BOSSES of a controversial Hampshire health trust criticised for failing to investigate the deaths of hundreds of vulnerable people will receive specialist help from a new top boss appointed from a health watchdog.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has been accused of “serious failings” following the release of a scathing report condemning it for failing to probe the deaths of people with mental health problems and learning difficulties in its care.

Now health watchdog Monitor has announced it is appointing an Improvement Director to ensure the organisation rapidly enforces improvements to prevent tragedies happening again.

It comes 24 hours after families rounded on the trust’s beleaguered leaders at an emotional board meeting and demanded chief executive Katrina Percy steps down.

As previously reported the trust facing widespread condemnation following the release of a scathing report criticising it for failing to investigate the deaths of vulnerable people in its care.

The report, commissioned by NHS England, and carried out by auditors Mazars looked into all deaths at the trust between April, 2011 and March, 2015.

It showed that of the 10,306 deaths in the period, 722 were categorised as unexpected and only 272 had been investigated.

It considered the reporting on deaths rather than the standard of care they received.

It also revealed the trust failed to engage with families – many who are involved closely in the care of relatives who are unable to speak up for themselves.

Ms Percy and the board have refused to resign – insisting improvements are being made.

The new Improvement Director who will provide expert knowledge and support and provide challenge and oversight.

The watchdog will also work closely with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which is due to launch a series of unannounced inspections at the trust in the coming weeks.

Monitor regional director Claudia Griffith said: “The NHS should take every opportunity to learn from any mistakes that happen when caring for people, to ensure that they are never repeated again.

“We have taken action to ensure that Southern Health improves the way it investigates deaths among people with a learning disability and those who are experiencing mental illness.

“However, it is also clear that more work is needed across the NHS to identify and spread best practice for reporting and investigating deaths among people with a learning disability and/or mental illness.”

Ms Percy said the Improvement Director’s appointment is among a number of improvements at the trust including drawing up a comprehensive action plans which is being assured by independent experts.

She said: “We take Monitor's concerns extremely seriously. Ensuring our patients receive safe, high quality care is our top priority and we have already made substantial improvements. This includes changing the way we record and investigate deaths.

“We welcome the opportunity to work more closely with Monitor in the coming weeks to ensure the necessary changes are made.”