Tom Bristow of the Archant Investigations Unit reports in the Eastern Daily Press:
A record number of patients are dying unexpectedly each month at the region’s troubled mental health trust, despite years of reassurances and reviews into the problem.
Campaigners and families of those who have died reacted with horror today to the latest set of figures which show 87 men and women who had been cared for by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) died unexpectedly from January to May this year.
The trust first ordered a review into unexpected deaths in 2013 when they were concerned 20 people had died in five months.
In April and May this year, 21 people died in each month – double the number of last April and May.
Mental health chiefs commissioned a review from a company called Verita in January this year into the number of unexpected deaths and the trust says it has put in place recommendations from that report.
But the numbers have tripled since 2012/13 when the trust first commissioned a report into the high number of deaths.
In the year it was placed into special measures (2014/15), the trust reported 139 unexpected deaths, up from 53 two years before. By 2015/16 the deaths had tripled to another record high, reaching 157.
Ann Higgins, whose son Christopher, 36, died by suicide at the NSFT’s Fermoy Unit in King’s Lynn in 2013, accused the trust of “fiddling while Rome was burning” by producing report after report into unexpected deaths rather than taking effective action to reduce the death toll.
She said the latest figures showing 21 deaths a month were “extremely disappointing” and “horrendous”.
“Obviously we couldn’t bring our son back but we took actions we did to try to prevent it keeping on happening and it all seems to have come to nought.”
Her words were echoed by a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk who said: “We as a society can do better than to allow this mental health Mid Staffs in our midst to continue. We need immediate action, not oft-repeated platitudes and excuses.
“The shocking increase in unexpected deaths at NSFT cannot continue: it is immoral. With increasing demand and less money, even a competent management would have struggled to keep people in crisis safe. The sad results of the cuts and hubris are too few beds, not enough professionals, closed or failed services, children and adults refused treatment and ever-increasing numbers of funerals across Norfolk and Suffolk.”
Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis said: “Each instance represents misery, anguish and grieving for increasing numbers of real people.
“We also need to recognise this for the very real crisis this is. In 2012/13, an average of seven people who had had contact with local mental health services were dying each month. Twenty-one died each month in April and May.
“If the local physical health system had a record like that, it’d be all over the front pages as a Mid Staffs-like major health scandal.”
Click on the image below to read the investigation in full on the EDP website: