Chair Urges for Legal Authority Determination Following Essex Mental Health Survey

The Chairman of the Inquiry into Mortality of Mental Illness has given the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) full legal authority to renew the movement seeking a decision on whether mental health service care in Essex has ceased over the past 20 years. Dr. Geraldine Strathdie has issued a second letter to the Secretary of Health warning of new safety concerns and stating that EPUT staff failed to provide sufficient evidence. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHSC) said the Essex Independent Mental Health Commission, which was established in January 2021, was collapsing due to a lack of witnesses coming forward to provide evidence. Dr. Strathdie said that she is unable to investigate properly and that this level of involvement is problematic.

A decision has yet to be made on her request that the investigation is based on full legal grounds, but Steve Berkley, reportedly “willing”, will likely grant additional legal powers. Dr. Strathdie also warned in her letter of new security concerns at EPUT, and she is very concerned about serious and continuing risks to patient safety. She wrote that “proper investigation by investigative bodies is not possible without legal authority.” EPUT said that patient safety is an “absolute priority” and that they investigate thoroughly and take immediate action if any concerns arise.

The 21-year study began in 2020, and the study began in January 2021. Another 500 deaths were announced to Dr. Strathdie in December. Campaign activist Melanie Leahy, who lost her son Matthew in 2019, said she was challenged by the government to tell her that it was “not an urgent need” to give new powers to the investigation. Ms Leahy added that “Professor Strady doubts that he will agree to convert the current limited investigation into statutory status so that he can eventually force witnesses to speak and put patients and families in their place. “A DHSC spokesperson said: “Every death in a mental health facility is a tragedy. We have launched a study to investigate mental health inpatient deaths in Essex by 2020.”

The EPUT spokeswoman said that they continue to actively encourage staff to undertake the research and provide support and advice to colleagues. “Patient safety is our absolute priority, and we remain and will remain committed to cooperating with investigations in any way possible.”

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