November 13, 2020

Connor Sparrowhawk from YouTube by Sarah Ryan
Connor Sparrowhawk from YouTube by Sarah Ryan

Oxford, UK – Connor Sparrowhawk was 18 when he drowned in the bath during a short stay in an NHS mental health treatment unit in Oxford.

The Independent reports that Mr Sparrowhawk’s mother, Dr Sara Ryan who is a senior academic at Oxford University told of how her son was:

‘a vulnerable young man, who needed help and protection. Instead the authorities let him down – and then, according to – attempted to cover up their failures.’

Mr Sparrowhawk had severe autism and epilepsy and had gone to Slade House, a specialist unit for short term treatment and assessment

On July 4 after 107 days in care, he went to take a bath and is thought to have suffered an epileptic fit and drowned.

The NHS trust in charge ruled the accident as unavoidable. Dr Ryan had warned staff at the unit that her son was suffering from more frequent seizures but her concerns were ignored.

A subsequent 116-page independent report vindicated her concerns and catalogued a series of mistakes made by the unit’s staff. The report concluded that Mr Sparrowhawk’s death was “preventable”.

An unannounced inspection of Slade House by a team from the Care Quality Commission two months after the death found that the unit was inadequate in all ten measures of assessment and raised concerns about staff. As a result the unit was shut down. One of he patient’s interviewed as part of the investigation said that they felt “unsafe and uncared for

Staff from the unit are facing disciplinary proceedings.

She has now met with Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of NHS England, and chief nursing officer Jane Cummings to discuss the case. Dr Ryan said:

“He [Connor] should never have died and the appalling inadequacy of the care he received should not be possible in the NHS. It has been a long and distressing fight to reach this point and get the facts surrounding his death out in the open. He was a remarkable young man who was failed by those who should have kept him safe. We miss him beyond words.”

In a statement, Katrina Percy, chief executive of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust said:

“I am deeply sorry that Connor died whilst in our care and that we failed to undertake the necessary actions required to keep him safe. We are wholly committed to learning from this tragedy in order to prevent it from happening again and I would like to apologise unreservedly to Connor’s family.”

Slade House remains shut and is unlikely to reopen.

The original article by Robert Mendick in The Telegraph can be read here

Connor’s family campaign can be followed on twitter
Visit Dr. Ryan’s website here

BBC Radio 4’s “You & Yours” talks with Sara Ryan, the mother of Connor Sparrowhawk below:

About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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