Essex mental health services are under investigation due to the large numbers of deaths of inpatients or those recently discharged from mental health wards. These deaths were considered ‘unexpected, unexplained or self-inflicted’. Trusts had received complaints of poor care for years.
The original independent Inquiry was instigated by then Health Minister Nadine Dorries in December 2020, as the result of a number of suicides and a campaign by bereaved families. Its non-statutory footing led to its rejection by campaigners. The Inquiry focused on The Linden Centre at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, which provides residential care and therapy to those experiencing acute mental health episodes.
Full public Inquiry
The scope has now widened after hearing of 1,500 patients who have died since 2000. This is a preliminary finding and its Chair, Dr Geraldine Strathdee, has only been given causes of death in 40 percent of cases. She says she has heard evidence of ‘dispassionate behaviour.’
The Chair to the Inquiry is Dr Geraldine Strathdee. She has extensive experience in the field of mental health. Watch Dr Strathdee explain what the Inquiry is setting out to do: https://t.co/gavnMtgziR— Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry (@EssexMHInquiry) March 24, 2022
So far the inquiry has found a lack of basic information to patients and families; concerns about safety on the wards; and differences in the quality of care. This inconsistency was found both in staff attitudes and use of treatments.
These are early findings; it will take time to establish the facts surrounding so many tragic deaths. North Essex Partnership Trust was fined £1.5m in 2017 for safety failings connected to 11 deaths. However, signs indicate a much larger problem.
The Chief Executive of Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (North Essex Partnership Trust’s successor body) says they support the Inquiry and hope that families share as much information as possible with the team so that conclusions can be constructive and inform future changes. It is currently in Phase 2: Collecting Evidence and is not expected to report until 2023.
The Inquiry team are inviting the following people to give their evidence:
- families, friends, and carers of inpatients who died across NHS Trusts in Essex between 2000-2020
- anyone else with experience of inpatient mental health care in Essex between 2000-2020.
Dr Strathdee says, “This Inquiry is the first public inquiry into mental health that has ever been held in England and which has been commissioned by a Minister. I would like to invite anyone who has been affected by a mental health inpatient death in Essex to get in touch with the Inquiry. I am committed to making sure everyone who wants to participate in the Inquiry can.”
Affected families are urged to contact the Inquiry. All evidence will be heard in a safe and non-judgemental environment.