Demand for Statutory public inquiry into NHS mental health deaths to be debated by MPs

Matthew Leahy’s death in 2012 has sparked calls for a public inquiry into Essex mental health services

A mother fighting for a public inquiry into the death of her son and more than 20 other patients at an NHS mental health hospital in Essex has won a debate in parliament after more than 100,000 people backed her campaign.

On Monday, MPs in the House of Commons will debate Melanie Leahy’s petition calling for a public inquiry into the death of her son Matthew in 2012, as well as 24 other patients who died at The Linden Centre, a secure mental health unit in Chelmsford, Essex, since 2000.

The centre is run by Essex Partnership University NHS Trust which has been heavily criticised by regulators over the case.

A review by the health service ombudsman found 19 serious failings in his care and the NHS response to his mother’s concerns.

This included staff changing records after his death to suggest he had a full care plan in place when he didn’t.  

Matthew was detained under the Mental Health Act but was found hanged in his room seven days later. He had made allegations of being raped at the centre, but this was not taken seriously by staff nor properly investigated by the NHS.

The trust has admitted Matthew’s care fell below acceptable standards.

In November, it pleaded guilty to health and safety failings linked to 11 deaths of patients in 11 years.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the trust for failing to tackle the risks of ligature points on wards which could be used by patients to hang themselves.

His mother Melanie has been campaigning for answers ever since her son died and says there is no evidence that he killed himself.

An inquest into his death in 2015 recorded an open verdict and highlighted “multiple failings and missed opportunities” in his care.

She started a petition to try and force the government to take action. It was accepted for debate after being backed by 105,000 members of the public.

Melanie told The Independent: “My son was meant to be going to a place of safety to get better, not die. Eight years since his passing and eight years of failures since and I find myself still fighting for the truth of what truly happened to my son.

“I’m not the only family who knows they have not been told the truth.”

She said she was now aware of 55 families with concerns about mental health care in Essex.

She added: “A public enquiry into Matthew’s death is now not just about Matthew. It is about all those who need the help of a good mental health system.”

In response to the petition, the government said it “sincerely regrets Matthew’s death. NHS Improvement will review the care that he and others received and will provide advice in due course on whether a public inquiry should be held.”

The debate in parliament will start at 4.30pm in Westminster Hall and will last for 90 minutes. A government minister will respond to the debate.

It can be watched online via the Parliament TV website.

Shaun LinternHealth Correspondent@ShaunLintern

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