Three GP leaders of the Hampshire multispeciality community provider vanguard have formally backed Katrina Percy, the under-pressure chief executive of Southern Health Foundation Trust.

The GPs welcomed a statement made last week by Tim Smart, interim chair of Southern Health, announcing that Ms Percy would stay on, but that she would have a new focus on “the future strategy of the trust”.

Ms Percy has been under pressure since the publication of a report by the audit firm Mazars last year, which highlighted failures by Southern Health to investigate and learn from patient deaths. The failures have led to some calls for her resignation.

Last week Mr Smart, who took over as interim chair in April, announced the findings of a review he had carried out into Southern Health. He recommended a shake up of the trust’s services, starting with a transfer of learning disability services in Oxfordshire to Oxford Health Foundation Trust.

He also said there was “no evidence of negligence or incompetence” by any Southern Health board member, and that Ms Percy should remain chief executive but her focus should shift to “delivery of the future strategy of the trust”.

The three GP clinical chairs of the ‘Better Local Care’ MCP, Nigel Watson, Donal Collins and Kathryn Bannel, said they welcomed Mr Smart’s statement.

“In particular, we welcome Tim’s commitment to the strategy we are so actively pursuing, and an indication that the trust will mobilise extra support to increase the pace at which such changes can be delivered.”

Commenting on the trust leadership, they said: “The leadership of Southern Health, and in particular the contribution of its chief executive Katrina Percy, has been a major contributing factor in the progress we have made to date.

“In Hampshire we are fortunate to have a community and mental health provider that is prepared to actively model its role as part of a wide and interdependent system.

“Throughout, Southern Health has sought to partner and not impose, flexing its organisational capabilities to support the aims of our wider partnership – an approach not common amongst big public organisations.

“The continuity of leadership signalled by Tim yesterday will help ensure that we are not derailed at a critical point in our journey.”