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Essex NHS Trust fined £1.5 million for 11 deaths of mental health patients

Multiple deaths of mental health patients and continued failures by Essex NHS Trust results in £1.5 million fine but families questions remain unanswered

The Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) previously pled guilty to a prosecution brought by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the deaths of 11 patients

The Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) has received a fine of £1.5 million at Chelmsford Crown Court following the deaths of 11 patients between 2004 and 2015, having pled guilty at a hearing in November last year.

An investigation by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the Trust, previously known as the North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEPUFT), looked at how it managed environmental risks from fixed potential ligature points in its inpatient wards between 25 October 2004 and 31 March 2015.

Today’s sentencing represents the latest step in a series of investigations into ‘inept’ Mental Health Services in Essex that have led to many patient deaths. However, despite this fine and an eight-year fight for justice, which included inquests, internal investigations petitions, and protests, many families are still left in the dark as to why their loved ones died.

The families of more than 70 individuals who died or were severely mistreated whilst in the care of mental health services in Essex have mounted a long-standing campaign for a statutory public inquiry to look into failings across the county, to hold those in power to account, and learn lessons for the future. The proposed inquiry would build a completer and more comprehensive picture of the failings.

Despite their campaign, the Government and Nadine Dorries, Minister of State for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety, have dismissed the need for a statutory inquiry – ignoring the wishes of the families and their supporters. The Government has instead instigated a non-statutory inquiry that would have both limited powers and reduced scope.

Melanie Leahy, mother of Matthew Leahy, who was found hanging at the Linden Centre, Chelmsford, in 2012 was one of the patients affected by the events which led to the prosecution.

Melanie said: “While I welcome the fine handed down today against EPUT, it merely represents a slap on the wrist for a Trust that has failed and continues to fail countless families across Essex. Despite countless investigations and reviews, I am no closer to finding out what caused the death of my son almost 9 years ago.

“I once again renew my call on the Government to convert their inquiry into a full statutory inquiry that has the legal powers to compel testimony, under oath. My family, and the others failed by the Mental Health Services in Essex, cannot settle for anything less. We have a duty to find out what led to the deaths of our loved ones, and a duty to ensure lessons are learnt, hopefully sparing other families from the indescribable pain we’ve been through.”

Lisa Morris, who lost her son Ben in 2008, aged 20, while at the Liden Centre, said: “Once again it has been proven that the care given to our loved ones by Mental Health Services in the county was inept. However, despite our long campaign, today’s sentencing does not bring us justice. In the middle of a mental health pandemic, it is crucial that failings must be identified and lessons learnt, until this happens the Government cannot look the public in the eye and tell them they are serious about mental health.”

The families are represented by Hodge Jones & Allen and supported by the charity INQUEST, which works with the families of state-related deaths and their investigations.

Priya Singh, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “Today’s fine of £1.5 million handed to EPUT following the HSE investigation simply highlights the failings of mental health care in Essex. While the fine is welcome news, the families are still left with many unanswered questions, and this fine does not represent justice. It only scratches the surface of what is going so badly wrong in Essex. The only way to establish the truth of the gross failings in care across Essex Mental Health Services is through holding a full statutory public inquiry. We urge Ms Dorries to covert the existing inquiry to a full and comprehensive statutory inquiry.”

Selen Cavcav, Senior Caseworker at INQUEST, said: “This is a damning indictment of a trust which failed so many vulnerable patients in their care. If it wasn’t for the persistence of the families the chances are these dangerous practices would have never come to light. The question which must now be asked is whether it is safe for EPUT to continue to be left in charge of vulnerable patients. The only effective way of answering this question is through a statutory public inquiry.”

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