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Channel 4 Documentary Highlights Critical NHS Mental Health Failings, Adding pressure For a Statutory Public Inquiry

A catalogue of failings across the UK’s mental health wards once again receives media attention; the families involved have been fighting for ten years to obtain truth and justice for their loved ones.

A new Channel 4 documentary has revealed the stark reality of why the campaign for a statutory public inquiry into mental healthcare is now even more urgent. Airing tonight at 11:00 pm, ‘Hospital Undercover: Are Our Wards Safe?’ is an hour-long investigation into serious safety concerns within the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT).

Documentary makers sent a retired officer undercover to work shifts for 12 weeks, exposing severe safety concerns for patients in a vulnerable condition.

A government-backed inquiry into the state of public mental healthcare is ongoing. However, this inquiry is limited in scope and does not go far enough for many of the families affected. Whereas a statutory public inquiry being demanded means witnesses would be compelled to testify under oath, compelled to disclose documentation and other evidence. It would provide a truthful and transparent account of what has been happening and prevent the recurrence of those failings.

Families have been fighting for ten years to obtain some semblance of truth around the systematic pattern of failure in Essex mental health services. Hodge, Jones & Allen represent many of the victims featured in the Channel 4 documentary including Melanie Leahy and Michelle Booroff, as well as a further 80 families in their campaign for the current Inquiry to be converted to a statutory inquiry.

Hodge Jones & Allen solicitor Priya Singh says: “This documentary only shows the tip of the iceberg. From the accounts I have read and heard from my clients, the mental health care services across Essex are not fit for purpose. Bereaved families and failed individuals must be afforded the right to obtain answers and hold those responsible accountable. Witnesses must be compelled to give evidence at an inquiry, not to apportion blame but to understand how and why patients are so abysmally failed.

“It is only when we fully understand what has gone so wrong that we can fix it. People are losing children to a healthcare system meant to care for them. The Government must now step up and convert the current toothless and, in my view, pointless, inquiry into a full statutory inquiry. The families we represent must now get the truth, accountability and justice they deserve.”

In June, lead campaigner Melanie Leahy led a protest that marched on Westminster and stood firm on the call to upgrade the inquiry to a statutory public inquiry. The Citizens Commission for Human Rights joined the campaigners, supporting this ongoing fight for justice.

Melanie Leahy, featured in the Channel 4 documentary, said: “This shocking documentary has revealed what I, and many families, have been saying for years, the lack of care, serious failings and deaths continue. Victims’ families have been ignored for far too long. Toothless inquiries have brought us what we expected – no changes, ongoing neglect of duty and, sadly, more deaths. This documentary shows the country what some of the most vulnerable in our society face, and that urgent action is needed now. I and many others want the truth of what happened to our loved ones and stop it from being repeated.”

Additional information on the families’ fight for justice can be found here