Families voice anger ahead of ‘toothless’ inquiry into mental health deaths
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY
An independent inquiry is to be held into the deaths of 11 people at an NHS-run Essex mental health centre – although families fear it will not be enough to bring them justice.
An inquiry into the deaths at the Linden Centre, previously run by the North Essex Partnership NHS Trust, was announced by mental health minister Nadine Dorries on Monday.
It will look back over the last 20 years at the centre, covering the 11 deaths which happened between 2004 and 2015.
The Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, formed in 2017 following a merger, pleaded guilty to health and safety failings in the run up to their deaths in November.
The inquiry comes following a petition by Essex mum Melanie Leahy, whose son Matthew was found dead at the centre in 2012. It gained more than 100,000 signatures.
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An inquest into the 20-year-old’s death found “multiple failings” and “missed opportunities” in the run-up to his death. Other local families, including the family of Richard Wade from Sudbury, who died at the centre in 2015, are also calling for justice.
Mr Wade’s case was raised by South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge MP in October, leading to Ms Dorries’ announcement.
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Mrs Leahy said only a public inquiry with witnesses under oath would bring justice for the 55 families who have raised concerns.
Mrs Leahy said: “The proposed inquiry is toothless.
“It will not have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath, like a statutory public inquiry would, and will be chaired by a Government-picked ‘expert’.
“Having campaigned for so long to get a parliamentary debate, I refuse to be fobbed off by this half-hearted response.
“All along, the other families and I have stated that a full statutory public inquiry is the only way to get answers – it is shameful that the Government should offer anything less in an attempt to sweep this under the carpet.
“We demand answers that will not just provide justice for our loved ones, but also provide vital learning to make sure no other families go through our pain.
“We will not be ignored.”
Speaking at the parliamentary debate on Monday, Ms Dorries said she had chosen to open an independent inquiry to ensure families get the answers they need as quickly as possible.
She said: “It will be able to call witnesses and undertake a close examination of what actually happened to patients who died at the trust to inform its findings.”
Mrs Leahy added she will be writing to Boris Johnson over the matter.