Independent Inquiry launches consultation with families into Essex mental health deaths

May 26, 2021

The families of people who died while receiving inpatient mental health treatment at three Essex hospital trusts are being invited to get in touch with the independent inquiry set up to look into the circumstances of their deaths.

The families and others affected by the deaths are being urged to give their views on the issues to be considered by the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry, announced by the Government on 21 January 2021, as part of a consultation exercise launched today.

In its announcement earlier this year, the Government said the Inquiry would investigate the circumstances of mental health inpatient deaths which occurred over a 20-year period between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2020 at the former North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEPT), the former South Essex Partnership University Trust (SEPT) and the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT), which took over the provision of mental health services in Essex from 2017.

The Inquiry Chair, Dr. Geraldine Strathdee, now wants to hear the views of families and others affected by these events on the issues to be considered by the non-statutory independent Inquiry, as set out by the Government in January. The public will also have the opportunity to shape how the Inquiry obtains its evidence, including whether evidence should be heard in public or private hearings and whether it should be given anonymously or confidentially.

The Inquiry team has begun to reach out to families to invite them to share their views. At the end of the six-week consultation period, the Inquiry will publish its draft terms of reference, and there will be a further opportunity to comment on these terms before they are finalised.

Dr. Strathdee said: “I cannot imagine the intolerable pain and loss that the families of those who died have experienced. I am committed to putting their interests and the interests of those affected by these tragic events at the heart of this Inquiry and I urge them to get in touch with us.

“In holding this Inquiry, our aim is to get to the truth about what happened and ultimately to improve care for people experiencing mental ill health and ensure their families have the support they need, at the right time. We want the families and those affected by these events to tell us the issues they want to see included in the terms of reference to ensure it is as robust as possible. It is vital that we understand the course of events and what has gone wrong if we are to improve the system and services and prevent deaths in future.”

The Inquiry’s findings, expected to be published in spring 2023, will be essential to taking forward the lessons learned from these events to improve mental health services and prevent inpatient deaths in the future, not only in Essex but across the NHS and wider system.

In establishing the Inquiry, Nadine Dorries, Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, said she had listened carefully to arguments for a more formal, statutory inquiry but considered that a non-statutory, independent inquiry was the best way to deliver a robust and independent process which will get to the truth and identify improvements in the timeliest way. Accordingly, the format of the Inquiry is not part of this consultation.

Those wishing to share their views on what the Inquiry should consider can do so either via an online survey on its website www.emhii.org.uk, by writing to the Inquiry or through a virtual or face-to-face meeting. Anyone wishing to request a meeting or find out more should email the Inquiry at contact@emhii.org.uk or they can call 0207 972 3500.

After the terms of reference have been finalised, the Inquiry will move on to the next stage in which it will take detailed evidence from families and others affected.