Families broken by loss of young men fear probe into deaths won’t go far enough
PUBLISHED: 06:00 26 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:32 26 October 2020
SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
A mum fears multiple families wanting answers over their relatives’ deaths in Essex will be left out of a planned probe into a string of fatalities at a mental health trust.
Melanie Leahy, mother of 20-year-old Matthew who died at the Linden Centre in Chelmsford in 2012, is concerned a recently-announced Government review excludes a number of families whose loved ones were treated under the same trust as her son.
She also feels the probe – announced by health minister Edward Argar after South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge raised the case of Richard Wade from Sudbury – will not go far enough as it will not see people quizzed under oath.
Politics graduate Mr Wade, 30, died within hours of attending the Linden Centre in 2015.
MORE: Family of ‘intelligent’ son who died in NHS care join mum’s fight for inquiry
Mrs Leahy, who says around 35 families have come forward to back her call for a public inquiry into mental health deaths in Essex, added that she has “no faith” in the planned review.
“We need interviews under oath and my understanding of a review is that doesn’t happen,” she said. “We need documentation to be produced.
“The review that’s being offered cuts out multiple families who are now involved in the call for a public inquiry. What happens to them, do they just get forgotten?
“It seems that the families that have been shouting the loudest are the ones that are included.
“At the last count, we’re up to 35 families supporting an inquiry. As far as I know, this review is probably looking at four or five.
She added: “We’re just going to carry on fighting, we are going to keep pushing forward for a full public inquiry.”
• What will the review involve?
Because it is a review, witnesses will not be required to give evidence under oath, and as it will only examine deaths at the Linden Centre, the date range has been cut to 2008-2015.
Edward Argar MP, speaking on behalf of fellow minister Nadine Dorries, told the Commons earlier this month that she had given “careful consideration” to “failures in care” at the former NEP.
“On her behalf, I am announcing today that she has set out her intention to commission an independent review into the serious questions raised by a series of tragic deaths of patients at the Linden Centre between 2008 and 2015,” he said.
The original police probe into 25 deaths at the former North Essex Partnership dated back to 2000. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation – which recently saw the safety watchdog launch a prosecution against the former trust over ligature risks – spanned from 2004 to 2015.
Meanwhile, the parents of Mr Wade – who died just 12 hours after being admitted to the Linden Centre in 2015 – are also concerned the review won’t handle crucial evidence they want examined.
• ‘Very deep look’ needed to root out truth
Robert Wade, father of 30-year-old PhD graduate Richard from Sudbury, Suffolk, thanked his MP James Cartlidge for raising his son’s case in the Commons.
However, he said what Mr Cartlidge originally asked for was an independent or public inquiry but a review was commissioned instead.
He and wife Linda feel it is essential that witnesses give evidence to an inquiry to safeguard future patients.
“We have a significant amount of documentation in our possession, and from that we can work out pretty accurately what happened to our son,” he said.
“But there are variations in that documentation that show what we’ve been told can’t quite be what really happened, there are gaps in the evidence.
“Unless people come in and answer those anomalies, we won’t get to the truth.
He added: “We need to look very deeply into what’s happened at that trust, root out the proof, and then make the corrections upon which the protection of Essex’s most vulnerable people can be based.”
• Deaths review ‘welcomed’ by former trust
The new chief executive of the Essex Partnership University Trust, which merged mental health services in north and south Essex in 2017, said he welcomes the Government’s planned review.
Paul Scott, who took over from Sally Morris recently after she retired, said:
“We welcome the announcement of an independent review into what went wrong at the former NEP and are extremely sorry for the ongoing pain and distress to the families involved.
“My ambition for EPUT is to provide the best and safest care possible for our patients – we’re already well on that journey, much has changed, and I would like us to become recognised in the future as an exemplar of good practice across all our services.”
Trust bosses said they are restricted in what they can say about the planned prosecution into ligature risks, but added: “Safety is our absolute priority and we are continually working to ensure the safest environment possible for our patients.”
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