Bereaved families continue to wait for Essex mental health inquiry

Terms of reference have yet to be approved by ministers, leaving relatives frustrated

Grieving relatives have accused ministers of delaying an inquiry into the deaths of almost 2,000 patients at NHS mental health trusts in Essex.

The investigation has not yet started more than eight months after the announcement that it would be reopened with enhanced powers.

In June last year, the government caved in to pressure from the family and the then-investigator, giving it legal powers to compel witnesses to testify. In December, new terms of reference were sent to the ministers, which stated what the investigation would investigate.

But ministers have yet to approve working conditions, leaving relatives frustrated, with another “needless” death reported weeks ago.

Melanie Leahy, whose son, Matthew, died at the Linden Center in Chelmsford in 2012, said: “I know that this inquiry, the first of its kind in the country, if carried out in a timely and comprehensive investigative manner, has the power to prevent more deaths, not just in Essex but across the UK.

“Why are I and all the other bereaved families and injured individuals still waiting? Even worse, why are we met with such callous and terrifying indifference? Why is our legal team being ignored? We can only conclude that our government simply does not care. If the government continues to delay in this way, it will have to answer for its failures. If there are more deaths during this endless wait, this government must be held accountable.”

The inquiry was initially launched on a non-statutory basis in January 2021 to investigate deaths at the partner university’s NHS trust in Essex and its predecessors between 2000 and 2020. It was established following an inquiry in 2019 by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman which uncovered numerous omissions in the events surrounding the deaths of Matthew Leahy, 20, and another young man, known only as Mr R.

Priya Singh, senior associate in medical negligence at Hodge Jones & Allen, which represents a number of families, called the delay “shocking”, saying: “The government is still waiting to finalize the working conditions. Why?

“Whilst significant progress was awaited, another unnecessary death occurred a few weeks ago of a loved one in the care of Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care expressed sympathy for the bereaved families and said it was taking the investigation extremely seriously. They said: “Baroness (Kate) Lampard has carried out a consultation on her terms of reference and this is now being considered.”

Credit The Guardian

Please follow and like us: