AN organisation that looks after the healthcare of millions of people has been dubbed 'a shambles' after a bitter split in the group that has a say on how it is run.

Rebel governors who have say on how Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is run have broken ranks from the leadership by resurrecting a crunch meeting to demand improvements at the organisation.

Defiant governors have announced they are holding a meeting at Lyndhurst Community Centre today – three days after the trust announced it was pulling the plug on it.

But only four governors have shown up - fewer than the seven they believe could make their decisions legally binding.

In a landmark decision, the governors insisted failings at the Calmore-based trust were so serious they must be debated in public.

And in a remarkable twist they raised the money needed to hire the hall through online crowdfunding.

Ther rebel governors anticipated that at least seven governors will turn up to the meeting.

Now grieving families whose relatives have died in the trust's care have branded the organisation “chaotic” and made fresh demands for change.

Just one governor, Peter Bell, had arrived at the splinter meeting by the start time of 11.45am, with three more following. Mr Bell is proposing a vote of no confidence in the leadership.

Daily Echo:

Bereaved families waiting for governors to arrive at the rebel Southern Health meeting at Lyndhurst Community Centre

As previously reported, the trust announced it was postponing the extraordinary council of governors meeting after organisers say the decisions made would not be legal.

The trust’s new chair Tim Smart had also come under fire as he was due to exclude the press and the public for part of that meeting.

Southern Health has been condemned after failing to protect patients and investigate the deaths of hundreds of people in its care.

Suella Fernandes, MP for Fareham, said: "This is yet another difficult situation for the Trust, with some of its Governors now expressing their frustration in a very public way.

"For them to be seeking motions of no confidence shows how serious the situation is, but it is also important that NHS Improvement and the new Chairman follow due process as they review the management and governance of the Trust."

It is one of the country’s largest mental health trusts, covering Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

It provides services for 45,000 people and employs 9,000 staff at around 200 sites.

Centres in Hampshire include Antelope House and Moorgreen Hospitals in Southampton, Melbury Lodge and Leigh House in Winchester and Ravenswood House in Fareham.

Mr Smart had recently been named as interim chairman of Southern Health, but has already clashed with governors who accused him of lacking “transparency” after proposing to exclude the press and the public from part of the meeting.

It would have seen governors consider a motion by public governor Peter Bell which includes a proposed vote of no confidence in the trust’s leadership.

Mr Smart postponed the meeting, saying that some of the proposals by governors “do not comply” with NHS Improvement guidance and votes “would not be legally robust”.

But today some of the governors have set up a meeting anyway and invited the press and public to the meeting starting at 11.45am.

They raised the £406 required for the hall hire and for refreshments from a page set up on a crowdfunding website by former public governor Mark Aspinall.

Mr Bell said: “We have raised the funds to book the meeting ourselves and if seven governors arrive it will be a quorum. We want to meet the public and talk to them and learn from them. I want an open debate for the right people at the right time and right place. We need a dialogue.”

He praised the crowdfunding efforts as “spectacular” and added: “It just shows there is a lot of support for what we are trying to do. Let’s discuss things in public and improve the NHS.”

Richard West, whose son died while in the care of Southern Health, and has organised an informal forum after the governors meeting for families impacted by the trust’s failings said:

“What is going on is a shambles - it is chaos and it shouldn’t be like this. Everybody feels frustrated.

"The relatives have been waiting patiently and the governors now feel frustrated and let down by the system.

"It’s an indictment of the system of the NHS. People feel like they are not being heard and they want to do something.

"The Council of Governors hasn’t been able to hold them to account and I can understand why they want to do this.”

He branded the trust “a public safety issue” and said “There is something horrendously wrong at Southern Health.

"If people have mental health or learning difficulties they are going to be cared for by Southern Health and it needs to change.”

But he said Mr Smart needs time to turn things around, adding: “It needs people to come together, the council of governors, patients and relatives so he can understand.”

A spokesman for Southern Health refused to comment on the meeting.