A mental health study appeals for help investigating the deaths of 1,500 patients in Essex

The deaths of 1,500 patients are being investigated by the first public mental health survey to be held in the UK as it appeals to more people to come forward and testify.

All of the 1,500 people died while being a patient in a psychiatric ward in Essex, or within three months of being discharged, between 2000 and 2020. The investigation has only found the cause of death in about 40 percent of cases.

Dr. Geraldine Strathdee, President Essex Mental Health Independent Study, said she wants to collect evidence of deaths of inpatients in mental health in the county during the 21-year period. She said she would like to see how Essex compares to other areas in the UK and whether the issues identified are unique to Essex or also apparent elsewhere.

Dr. Strathdee said that so far “there are some areas of concern that I have consistently heard”, including the lack of basic information being shared with patients and their families about their care and treatment. Patients and their families have serious concerns about patients physical, mental and sexual security on the wardand there have been “large differences in the quality of care patients receive both in staff attitudes and in the use of effective treatments”.

Dr. Strathdee said: “Right now we have very limited information on the 1,500 deaths we have been made aware of. Our investigations are ongoing and we expect to be able to provide a more complete overview of this number in the future. But as it stands, for example, we have only been told the cause of death for about 40 percent of these deaths. ”

The query was announced by Nadine Dorries in 2020when she was health minister, following a series of deaths at an NHS mental health unit in Essex.

Dr. Strathdee said the study began gathering evidence last December from families of those who have died, as well as past patients, and in the coming months, the team also hopes to talk to current and former staff.

Dr. Strathdee and her team have so far heard from 14 families who have lost loved ones and whose stories will “shape the backbone of our evidence and help inform about changes in how mental patients are treated”. While the focus of the study is Essex, its recommendations will require improvements at the national level, said Dr. Strathdee.

Barry Sargent was admitted as an informal inpatient at Lakes Mental Health Hospital in Colchester in March 2010. He was initially identified as at high risk due to suicidal ideation. He died, 39 years old, just two weeks later.

The morning after his death, Mr. Sargent supervised by the psychiatrist and told that he should be discharged from the hospital the next day. Shortly after the meeting, he walked out of the grounds. The investigation of Mr. Sargent’s death showed that staff had failed to follow their policies for missing persons.

His sister, Della Innocent, said: “Barry’s death should never have happened in the circumstances in which it happened. Lessons must be learned. In the hope that telling Barry’s story will help bring about change and prevent further suicide. and save other families from the trauma our family has suffered. ”

Robert Wade, 66, lost his 30-year-old son Richard Wade to suicide in 2015, shortly after he was first admitted to a mental health ward. His son, who lived in Chelmsford, had completed a Ph.D. and work for the auditing firm PwC in London.

Sir. Wade from Sudbury, Suffolk, said: “He went in (to the mental health unit in Essex) just after midnight. He was dead by noon. He was there for less than 12 hours before the injuries he inflicted on himself.

“It boils down to something really quite simple. They did not care. They did not like him, they did not seem to care about their professionalism, the consequence was that he paid a great price. “

Richard’s mother Linda, 71, said: “There must be change. We can not bring Richard back, but it was a young man who went into the Linden Center for Security and there was no security. For me, there must be changes from the question, but it will probably have to change across the UK. “

Some families said they would refuse to cooperate with the investigation after spending years calling for one on a statutory basiswho would have had the power to compel witnesses to appear and testify under oath.

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