THE leader of a controversial Hampshire health trust received a surprise boost amid a storm that her organisation failed to investigate the deaths of hundreds of people with mental health problems and learning difficulties.

Members of Hampshire County Council’s health and adult social select committee threw out proposals that the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust council of governors should order chief executive Katrina Percy to step down in the wake of criticism of “serious failings” in reporting deaths.

Then a flagship national report praised the trust for “good practice” in its efforts to reduce the number of mental health patients being sent out of area for care.

Ms Percy faced a barrage of questions and some angry criticism from councillors, but the committee narrowly defeated a motion tabled by Liberal Democrat councillor David Harrison for Totton South and Marchwood who has accused her and the trust of “chronic failure”.

But Cllr Harrison said afterwards: “She [Ms Percy] may have survived a vote of no confidence from us elected representatives of the community in Hampshire, but she didn’t exactly get a vote of confidence either.”

Trust chairman Mike Petter said he has “full confidence” in Ms Percy.

In a report published yesterday, Lord Crisp hailed the trust’s use of “care navigators” to help psychiatric patients stay closer to homes.

The former NHS chief executive’s report ‘Old Problems, New Solutions: Improving Acute Psychiatric Care for Adults in England’ recommends faster access to acute care and an end to sending severely-ill mental health patients long distances for care.

Dr Lesley Stevens said the trust is “committed” to helping patients stay as close to home as possible but stressed there is “more to do”.

Ms Percy won Chief Executive of the Year in 2012 for "allowing her managers to manage", according to the citation.