A HAMPSHIRE MP is demanding Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt overhauls a Hampshire health trust which looks after the healthcare of millions of people across the south.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is today dealing with the fall-out of a bitter split in the group that has a say on how it is run.

Now Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith is appealing for Mr Hunt to bring in an independent body or individual to enforce improvements before the crisis deepens.

It comes after rebel governors broke ranks from trust leadership by resurrecting a crunch meeting to demand improvements at the organisation.

At the meeting a former employee likened the trust to a "North Korean congress" claiming that she she had to resign from the organisation for the sake of her own health.

Families of relatives who died in the trust's care have dubbed the organisation "a shambles" but say the rebel governors' efforts to listen to them are a "small step in the right direction".

Defiant governors held a meeting at Lyndhurst Community Centre yesterday - three days after the trust announced it was postponing it - saying that failings at the Calmore-based trust were so serious that they must be debated in public.

But only four governors showed up - fewer than the seven they believed could make their decisions legally binding.

In a remarkable twist as they raised the money needed to hire the hall through online crowdfunding.

Trust public governor Peter Bell had organised the meeting and his three other colleagues John Green, Arthur Monks and Richard Mandunya received a round of applause from families packed into the room.

As previously reported, the trust announced it was cancelling 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 following a damning report from a health watchdog.

Chief executive Katrina Percy has refused repeated calls for her to step down.

Speaking last night Mr Smith said: "The trust appears to be chaotic and it is becoming farcical. Before people lose faith and trust in the organisation someone external needs to come in to see improvements through quickly. It's obvious that the trust is struggling. It can't be allowed to get worse, work is being done and and it isn't working. We can't have another death or incident that could have been avoided."

But he warned against "knee-jerk" reactions in sacking certain leaders without experts making sure it is the right decision.

Royston Smith

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

Based at Tatchbury Mount, 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.

There were emotional scenes at the meeting as families told of how relatives had died while in the care of the trust.

Valerie Walsh, a former peer support worker who had been working in partnership with Solent Mind, told the meeting how she had resigned on Friday last week.

Ms Walsh, a former patient who had been recruited to help other people with mental health problems, said: "I was there to give hope to the patients and give a voice to the service users and I was naive to think I was listened to."

She said she was given a "dressing down" from senior managers for challenging some of the things happening under leadership of Katrina Percy and that bosses told Ms Walsh she was "a disappointment" and accused her of "ruining staff morale".

Ms Walsh told the meeting: "It's like the North Korean congress - nobody dare challenge her.

"I want to be open, honest and truthful. I decided for my own wellbeing I had to go.

"You are not allowed to stand up for yourself. You can't run a service like that."

Maureen Rickman, 55, from Barton-on-Sea, whose sister Joanna Deering took her own life after being discharged from a trust hospital, accused the trust of "perpetual lies" and sad: "What the devil are you going to do about discipline in the system because if you are not doing it at the top level you are not doing it at the bottom level."

Richard West, whose son died while in the care of the the trust, and had before the meeting branded it "a shambles", called for independent medical examiner to be appointed at the trust to ensure greater transparency.

After listening to their views Mr Bell told the meeting: "The only way that it can be changed is if it is in public. Every single person who has died there is a lesson."

After the meeting Mr West said: "The meeting was a small step in the right direction. It has given the families the opportunities to speak out."

A spokesman for Southern Health said: “The trust takes any claims of bullying very seriously and will always look to investigate any potential instances thoroughly. We are aware of Valerie’s claims and our human resources team is working with her to investigate them.

“Governors form a vital link between the trust’s board and the public that we serve. We encourage all our governors to meet with members of the public and to share the feedback they get, regardless of whether it is good or bad, so that we can improve our services wherever possible.“ The spokesman added that there was no official comment about Royston Smith's calls for Jeremy Hunt to step in.