A SENIOR governor has launch a stinging attack on an under-fire Hampshire mental health trust in his resignation letter.

Mark Aspinall quit as public governor of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust yesterday as it faced widespread condemnation for failing to protect patients and properly investigate the deaths of hundreds of people in its care.

He accused governors for a “lack of drive and determination” in their efforts to pressure the trust’s leaders to improve care for people with mental health problems in the wake of a series of scandals.

His scathing attack comes after the release of another damning report from health watchdogs ruling that the trust has failed to improve services despite intense public scrutiny, repeated warnings from regulators and insistence from senior managers it would do so.

It comes as it has been revealed that a patient who absconded from a psychiatric unit in Winchester run by the trust is still missing after climbing on to a roof.

But Mr Aspinall insists that beleaguered chief executive Katrina Percy, pictured, should remain in her post despite pressure from senior politicians and grieving families for her to step down.

He warned that a widespread cull of senior leaders will thwart opportunities for making the sufficient improvements needed at the trust, which has its headquarters in Tatchbury Mount in Calmore.

Mr Aspinall resigned as public governor for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire yesterday following the release of a report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealing the trust is “continuing to put patients at risk” and had failed to put in place “robust governance” to investigate incidents, including deaths, and to respond to concerns raised by patients, their carers and staff.

He stepped down just hours after trust chairman Mike Petter resigned on the eve of the report being published.

In a letter to Mr Petter seen by the Echo, Mr Aspinall who was elected last year, said: “I have been disappointed by the apparent lack of drive and determination shown by a considerable number of my governor colleagues in dealing with the issues that the trust faces.”

He said he felt “hamstrung” by the critical news hitting the trust adding that it is “unable to move forward but not seemingly able to correct the mistakes either”.

“There have been failures of leadership within the trust that we cannot hope to recover until those are addressed and that the Council of Governors is, as part of the leadership equally culpable,” he added.

But he told the Daily Echo Ms Percy was best-placed to move the organisation forward and said: “If too many board members go the trust will lose memory of what went wrong.

"A knee jerk reaction will be devastating for the patients who need help.”

The newly published report criticised the trust for a raft of failures to make “sufficient changes” to the environment to make their centres safe for patients.

This included “security and safety” risks at Kingsley ward in Melbury Lodge in Winchester where at least 10 patients have jumped off a low roof.

Last night a trust spokeswoman said one patient is currently still missing after absconding in February for the second time is currently still missing after previously leaving the country for France before being brought back by police.

Work has been completed to secure the building after the CQC demanded improvements, but the report revealed trust was aware of risks at the unit for years with eight incidents between 2010 and 2015.

The spokeswoman refused to comment on Mr Aspinall’s comments but said: “A patient who was previously receiving care following being sectioned under the Mental Health Act is currently a missing person.

"He was on escorted leave from Melbury Lodge, which is an open unit, and was with a member of staff when he ran away and has not yet been found.

"We have been in contact with the police who are carrying out inquiries to locate the man.

She said the roof has undergone recent refurbishment to improve the safety for service users.

Daily Echo:

SOUTHERN Health NHS Foundation Trust is to appoint a new chairman, it was revealed last night.

NHS Improvement has announced it is planning to appoint Tim Smart to the post following Mike Petter stepping down in the wake of the damning CQC report.

The legal powers being used by NHS Improvement require the trust be given a chance to respond to the proposed appointment before it can be formally confirmed, which is likely to happen next week.

Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement said: “It is clear that dramatic change is needed urgently at Southern Health. Our action in proposing the appointment of Tim Smart – a very experienced NHS leader – at the top of the organisation will speed up this improvement.

“Tim’s appointment, along with other action we’ve already taken, will support this trust to provide the quality of care that people using its services expect.”

Mr Smart has extensive experience of leading major NHS organisations and was former chief executive of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for seven years.

It is planned that at Southern Health, he will lead a review into the adequacy of the trust’s current leadership.