LEADERS of an underfire Hampshire health trust are set to face a grilling from politicians.

But its controversial chief executive will escape the likely barrage of questions.

Bosses at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust are due to face questions from Southampton City Council representatives at the extraordinary health overview and scrutiny panel meeting being held today.

The meeting will focus on a scathing report which has accused the trust of “serious failings” in how it failed to investigate the deaths of hundreds of people with mental health problems and learning difficulties.

But chief executive Katrina Percy – who has faced calls for resignation in the wake of the scandal – is not attending the meeting as she is on annual leave.

Politicians have questioned her omission from the meeting at what is a crucial time for the trust as health watchdog inspectors continue a probe at the organisation.

Independent ward councillor for the city's Redbrige ward Cllr Andrew Pope, said: “I called for Katrina Percy and the Chair of Southern Health, Mike Petter, to face scrutiny by this Panel and the public.

“The Panel should insist that both Ms Percy and Mr Petter answer to Southampton’s residents.”

The meeting comes as the family of Winchester University student advisor Louise Locke have vowed to take legal action against the trust. Miss Locke, 44, was found hanging at her home in Highcliffe on May 27 last year – a day after her pleas to be be admitted to hospital were turned down.

But the trust have defended Ms Percy’s decision not to attend decision saying that it was not planned for her to go and other senior executives are better placed to answer the committee’s questions.

Panel vice chair Cllr Ivan White said: “I’m disappointed that she isn’t there. She’s been there on previous occasions and this meeting is specific to Southern Health and that would be Katrina herself.”

But he said the majority of his questions would be for commissioners from Southampton City Council Commissioning Group (CCG).

But Trust chairman Mike Petter saidsaid Ms Percy is on planned annual leave and added: “The Trust’s Executive Team regularly engages with a wide variety of organisations and these duties are shared across their respective portfolios. It was not planned that the chief executive would represent Southern Health at the meeting of Southampton HOSP. On this occasion it was agreed that Dr Lesley Stevens and Dr Chris Gordon were best placed to attend and answer the committee’s questions.

Daily Echo:

“The services provided by Southern Health in Southampton City are limited to adult mental health and as such Dr Stevens as medical director and a consultant psychiatrist and Dr Gordon as director of performance, quality and safety and chief operating officer are ideally placed to answer any questions.”

The inquiry revealed that of the 10,306 deaths between April 2011 and March 2015, 722 were categorised as unexpected and only 272 had been investigated.

The report, commissioned by NHS England and carried out by Mazars, looked at the deaths of people who had been in contact with the organisation at least once in the previous year.