor Quality Governance Framework as a guide for good practice. In June 2015 Deloitte LLP undertook a follow-up review to their 2014 assessment of the Trust. One of the key issues highlighted was that the Quality Governance Strategy did not link to the Quality Improvement activities underway in the Trust, was not ‘reader friendly’ and did not represent a five-year-plan.”
[Either they weren’t actually compliant, or Monitor’s Framework is rubbish]

Duty of Candour (page 118)
“In our Quality Reports for 2013/14 and 2014/15 we reported our compliance with Duty of Candour. The data provided was in relation to our contractual reporting requirements with commissioners. These required us to report to them on whether there had been initial contact made with patients or their families after an incident had taken place. We recognise that this does not constitute the entirety of the requirements under Duty of Candour and this should have been made clear in our reports.”
[So, for Duty of Candour, they didn’t report everything they should have done but said in their reports that they had]

Statement of Chief Executive Responsibilities As the Accounting Officer of Southern Health (page 76)

[This is part of the CEO’s closing official statement in the report, and sums up the clash of reality vs spin quite well]
“On the basis of the above, I have concluded that some internal control issues were identified in 2015/16, as set out in the enforcement undertakings agreed with Monitor, the warning notice from CQC and the Notice of Imposition to impose an additional licence condition issued by NHS Improvement. As such, it is acknowledged that within 2015/16 not all governance processes were fully effective and as a consequence we cannot declare that all functions have been exercised economically, efficiently and effectively.”
“Notwithstanding this, my review confirms that we have made significant progress to address any weaknesses in the system of internal control, deliver agreed undertakings and to ensure compliance with our provider licence.”
[What made me do a double take was when I was looking through the 2013/14 Annual Report, two years earlier, and found this in the equivalent CEO statement – page 73]
“On the basis of the above, I have concluded that there have been control issues identified in 2013/14, as set out in the enforcement undertakings agreed with Monitor, which identified a failure of governance arrangements within the Trust. Actions have been agreed with Monitor, as part of the undertakings, to address these concerns. As such, it is acknowledged that within 2013/14 not all governance processes have worked effectively and as a consequence the Trust cannot declare that all functions have been exercised economically, efficiently and effectively.”
“Notwithstanding this, my review confirms that the Trust is taking appropriate actions to deliver the agreed undertakings and ensure compliance with the Trust’s provider licence and to address any weaknesses in the system of internal control.”
[The main lesson learned appears to be how to copy and paste]

Failing and flailing

From what I’ve read, it looks like Southern Health is a Trust in the hands of a Board that is frantically trying to balance the worsening books by divesting itself of a host of services recently ‘acquired’ (while keeping the reserves and estate self-offs), and shrinking and deprofessionalising the workforce (while paying itself more). The Board seems to be in denial of reality (why are contracts being cancelled? why don’t staff want to work for them?), seeking to ward off external assessments of what it’s doing via action plans, deflection, spin, and denigration. It feels like a vicious circle, and I worry both for people using their service and the staff trying to hold things together.

There was one dose of reality in the Annual Report, in the feedback provided by Healthwatch Oxfordshire (other feedback went as far as expressing disappointment, but mainly understanding of the ‘challenging year’ Southern Health had experienced because of that pesky external scrutiny). Seems a fitting place to close this extremely long post:
“Given the findings of the CQC that the improvement work undertaken in the last year has not been consistent across the trust, and that the governance around improvement, and learning from incidents is wanting, I wonder how Southern Health aims to reassure patients and the public that these quality priorities will be realised.”
“Since the ‘big plan’ consultation we have heard very little in the way of feedback about Southern Health, so it is difficult to assess whether or not the quality priorities identified for 2016/17 address the concerns of patients, service users and their families other than the concern that there’s consistent, negative news about the quality of Southern Health.”

NB: [Update: I have corrected some of the percentage changes over time from the original version of this post]


  1. Another mammoth job Chris. I don't know how you do it. From listening to Board meetings they do seem to be trying to find out why staff are leaving and being quite honest about it. Also trying to improve things for staff. They are honest that the reputation of SH doesn't help.
    What really concerns me that they are being allowed (encouraged?) to expand into the MCP (multispeciality community provider) being one of the 'vanguard' organisations, and have recently taken over a GP practice and are planning to take over another. It seems wrong that an organisation in such disarray should be doing this. They should put their house in order first. Or will they end up withdrawing from this too after making a mess of it?
    Meanwhile Tim Smart is praising the executive team to the council of governors, for reaching access targets and for their financial control.
    I seriously worry about Chris Gordon being CEO too. Every time he speaks I am left wondering what he has actually said. Surely someone at the top of such a huge organisation needs clarity of thought. I don't think he or Lesley Stevens have shown this.
    Oh dear! Why are these people being propped up so expensively?

    1. Thanks Liz - I personally don't know how you manage to get through recordings of Board meetings. On the staff issue, part of it has been a deliberate deprofessionslising strategy that is now coming home to roost. They need to honestly understand why staff don't want to come and work there, and do something to address that

  2. Absolutely great piece of work. I was particularly interested in the reduction in professional posts (and increase in senior management salaries) whilst replacing them it seems with unqualified staff. This seems to me to reflect what's been happening in the social care sector as it's been squeezed. It's been clear that some providers have been stripping out the middle management/team leaders levels with the loss of experience and professional expertise, leaving support too stretched to support ground floor staff well enough. Again scrutiny shows continued increase in some in their top management salaries and I'd guess no reduction in hedge fund returns!! Together with the recruitment difficulties on ground floor staff and the lack if localised specialist support in health and social services it's no surprise to me that lives continue to be wasted as they get admitted into ATUs. I also wondered if the increase in training was actually related to hiding the consultants costs as one reported in the news was the so-called leadership training? Great job Chris

  3. Có rất nhiều người đặt câu hỏi, Kinh nguyệt màu đenRong kinh thì điều trị như nào? Thực tế, đây là bệnh thường gặp ở chị em phụ nữ. Nó không những ảnh hưởng tới tâm lý, sinh hoạt cuộc sống hàng ngày mà nó còn ảnh hưởng sức khỏe phụ khoa. Hai biểu hiện trên có thể là do bệnh lý cũng có thể là do rất nhiều nguyên nhân khác gây nên. Do đó, theo từng nguyên nhận cụ thể mà các bác sĩ sẽ có phương điều trị hợp lý. Chỉ cần chị em đến các trung tâm y tế để tham khám sớm.

  4. Có rất nhiều người đặt câu hỏi, Kinh nguyệt màu đenRong kinh thì điều trị như nào? Thực tế, đây là bệnh thường gặp ở chị em phụ nữ. Nó không những ảnh hưởng tới tâm lý, sinh hoạt cuộc sống hàng ngày mà nó còn ảnh hưởng sức khỏe phụ khoa. Hai biểu hiện trên có thể là do bệnh lý cũng có thể là do rất nhiều nguyên nhân khác gây nên. Do đó, theo từng nguyên nhận cụ thể mà các bác sĩ sẽ có phương điều trị hợp lý. Chỉ cần chị em đến các trung tâm y tế để tham khám sớm.

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