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Mind responds to calls for public inquiry into mental health deaths in Essex

Monday, 16 January 2023 Mind

The UK government has been asked for clarity on whether it will hold the first statutory public inquiry into 2,000 mental health deaths at the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT).

The Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry was set up on a non-statutory basis in 2020, but in an open letter published Friday 13 January, its chair Dr Geraldine Strathdee shared that only 11 staff out of 14,000 agreed to attend evidence sessions – making it ‘inadequate’ and unable to meet its own terms of reference. Redefining the investigation as a statutory public inquiry would give it the ability to legally compel people to come forward and give evidence on oath.

Mind has been calling for a full national statutory public inquiry since September, when an undercover BBC Panorama investigation revealed the horrific treatment of patients at the Edenfield Centre in Manchester.

Paul Spencer, Head of Health, Policy & Campaigns at Mind, said:

“We know that, tragically, the many incidents at EPUT are not isolated cases, but feed into a wider national picture of systemic poor treatment, abuse and neglect stretching back many years. For months now, we have seen a steady stream of whistleblowing reports and undercover investigations shine a light on the routinely dehumanising, traumatic and unsafe treatment of people on mental health wards around the country. Mind supports Dr Geraldine Strathdee’s call to put the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry on a statutory footing to get answers for the families and loved ones of the 2,000 people who lost their lives either on the ward at EPUT, or within 3 months of being discharged.

“From the Edenfield Centre in Manchester and Huntercombe Group in Maidenhead, to Hill Crest Ward in Redditch and West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough, we have not forgotten the many people with mental health problems who, at their most unwell, were let down over and over again by the system that is supposed to care for them. We will not stop fighting for them and their loved ones, but to avoid putting even more people in harm’s way, we need the government to back our call for a statutory public inquiry into failings in inpatient care across the country.

“To say the nation’s mental health is stretched would be an understatement. We are collectively recovering from the toll of the pandemic and in the depths of the worst cost-of-living crisis on record. Alarm bells have been sounding for some time now about the state of the mental health system’s capacity to keep up with such a turbulent landscape, and inpatient crisis care is no exception.

“People who have been sectioned or are voluntary patients deserve dignity, respect and to receive therapeutic care that will help them recover and live a fulfilling life. Instead, we are seeing the very opposite in the overuse of physical and chemical restraints, segregation and seclusion, and even verbal, physical and sexual abuse. A national statutory inquiry would give a voice to all those who have experienced poor care over the years, and to those like the families in Essex, who have lost loved ones.”

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