FAMILY members and fellow campaigners have reacted with scepticism after an NHS trust finally admitted it caused the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk.

Connor's younger brother Tom Ryan, 16, said it was too little, too late from the beleaguered trust, which has been criticised for failing to investigate the deaths of people with learning disabilities under its care.

He said: "It's taken so long and I don't think there's any sincerity there.

"They have had my parents knocking at their doors for the last three years and haven’t been able to do anything about it.

"It will be hard to get closure on the whole issue. It has been so long, and consumed so much effort for everyone If the whole board left and we saw a positive change with a new leadership who put patient care at the centre, rather than public opinion or their reputation, I could feel more like we have actually achieved something, which I don’t."

Yesterday Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust said it was "deeply sorry" the teenager, who had autism and epilepsy, drowned in a bath while under its care at Slade House in Headington in July 2014.

It took full responsibility and said it had breached Connor's human right to life, and added it would give the family £80,000 in compensation.

Tom Ryan was backed up by Oxford learning disability charity My Life My Choice, which will continue to campaign for quality and safety under Southern Health's care.

Trustee Paul Scarrott said: "They still have a long way to go to put our confidence back in the system. At the moment we have no trust in them at all.”

Last October a coroner ruled that Connor's death was partially due to neglect. The trust trust yesterday admitted acting unlawfully – but refused to comment on the future of executives facing calls to resign.

Connor's mother Dr Sara Ryan, who has campaigned for Southern Health to be held to account, vowed to continue efforts to bring to light failings with families of other patients who died in the trust's care.

She told the Oxford Mail: "It is good they have at least acknowledged everything, but it shouldn’t have taken this long."

The Oxford Times:

  • Oxford teenager Connor Sparrowhawk, who was autistic and had learning disabilities, died while in the care of Southern Health.

Southern Health said it would give Connor's family £80,000 in compensation, but Dr Ryan said that was "not at all" important.

The Oxford University researcher added: "It was never about the money. This is just one strand of the campaign."

The statement issued by Southern Health was drafted by Bindmans solicitors, acting for Dr Ryan, and must be displayed for four weeks on its website under a settlement negotiated. 

In it, the trust accepted it "caused Connor’s death" and there were "negligent breaches of the duty of care".

It goes on to say the teenager's human right to life was violated and the organisation failed to find and disclose all relevant evidence of the case to his family and the coroner. 

In early May Dr Ryan received a voicemail from a Southern Health employee, who has since been formally identified, calling her a “vindictive cow” who wanted “some attention”.

The Oxford Times:

  • Slade House care unit, in Headington, where Connor died in 2013.

It added: "The trust fully acknowledges Dr Sara Ryan has conducted herself and the Justice for LB campaign in a dignified, fair and reasonable way.

"To the extent there have been comments to the contrary by trust staff and family members of staff, these do not represent the view of the trust and are expressly disavowed."

Charlotte Haworth Hird, the family's solicitor, said the admission showed what the family had known for years. 

She added: "They have fearlessly fought for truth and accountability in relation to Connor's death and at last, the full extent of the trust's failings in Connor's care have been accepted.

"It is shameful that this was not done sooner."

The admissions prompted fresh calls for bosses to resign. But a trust spokeswoman said it would not comment on the future of Katrina Percy, its embattled chief executive.

The Oxford Times:

  • Southern Health chief executive Katrina Percy, who is facing calls to resign over repeated failures to address patient safety concerns.

Andrew Smith, Oxford East MP, welcomed the settlement reached with the family but criticised "staggering failings" at the trust.

He added: "The important thing here is that families whose loved ones have suffered can feel confident that Southern Health is now fully meeting its duty of care.

"At any other organisation there would have been a leadership change by now and this latest announcement just underlines the case."

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: "Connor's family have had a tough fight for justice, and we have all been shocked to learn of the extent of failings at Southern Health. 

"I hope the apology and settlement gives them some measure of closure."

The settlement confirmed between Connor Sparrowhawk's family and Southern Health could still be followed by a class-action lawsuit, Dr Ryan told the Oxford Mail

Hampshire Constabulary also confirmed it was investigating allegations the trust provided "false or misleading information" to authorities and it is facing a Health and Safety Executive probe into 89 patient deaths that were not previously examined. 

It follows a damning report by the Care Quality Commission earlier this year which sparked the resignation of Southern Health's chairman and a board member to resign.

The trust's statement said: "Almost three years ago Connor Sparrowhawk died while in our care, for which we are deeply sorry, and we would like to take this opportunity to again offer our unreserved apologies to his family for his preventable death.

"We have now been able to come to a successfully mediated settlement with Connor’s family."