Demonstrators demand public inquiry into deaths of mental health patients in Essex

  • Video highlights of march through Chelmsford

Families whose loved ones died whilst under the care of mental health services in Essex have held a demonstration demanding a public inquiry.

Campaigners met in Central Park in Chelmsford where family members spoke of their experiences whilst their sons, brothers and mothers were being treated by the former North Essex Partnership Trust.

Lisa Morris addressed demonstrators in Central Park. Her son Ben died in 2008. Credit: ITV News Anglia

In 2017 the Trust merged with South Essex Partnership Trust to form the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT). It is responsible for the majority of mental health services in Essex.

  • Video highlights of speeches held before demonstration

Read more: Bereaved Essex families unite in call for inquiry into mental health deaths

Organised by Melanie Leahy whose son died at the Linden Centre, a mental health unit in Chelmsford, in 2012, around fifty people stood socially distanced to listen to the speakers.

Demonstrators then made their way from the park, carrying placards, down Chelmsford High Street, looping around Springfield Road, before making their way back up the High Street and to the park.

Protestors also carried a 'coffin' with the names of their loved ones on.

A memorial was then held where three doves were released.

  • Video highlights of memorial service held after demonstration

The first symbolised 'truth', the second 'justice' and the third 'accountability', all things these families believe a public inquiry could bring them.

EPUT says at its board meeting last month it reported it was investigating 'nine serious incidents relating to the deaths of mental health patients' between January and March this year.

In addition to this it began an internal investigation into the death of Southend teenager, Chris Nota, in July.

The Department of Health says every NHS mental health provider is required to have a zero suicide policy in place. 

Melanie Leahy lead demonstrators down Chelmsford High Street. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A Health and Safety Executive investigation is also currently ongoing into the former North Essex Partnership Trust. This predominantly looks at the physical environment of the ward and if it was safe, as opposed to the care given.

What the families want, and they now have the backing of lawyers, is one overarching public investigation into mental health deaths at the Trust now and the Trusts as they were before 2017. Only this do they believe will bring about change.

However, EPUT say since it took over in 2017 it has invested £2.4 million in improving safety of its services and facilities.

A 'coffin' with the names of bereaved families loved ones was carried on the protest, as well as placards. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Melanie is urging other families who believe their loved ones were failed by Essex mental health services to get in touch.

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