Essex: Deaths of 1,500 mental health patients investigated

An inquiry is investigating deaths in the care of Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUFT) between 2000 and 2020

The deaths of at least 1,500 people in the care of NHS mental health services in Essex are to be investigated.

They were either inpatients between 2000 and 2020, or they died within three months of being discharged.

An investigation was launched after serious concerns emerged about their physical, psychological and sexual safety over the 20-year period.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Geraldine Strathdee is leading the landmark inquiry, which is the first of its kind to be held in England.

She has heard from 14 families so far, as well as other individuals, but is appealing for more people to come forward.

Dr Strathdee said she has ‘consistently heard’ concerns like basic information not being shared with patients and their families about their care and treatment.

One patient, Richard Wade, 30, was depressed and took his own life just hours after being admitted to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford in May 2015.

File photo of a hospital ward (Picture: PA)

Serious concerns have been raised about patients’ physical, psychological and sexual safety (File picture: PA)

His dad Robert, 66, believes his son paid a ‘big price’ for the lack of ‘professionalism’ at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUFT)

He said: ‘He went in [to the mental health unit] just after midnight. He was dead by midday.

‘He was there for less than 12 hours before the injuries he inflicted on himself.’

Richard, who lived in Chelmsford, had completed a PhD and had a high-flying job at accounting firm PwC in London.

His mother Linda, 71, also said: ‘There’s got to be change. We can’t bring Richard back but that was a young man that went into the Linden Centre for safety and there was no safety.

‘To me, from the inquiry there’s got to come change, but it probably needs change right across the UK.’

British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries (Picture: EPA)

The inquiry was announced by Nadine Dorries in 2020, when she was a health minister, following a series of deaths (Picture: EPA)

The inquiry was confirmed by Nadine Dorries in 2020, when she was a health minister, following a series of deaths on the mental health ward in Essex.

EPUFT, which operated the unit, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and admitted failings in the deaths of 11 people and was fined £1.5 million in June 2021.

Dr Strathdee said the inquiry started to gather evidence in December last year and in the coming months the team hopes to speak to current and former staff.

She will then make recommendations to the Government on what changes must be made to keep patients safe.

‘Right now, we have very limited information on the 1,500 deaths we’ve been made aware of,’ Dr Strathdee said.

‘Our investigations are ongoing, and we expect to be able to provide a fuller breakdown of this number in the future.

‘But as it stands, for example, we have only been given the cause of death for around 40% of these deaths.’

Paul Scott, CEO of the trust, also encouraged families, carers and staff to assist the ongoing inquiry.

He said: ‘Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Richard Wade and we send them our deepest condolences.’

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