The Health Secretary has announced an investigation into mental health in-patient services across the country. It comes after a series of investigations by Sky News highlighting failings within the system.

In October 2022, the investigation into five hospitals run by The Huntercombe Group revealed repeated allegations of over-restraint and inadequate staffing. This left people at increased risk of self-harm.

More recently, safety risks were exposed within Wotton Lawn Mental Health Unit, an NHS service in Gloucester, where patients had got on the roof or absconded, and staff were photographed asleep on the job.

Initially, around 1,500 deaths were being investigated based on figures from Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT). Earlier this year, it was confirmed this figure was closer to 2,000.

All died while in a mental health ward in Essex or within three months of leaving.

The new health services safety investigation body will investigate the following themes: how providers learn from deaths in their care and use this learning to improve services, including post-discharge; how young people are cared for in mental health inpatient settings and how this can be improved; how out-of-area placements are handled; and how to develop a safe staffing model for all mental health inpatient services.

Here at Farleys we are frequently asked to represent families in mental health related deaths. In November last year, our inquests team represented the family of Rowan Thompson at the inquest into their death.  Rowan died on 3 October 2020 whilst an inpatient at the Gardener Unit, a medium secure adolescent mental health unit in Prestwich run by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH).

Rowan was one of three people to die in the care of Prestwich hospital, and one of many more to experience harm in the care of GMMH. Following the inquest, there were calls for a public inquiry into deaths in mental health settings.

In addition, we have more recently been instructed on several other mental health related deaths, primarily focusing on how those deaths were attributed to by mental health care failings. It is clear from these inquests that people are repeatedly failed by services entrusted to help them; particularly surrounding failures to update risk assessments and escalate family’s concerns.

The death of a loved one can be a devastating time. When someone has died following contact with or when a resident of a mental health facility, you are likely to have many questions around their assessments and treatment and questions of those involved in their care.

An inquest can be very daunting for the family following the loss of a loved one. Our inquests team is experienced in assisting with inquests of this kind and can guide you through the process.

We can also advise on bringing a claim for compensation after the inquest.

For more information or to discuss representation, please call us on 0845 287 0939, contact us by email, or use the online chat below.