Neglect Contributed To Oxfordshire Teenager's Death

NHS failings contributed to the death of a disabled teenager who drowned in the bath in Oxfordshire, an inquest jury found.

Connor Sparrowhawk, who had autism and epilepsy, was found unresponsive under the water at Slade House in Headington.

The 18-year-old drowned more than two years ago after having an epileptic seizure in the bath, an inquest at Oxford Coroner's Court was told.

The jury ruled his death was ``contributed to by neglect'' at the Short Term Assessment and Treatment Team Unit, run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Katrina Percy, chief executive at the Trust, apologised ``unreservedly'' to Connor's family and admitted his death was preventable.

``I am deeply sorry that Connor died whilst in our care,'' she added.

``Connor needed our support. We did not keep him safe and his death was preventable.''

The jury found a string of serious failings at the unit, including lack of clinical leadership, inadequate staff training, poor communication with Connor's family about his needs and no risk assessment plan for his epilepsy.

There were also errors in relation to Connor's bathing arrangements, the jury ruled.

Connor's mother Dr Sara Ryan and stepfather Richard Huggins described him as ``a funny young man who was deeply loved by his family and many who knew him''.

``Two years and seven months ago our gentle, quirky, hilarious and beyond loved son was admitted to a short term assessment and treatment unit,'' the family said in a statement.

``Connor's death was fully preventable. Over the past two weeks we have heard some harrowing accounts of the care provided to Connor.''

The family said the NHS Trust had ``consistently tried to duck responsibility'' to try and protect its reputation.

``It is too late for our beautiful boy but the treatment of learning-disabled people more widely should be a matter of national concern,'' they added.

Connor died on July 4 2013, after being admitted to the unit, which has since been shut down, on March 19 the same year.

Charlotte Haworth Hird, who represented the family, said Connor had been ``failed'' by the ``wholly inadequate care'' he received from the NHS.

``The jury's damning conclusion is testament to the commitment of his family, friends and the JusticeforLB campaign to obtaining the truth,'' she added.

Oxfordshire senior Coroner Darren Salter will be issuing a Preventing Future Deaths report.

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