Peer appointed to chair probe into 2,000 mental health inpatient deaths

A barrister who led Government investigations into the crimes of Jimmy Savile will chair an inquiry examining around 2,000 mental health patient deaths, the Health Secretary announced.

Baroness Lampard (pictured) will lead the statutory inquiry into inpatient deaths at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) between 2000 and 2020.

Steve Barclay announced her appointment in the House of Commons, after previously confirming the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry would be given statutory powers.

The Health Secretary said in June the investigation would be given the power to compel witnesses, amid concerns over a lack of engagement from current and former workers.

He told the Commons: “In June, I told the House the inquiry into NHS mental health inpatient facilities across Essex would move forwards on a statutory footing.

“And today I can announce Baroness Lampard, who led the Department of Health’s inquiry into the crimes of Jimmy Savile, has agreed to chair the statutory inquiry.

“I know Baroness Kate Lampard will wish to engage with Members of this House and the families impacted, and following their input I will update the House on the terms of reference at the earliest opportunity.”

The inquiry’s previous chair, Dr Geraldine Strathdee stood down “due to personal reasons” earlier this year.

Mr Barclay told MPs in June that the probe would be given a statutory footing, as Dr Strathdee did not believe she could “properly investigate matters” due to the level of engagement from current and former EPUT staff.

An initial figure of 1,500 deaths was based on information from EPUT and announced in March 2022.

All the 1,500 people died while they were a patient on a mental health ward in Essex, or within three months of being discharged, between 2000 and 2020.

It was confirmed earlier this year that the number of deaths under investigation is now closer to 2,000.

Conservative peer Lady Lampard led the 2012 investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by former BBC DJ Savile at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor Hospital, as well as a probe within the Department for Health.

Lady Lampard’s appointment was welcomed by Conservative former home secretary Priti Patel, the MP for Witham in Essex.

She told the Commons: “Could he please, I think, today on the floor of the House give some assurance to the 80-plus families who simply did not engage with the inquiry previously so that they can come forward and give evidence and have confidence that their evidence will actually lead to the justice that they are now seeking for the loved ones that they are now missing through what has happened back at the mental health trust?”

Mr Barclay responded: “Our focus … has to be on ensuring that families get the answers that they legitimately deserve.

“The reason, therefore, that it was proportionate to shift the Essex inquiry from a non-statutory to a statutory footing was the concern of the chair that there was insufficient engagement, particularly from staff, but also as she has just said from families who did not have confidence in the inquiry as it was then.

“That is why the inquiry has been strengthened in response to that. It is why we have put in a very senior chair with experience of the Savile inquiry, and I know that she will be at the forefront of ensuring that the families’ voices are heard moving forward.”

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