The Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry began in December 2021, to hear evidence regarding these tragic deaths and to hopefully help lessons to be learned to ensure a similar tragedy does not continue.

All deaths related to either inpatients at Essex Mental Health Services, or individuals who sadly died within 3 months of discharge from Essex Mental Health Services. The Inquiry has been set up to cover deaths dating 1st January 2000 – 31st December 2020 and is the first of its kind to take place in England.

Evidence has so far been heard from 14 families who lost loved ones in these circumstances as well as from other involved individuals. Common themes identified include concerns over patients’ physical, mental and sexual safety on the wards as part of Essex Mental Health Services.

Problems have also been identified in a lack of basic information being provided to both patients and their families and there also being ‘major differences in the quality of care’ between different users of Essex Mental Health Services.

A family member of one of the individuals who sadly died whilst under the care of Essex Mental Health Services commented that despite being admitted to hospital due to fears of self-harm, his son was left with numerous means with which to harm himself. This included scissors, razors, shoelaces, electrical cords and a dressing gown cord.

The Inquiry has been criticised by some families however. It is has not been placed on a statutory footing, meaning that witnesses cannot be compelled to testify or give evidence under oath. It also does not look at deaths in the community.

Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust has already been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive and has admitted failings in the deaths of 11 patients in respect of previous NHS Trusts that formally operated in the area. The Trust was fined £1.5m as a consequence of the Health and Safety Executive’s findings.

In January 2021, the Care Quality Commission informed the Trust that it must make further safety improvements, after inspectors found safety issues on both male wards and psychiatric intensive care units. The inspection only focused on safety at the Trust and identified several concerns, including:

  • Some staff failed to follow the required actions in order to maintain patient safety.

  • CCTV showed staff were not present when they were supposed to be observing patients. This was found to contribute to an incident of a patient absconding.

  • Staff failed to keep accurate records of patient care and managers failed to check both the quality and accuracy of notes.

  • Shifts were not always covered by staff members with appropriate levels of experience or competency.

Here at Farleys, our specialist inquest department regularly represent families at inquests who have lost loved ones following a battle with their mental health. Depending on the circumstances of the case, this is often an area within which families are eligible for Legal Aid Funding, covering the costs of representation at their inquest.

If you too have lost a loved one in similar tragic circumstances and are seeking inquest representation, please do contact the team here at Farleys. Our solicitors will do everything within their power to assist you at this extremely difficult time and to ensure the inquest delivers the answers you require, which may go some way to assist you in dealing with your grief. Call the team today on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.