A TEAM OF TOP LONDON LAWYERS HAVE JOINED A MOTHER’S CALL FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO HER SON’S DEATH UNDER THE CARE OF NORTH ESSEX PARTNERSHIP UNIVERSITY TRUST (NEP), AND TOGETHER HAVE NOW ESCALATED THAT CALL TO INVESTIGATE THE DEATHS OF PSYCHIATRIC PATIENTS ACROSS ESSEX
The campaign is led by Melanie Leahy, mother of Matthew Leahy, who was found hanging at the Linden Centre, Chelmsford, where he was an inpatient in 2012. Matthew died within seven days of entering the facility, where he was placed ‘for his own safety’. He was just 20 years old.
Since Matthew’s death, Melanie has been fighting to get answers.
“Matthew’s death wasn’t investigated properly – his care plan was falsified after his death, his claim of rape wasn’t taken seriously, he was badly treated and his safety was at risk. I know I still don’t have the truth about the circumstances in which he died”, she says. “This leaves a lingering injustice causing enduring and damaging pain.”
A number of months ago, a call went out to other families who had lost loved ones due to failings in care under the NEP, to unite with Melanie for a Public Inquiry call and join her campaign for truth, justice, accountability and change.
That call resulted in families from across Essex coming forward to report their own experience of poor service provision and the avoidable death of loved ones, not just with the NEP, but across all mental health services in Essex.
Now, Melanie has joined forces with these families and Hodge Jones and Allen solicitors, the London-based social justice law firm, in calling for a Public Inquiry into mental health services from trusts across the whole of Essex and asking other families who lost loved ones while under the care of Essex mental health services to come forward so that together they can unite for truth and change for others.
“Everyone wants to know the real truth of how and why their loved ones died, and who is accountable for repeated failings – which includes poor crisis services, early discharges, sub-standard safety, poor risk assessments, poor triaging, and missing documents, among other things.
“I’m so happy to announce that the HJA legal team are now on board to support all of us failed across Essex mental health services. This call for a Public Inquiry includes child, adolescent, adult, elderly, veterans and prison mental health services in Essex.
“In the past, I’ve had many families contact me to say:
- Their loved one was failed under South Essex Partnership Trust, can they be included?
- Their loved one was failed under the new Essex Partnership University Trust, can they be included?
- Their loved one was failed within the community mental health services in Essex, can they be included?
“Up until now, my response has had to sadly be, “no”. But now I’m so happy to announce that answer is “YES”!
“So, please, if you have had a loved one failed under psychiatric services in Essex, this is your chance to join our call for a Public Inquiry. Multiple patients have been failed over the years – let’s find out why and how these repeated failings have been allowed to continue for well over two decades, who was responsible, and what must be changed.
“This is a call to action!”
Nina Ali, Partner at Hodge Jones and Allen Solicitors, comments:
“Melanie’s story is harrowing. It’s something no mother should ever have to go through – and yet we’ve seen it happen numerous times. Families are failed by the organisations that are set-up to do the very opposite.
“Matthew was owed a duty of care that was lacking and, ultimately, resulted in the premature loss of his life. We want to get to the truth – for his family and all the other families that are owed answers for their own loss. A Public Inquiry will not only bring answers for our bereaved families, but also recommendations for change – change that is urgently needed to help save future lives. We urge other families to get in touch if they have been failed as well.”
In Melanie’s fight for a Public Inquiry, she has gained support from Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South; Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth; Home Secretary Priti Patel; and politician and retired MP Sir Norman Lamb, among others. The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, Rob Brehens, has also ordered a government review into Matthew’s case. Those endorsements can be viewed here: http://www.curementalhealth.co.uk/endorsements/
A UK Parliament petition Melanie completed in November 2019 garnered more than 105,580 UK signatures, enough to warrant debate in Parliament.
A memorial service is to be held this Saturday, 22 August, to remember those failed by Essex mental health services, organised by the families united in their quest for answers.
The service will see families and friends gather at Chelmsford’s Bell Meadow, within Central Park, where they will hear from various speakers who have been impacted by the death of people in the care of Essex trusts, before commencing a socially distanced walk around the town centre, ending with a short memorial back at the war memorial within Bell Meadow.
More info here: www.curementalhealth.co.uk, or search @failedessex.
“If we can find out what’s been going wrong in Essex over the decades, changes here will help make changes happen across the nation. A Public Inquiry is required so the truth comes out, which will lead to justice, which will lead to accountability.
“Without accountability, the necessary changes will not happen to prevent future deaths and suffering.”
