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1,500 deaths to be investigated at scandal-hit mental health trust

More than 1,500 patient deaths are to be investigated in the largest-ever independent inquiry into “unacceptable” mental health care.

A probe into the deaths of patients who were cared for by NHS mental health services across Essex has revealed its investigation will cover deaths from 2000 to 2020.

All 1,500 people died while they were a patient on a mental health ward in Essex, or within three months of being discharged from one.

In 2001, following an investigation into 25 deaths, police criticised the trust for “clear and basic” failings but did not pursue a corporate manslaughter prosecution.

And in 2021, the Health and Safety Executive fined the trust £1.5m due to failures linked to the deaths of 11 patients. The regulator said the trust did not manage the risks of ligature points for a period of more than 10 years.

In January 2021, following pressures, former patient safety minister Nadine Dorries commissioned former NHS England mental health director Dr Geraldine Strathdee to chair an independent inquiry.

While it is not known yet how many of the 1,500 deaths were caused by neglect, Dr Strathdee said evidence had so far shown some “unacceptable” and “dispassionate” care.

Melanie Leahy, who has campaigned for change within Essex mental health services since her son died in 2012, has been leading the call for it to become a public inquiry on behalf of the families. Her son, Matthew Leahy, died as an inpatient at the Linden Centre, following multiple failings in his care.

A 2018 parliamentary health service ombudsman report on his death, and that of another young man called Richard Wade, identified “systemic” failings on behalf of the trust. These included the failure to manage his risk level, to look after his physical health and to take action when he reported being raped in the unit.

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Source: The Independent, 28 March 2022


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