Demonstrators demand statutory public inquiry into deaths of mental health patients in Essex

Credit ITV Anglia

Families whose loved ones died whilst under the care of mental health services in Essex have held a demonstration demanding a public inquiry.

Campaigners met in Central Park in Chelmsford where family members spoke of their experiences whilst their sons, brothers and mothers were being treated by the former North Essex Partnership Trust. 

I haven’t fully had the truth surrounding Ben’s death. The Trust keeps promising both publicly and personally that it’s made the changes necessary. But I feel the only way forward now is a public inquiry to force the changes.Lisa Morris, her son Ben died at the Linden Centre in 2008

In 2017 the Trust merged with South Essex Partnership Trust to form the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT). It is responsible for the majority of mental health services in Essex. 

Read more: Bereaved Essex families unite in call for inquiry into mental health deaths

Organised by Melanie Leahy whose son died at the Linden Centre, a mental health unit in Chelmsford, in 2012, around fifty people stood socially distanced to listen to the speakers.

Demonstrators then made their way from the park, carrying placards, down Chelmsford High Street, looping around Springfield Road, before making their way back up the High Street and to the park. 

Protestors also carried a ‘coffin’ with the names of their loved ones on. 

A memorial was then held where three doves were released.

The first symbolised ‘truth’, the second ‘justice’ and the third ‘accountability’, all things these families believe a public inquiry could bring them. 

Truth, justice, accountability. We want the truth so that we can come to terms with our losses. Justice, we need justice so that our loved ones that we lost can rest in peace. Accountability, the death, the suffering has to stop and that comes with accountability.Robert Wade, his son Richard died 12 hours after being admitted to the Linden Centre in 2015

EPUT says at its board meeting last month it reported it was investigating ‘nine serious incidents relating to the deaths of mental health patients’ between January and March this year. 

In addition to this it began an internal investigation into the death of Southend teenager, Chris Nota, in July. 

The Department of Health says every NHS mental health provider is required to have a zero suicide policy in place. 

Demonstrators make their way down Chelmsford High Street.
Melanie Leahy lead demonstrators down Chelmsford High Street.Credit: ITV News Anglia

A Health and Safety Executive investigation is also currently ongoing into the former North Essex Partnership Trust. This predominantly looks at the physical environment of the ward and if it was safe, as opposed to the care given. 

What the families want, and they now have the backing of lawyers, is one overarching public investigation into mental health deaths at the Trust now and the Trusts as they were before 2017. Only this do they believe will bring about change. 

However, EPUT say since it took over in 2017 it has invested £2.4 million in improving safety of its services and facilities. 

EPUT extends its deepest condolences to those impacted by the death of people in the care of the former North Essex Partnership Trust. From the first day we established EPUT in April 2017 our top priority has been to continuously improve patient safety. We have an ongoing programme of improvements so that we can provide the best possible care for our patients.Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT)

Placards on the ground at a demonstration calling for a public inquiry into deaths of mental health patients in Essex.
A ‘coffin’ with the names of bereaved families loved ones was carried on the protest, as well as placards.Credit: ITV News Anglia

Melanie is urging other families who believe their loved ones were failed by Essex mental health services to get in touch. 

It’s such a hard thing to come and speak out and now these people, these families they have come and spoken out, I am urging other families to please do the same, we can support each other.Melanie Leahy, Mattew Leahy’s mother

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