Testimonials from other families fighting for justice with Melanie
Sofia Dimoglou of Lewes, East Sussex, lost her mum, Valerie Dimoglou, who was placed in the care of the NEP after an attempted suicide and died in 2015:
A Public Inquiry would mean that we at least live in a society where someone with authority cares about the lives of those affected by mental health issues – young, old, everyone. Maybe it could really herald a change in Essex and across the country. My family might then one day not be left with the message that my 76 year old mum was not deemed ill enough to be in hospital, although she made it clear that she would kill herself if sent home. The response from the North Essex Partnership Trust was that my hard-working and wonderful mum was not even ill – as if we still live in a world where suicide is deemed an ordinary, acceptable choice.
A Public Inquiry might reveal the cruel pressures on mentally ill patients like Val who are expected to fend for themselves, or reach out to families who cannot cope with their complex mental health needs, often exacerbated by poor diagnoses, over-drugging and, quite frankly, spiteful and bullying so-called ‘care’, designed to get them out of hospitals, whatever the cost to their precious lives.
Lisa Morris of Southminster, Essex, lost her son, Ben Morris, who was placed in the care of the NEP, in 2008:
A Public Inquiry is my last hope of ever getting the truth surrounding Ben’s death. The trust has made so many public promises and guarantees that they’ve improved their services and made wards safe, but every death I hear of tells me different. I’m astonished it’s been allowed to continue for so many years without a force of change. No authority seemed concerned that so many systemic deaths have happened, the grieving have had to push to get this far. So many people have lost their lives unnecessarily due to complete incompetence and neglect. How many more have to die? When will it ever end if there is no Public Inquiry now?
Holly Storey of Great Dunmow, Essex, lost her husband Kevin Peters, who was under the care of his local GP and was last seen by a team at Harlow A&E, in 2012:
I have never had proper answers. My Husband Kev was pleading for help, seeing his GP and a Counsellor. But on the few occasions his Counsellor cancelled appointments, he felt let down. We spent 25 years together as a couple, I want people to be accountable for lack of care.
Amanda Cook of Tiptree, Essex, lost her brother Glenn Holmes, who was placed in the care of the NEP, in 2012:
For me, a Public Inquiry will help to protect people in the future who suffer with mental health conditions. They deserve the help that my brother did not get but so desperately wanted.
The whole system needs looking into properly. The staff I met during the time my brother was in the care of the Lakes mental health hospital were more worried about playing on computer games in their staff room, leaving the patients sat, drugged up and winding each other up.
It will also give me some closure on the loss of my brother. I have never been able to move on due to so many unanswered questions. Why did they not believe his troubles? Why could they not see them when it was so clear he needed help? Why was he discharged from hospital when he was telling staff he wanted to end his life? Why was he told he was phoning the crisis team too frequently?
Why is my brother gone now?
Martha Hulme, previously of Colchester, Essex, lost her daughter, Marion Gaskell, who was placed in the care of the NEP in 2011, and died in 2013:
I have spent 5 years trying to get answers from NEP Trust and accountability for the death of my daughter.
I feel strongly for the truth to be told and to prevent any further deaths the only way forward is to have a Public Inquiry.
I have tried myself for 5 years to the detriment of my own mental health to get answers but everybody closed rank. By having a Public Inquiry, this won’t be able to happen, and parents, families and loved ones will get the answers they need: accountability that their loved ones were let down and did not get the correct duty of care. This is the only way forward, and how we will all get the answers we need.
Robert Wade, of Sudbury, Suffolk, lost his son Richard Wade, who was placed in the care of NEP in 2015, and died within 12 hours of his admission:
On 16th May 2015, Richard went to NEPT, Chelmsford, to live; within twelve hours he had sustained the injuries from which he was to die.
In May 2017, Richard’s Death Certificate stated: “Richard’s risk of suicide was not properly and adequately assessed … “ Richard was deemed ‘low risk’ and was under the care of NEPT. In May 2020, Essex Live News stated:“… [a patient] had taken his own life hours after being deemed a ‘low suicide risk’ by authorities.” This patient was under the care of EPUT and EPUT is the successor to NEPT.
These and other failings are systemic and lessons have not been learnt, there is something profoundly wrong. The deaths can be stopped but it will take a Public Inquiry to do it.
Those who want to join the call for a Public Inquiry should contact Nina Ali and Priya Singh at HJA Solicitors:
Nina Ali, Partner: NAli@hja.net
Priya Singh, Partner: PSingh@hja.net
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