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Abbigail Smith: Woman’s death prompts fresh calls for public inquiry into scandal-hit mental health trust

The death of a young woman a day after she was discharged from a mental health facility has sparked renewed calls for a public inquiry into a scandal-hit trust.

Abbigail Smith, 26, who had autism and learning difficulties, was found dead in a park in Essex in February, 24 hours after she was allowed to leave the Linden Centre run by the Essex Partnership University Hospitals Foundation Trust (EPUT).

The trust has launched an investigation into the care she received before she died, according to a letter seen by The Independent, and Essex Coroner’s Court will examine her death.

The Independent can reveal 97 patient deaths have been declared by the trust between February 2021 and February 2022 under the national patient safety alert system.

The trust is already facing an independent inquiry into 1,500 patient deaths between 2000 and 2020. Deaths after December 2020 will not be looked at by that inquiry.

At least 68 families have called for a public inquiry into mental health services in Essex, led by Melanie Leahy, whose son Matthew died at the Linden Centre in 2012.

Nina Ali, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, which is supporting the Wolffs and other families, told The Independent: “It is worrying that the government has and continues to completely ignore the call led by Melanie Leahy, now supported by some 68 families and individuals, for the current independent inquiry to be converted to a full statutory inquiry on the basis that the current inquiry – which lacks the statutory power to compel relevant documentary evidence to be obtained and to compel witnesses to attend and give their evidence under oath – will ultimately prove to be a complete waste of time and money.”

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Source: The Independent, 25 April 2022


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