Parents told minister stands by her decision to hold a non-statutory inquiry, that will not compel witnesses to come forward and give evidence on oath
Families who have lost ones while in the care of NHS mental health facilities in Essex have been left angered after the Government has refused their request to change the upcoming investigation into their deaths into a public inquiry.
A catalogue of failures led to the deaths of dozens of people at facilities run by the North Essex Partnership University Trust in the past 20 years. The trust merged with another in 2017 to become Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.
The family’s relatives claim they will only achieve justice through a statutory public inquiry, which requires people to give evidence under oath.
Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said she “expects” witnesses to come forward to the inquiry, which will be established in April and is due to report back on its findings in 2023.
In a letter to Hodge Jones and Allen, the solicitors representing the families, the Government’s Head of Public Inquiries, Reviews and Litigation Team said: “We are instructed that the Minister’s position is that she stands by her decision to hold a non-statutory inquiry.”
The Government said it was also standing by the appointment of Dr Geraldine Strathdee as inquiry chairwoman following a complaint from the families that she would be biased towards the trust, given her role as the national clinical director for mental health at NHS England. The families have said they will refuse to engage with the inquiry.
said: “The Government letter is an insult and a dismissal. The irony of Ms Dorries’ job title – Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety – astounds me. I would laugh, if our situation wasn’t so horrific. She has no regard for patient safety whatsoever and it is a joke that she be tasked with looking after the nation’s wellbeing.
“Our loved ones lost their lives as a direct result of a catalogue of failings both in mental-health hospitals and in the community in Essex, but the same failings and multiple deaths are happening all over the country.”
Ms Leahy had set up a petition calling for a public inquiry and continues to seek support to find out what really happened to her son.
Priya Singh, solicitor at Hodge Jones and Allen, said: “If we cannot get the Government to respond appropriately on mental health, something which is increasingly urgent across the nation, we will have to consider what our next step will be – namely, to make an application for a judicial review of Ms Dorries’ decision.”
Credit :By Paul GallagherHealth Correspondent