Mental health staff who were meant to be watching over potentially-suicidal patients have been pictured sleeping on the job.
The shocking photos were taken at different mental health units around Essex under the operation of the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT).
They were revealed as part of an investigation into the reality of tired workers who are meant to be caring for vulnerable patients.
A further photo revealed in March showed a worker sleeping while watching over a suicidal woman at the Linden Centre, an NHS-run mental health unit based at Chelmsford’s Broomfield Hospital.
Melanie Leahy, 54, from Maldon, lost her 20-year-old son Matthew after he was found hanging in the Linden Centre seven years ago.
She was sent these new photos by “whistleblowers” from within the services.
“The pictures are from various places and wards across Essex and they are all under EPUT,” she said. “It’s happening too regularly on the wards.
“It absolutely sickens me. Young people are there with one-to-one observations to be kept safe. Things are going to happen and they have happened.
“People die and will continue to die. It’s just horrendous and people need to know that this is happening.”
‘These failings cost lives’
Melanie’s son Matthew was admitted to hospital on November 7, 2012, for “his own safety”.
But on November 15, just a week later, Matthew was found hanging at the Linden Centre, located within the grounds of Broomfield Hospital.
“My son was taken to a place of safety, to keep him safe, but it was the most unsafe place he could have been.
“Almost seven years of campaigning for truth into what truly happened the day he died has uncovered so many failings, failings which continue to happen. These failings cost lives.
“Vulnerable people who are on suicide watch are being cared for by staff who sleep. How much more dangerous can this get?”
Melanie has created the Facebook page “Justice for Matthew Leahy failed by the state” as she campaigns for a public inquiry into health service failings.
“It needs more and more people, things that have been covered up need to come out into the open,” she explained.
“We need to highlight the concerns over and over. Where’s the management walking around checking on these people? There are numerous unanswered questions.”
‘The trust does not tolerate sleeping on duty’
Andy Brogan, executive director of mental health and deputy chief executive at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, commented: “The Trust does not tolerate staff sleeping on duty and we have robust human resources policies in place to enable us to act appropriately when incidents are brought to our attention.
“We are grateful that the photos allegedly showing our staff sleeping have been shared with us so we can take prompt action.
“A full investigation has been opened in line with relevant Trust policies and procedures.”
Providing top quality, safe care to our patients is our highest priority. This includes ensuring that our staff members are alert and safe to work and have not exceeded safe working hours.
“All staff have a duty to ensure that they and their colleagues are fit for work.”
“We monitor the hours worked by our staff using electronic rostering systems and they are required to declare secondary employment.”