From The Guardian: “The first inquiry of its kind held in England is investigating the deaths of 1,500 people who died while being cared for as patients of NHS mental health services in Essex.
They died in circumstances that were ‘unexpected, unexplained or self-inflicted’ between 2000 and 2020 and while they were receiving treatment from NHS mental health trusts that for years had faced persistent complaints of providing poor care.
The 1,500 cases include children and young people as well as adults. All 1,500 were highly vulnerable after experiencing a serious deterioration in their mental health and died either while they were an inpatient in a mental health facility or within three months of being discharged.
Dr Geraldine Strathdee, who is leading the inquiry, said some of the evidence she and her team had collected so far was distressing and included ‘unacceptable examples of dispassionate behaviours that families believe contributed to the death of their loved ones.’
. . . She has so far identified three recurring failings at the now-defunct North Essex and South Essex mental health trusts and at Essex Partnership University NHS trust . . . They are:
- Serious concerns about patients’ physical, mental and sexual safety while on a ward, including claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
- Big differences in the quality of care patients received, ‘both in staff attitudes and in the use of effective treatments.’
- Patients and their families being given too little information about their treatment, likely length of stay and chances of recovery.
Strathdee, a leading psychiatrist and former national clinical director of mental health care at NHS England, is looking into 21 key areas of care. They include trusts’ management of patients’ risk of self-harm and suicide, use of restraint, deployment of drugs and management of drug regimes, and how well they dealt with patients’ physical health needs.
. . . Selen Cavcav, a senior caseworker at the charity, said: ‘Sadly we are not shocked by the findings because we have long known how unsafe these services are, and the huge number of people who have been impacted by that.
‘The scale of this problem and the details of many deaths of people under the care of Essex mental health services are nothing short of a national scandal.’
. . . But, she added: ‘Essex is not alone in having high numbers of preventable deaths of mental health patients, in a country whose mental health system has long been failing countless people in need.’
. . . In a brief statement, Paul Scott, the chief executive of the merged Essex trust, did not apologise for failings or lives lost.”
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