THE death of an Oxford teenager in a city NHS unit was a “scandal” the Government’s care minister has said.

Norman Lamb spoke after the case of Connor Sparrowhawk, who died just over a year ago, was raised by Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith in a House of Commons debate.

The 18-year-old is believed to have drowned following an epileptic fit while taking a bath at Slade House, Headington on July 4 last year.

An independent report said 15-minute checks on the Headington teenager – who had autism and epilepsy – were too infrequent, his overall assessments poor and his death could have been prevented.

Liberal Democrat Mr Lamb spoke of the “scandalous case of Connor Sparrowhawk” and said he had met the teenager’s mother Sara Ryan.

He said: “What happened there should shock us all.

“There was acknowledged negligence in the care and these things simply cannot go by without a proper and effective response to stop repeats of this sort of thing ever happening again.”


Care Minister Norman Lamb

Mr Smith said in Tuesday’s debate: “One year later, we have not had the inquest or the serious case review, and his family are scrambling around to raise money so that they will be legally represented at the inquest where the public authorities will be represented at taxpayers’ expense.”

He said: “More needs to be done to prevent such tragedies and to help the families and victims to see justice.”

A serious case review investigation is being carried out by NHS England. Slade House, run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, is closed to admissions and seven members of staff are under formal investigation.

Trust divisional director for learning disabilities Lesley Munro said: “We welcome any opportunity to discuss the provision of learning disability services at a national level and support the Government in its ambition to improve learning disability care.”

Connor’s mother has campaigned for better services for learning disabilities and yesterday welcomed news of Oxford City Council funding for a short documentary film about his life and death.


Connor's mother, Sara Ryan

It has given city learning disability advocacy charity My Life My Choice £10,000 to make the film with young people with learning disabilities.

She said: “We met with some of the young people who will be involved and their interest in Connor and concern about what happened to him was very moving.”

Executive producer James Tomalin, of Oxford Digital Media, which will work for free on the project, said: “By making a film about the events surrounding Connor’s death, we hope to raise awareness so these tragic circumstances are never again repeated.”

Council leader Bob Price, who worked with Connor’s father Richard as managers at Oxford Brookes University, said: “This film about Connor will enrich our understanding of the issues and problems for young people with learning disabilities.”

Mr Smith: “It will be a wonderful commemoration of Connor’s life if this film can bring it home to people how awful tragedies like Connor’s preventable death can be avoided in future.”

  • To get involved call 01865 204214 or alexbrooks@mylife

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