Terms of reference for public inquiry into Essex mental health deaths expanded

The public inquiry examining the deaths of almost 2,000 mental health patients in Essex has been expanded, officials have announced.

The initial inquiry into the deaths of people on mental health wards in the county was due to examine cases from between the years 2000 and 2020, but the probe will now look at incidents up to December 31 2023.

Another trust will also be examined as part of the inquiry.

The probe was initially examining care at the North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, the South Essex Partnership University NHS Trust, and the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, which took over responsibility for mental health services in the county from 2017.

But according to the inquiry’s terms of reference published on Wednesday, the care provided in Essex by the North-East London Foundation Trust will also be examined.

The Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry was established in 2021 but was last year given statutory footing – which means that it has legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.

The new terms of reference, which is being chaired by Baroness Lampard, include investigations into:

  • serious failings related to the delivery of safe and therapeutic inpatient treatment and care;
  • the actions, practices and behaviours of staff providing mental health inpatient care;
  • the culture and governance of and at the Trusts and how that affected care and treatment.

It will also look at the investigations conducted by the trusts and interaction with the trusts and other public bodies such as health inspectors and coroners.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins (pictured) said: “Patients should feel confident, safe and supported – especially when receiving help for their mental health, which can be an incredibly vulnerable experience.

“This was not the case for mental health inpatients in Essex between 2000 and 2023, where so many patients ended up tragically and needlessly passing away, leaving their bereaved families with questions that need answering.

“We take this need seriously, and through the Lampard Inquiry, we will ensure lessons are learned and patient safety is improved.

“We have today published the terms of reference, to allow the inquiry to continue, and for families to get the answers they’re looking for.”

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