Essex mental health inquiry now investigating 1,500 deaths

Placards with the faces of Matthew Leahy and Richard Wade on ahead of a peaceful demonstration this weekend (22nd August).
Bereaved families have repeatedly called for a full public inquiry. Credit: ITV News Anglia

An independent inquiry into mental health services in Essex is now investigating the deaths of 1,500 people.

All of them died while patients on a mental health ward in the county, or within three months of being discharged, between 2000 and 2020.

So far the inquiry has heard from former inpatients and 14 bereaved families but its chair, Dr Geraldine Strathdee, wants to hear from others who have been affected as well as current and former staff.

Dr Strathdee said that so far "there are some areas of concern that I have consistently heard", including a lack of basic information being shared with patients and their families about their care and treatment.

Patients and their families have serious concerns about patients' physical, psychological and sexual safety on the ward, and there have been "major differences in the quality of care patients receive both in staff attitudes and in the use of effective treatments", she said.

"Right now, we have very limited information on the 1,500 deaths we've been made aware of," said Dr Strathdee.

"Our investigations are ongoing, and we expect to be able to provide a fuller breakdown of this number in the future.

"But as it stands, for example, we have only been given the cause of death for around 40% of these deaths."

The inquiry was announced by Nadine Dorries in 2020, when she was a health minister, following a series of deaths at the Linden Centre, an NHS mental health unit.

The Linden Centre in Chelmsford. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Bereaved families had long campaigned for a statutory public inquiry.

Melanie Leahy, whose son Matthew was found dead at the Linden Centre in 2012, started a petition which attracted more than 100,000 signatures.

Robert Wade, 66, lost his 30-year-old son Richard Wade to suicide in 2015, shortly after he had been admitted for the first time to a mental health unit.

His son, who lived in Chelmsford, had completed a PhD and had a high-flying job at accounting firm PwC in London.

Richard Wade died within hours of being admitted to the Linden Centre in 2015. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"He went in (to the mental health unit in Essex) just after midnight," said Mr Wade. "He was dead by midday.

"He was there for less than 12 hours before the injuries he inflicted on himself."

Mr Wade, of Sudbury in Suffolk, continued: "It boils down to something really quite simple. They didn't care. They didn't care for him, they didn't seem to care for their professionalism, the consequence was he paid a big price."

His mother Linda Wade, 71, said: "There has got to be change. We can't bring Richard back but that was a young man that went into the Linden Centre for safety and there was no safety.

"To me, from the inquiry there's got to come change, but it probably needs change right across the UK."

The inquiry, which started in December last year, will be "making recommendations to the government on what changes must be made to keep patients safe in mental health inpatient care and to improve the experiences of their families and loved ones".

To find out more and contribute to the Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry, go to the website at