Hundreds of mental health patients died after NHS care failures

From The Guardian: At least 271 highly vulnerable mental health patients have died over the last six years after failings in NHS care, a Guardian investigation has found.

Coroners have been so alarmed at the lapses in care that emerged during inquests that they issued legal warnings to 136 NHS bodies, mainly providers of care, between 2012 and 2017. They included mental health trusts, acute hospitals, ambulance services and GP surgeries.

Mental health campaigners said the findings were shocking and claimed that many of the deaths were avoidable and constituted a “tragedy”.

The disclosures follow growing concern about the NHS’s ability to cope with the fast-rising demand for mental health care, especially among children, young people and older people, and fears that some patients are facing long delays in accessing treatment and receiving inadequate care when they do.

Bodies such as the Commons health select committee, NHS Providers, mental health staff organisations and charities have warned that NHS services have too few staff. There are 6,000 fewer mental health nurses in England than in 2010 and the number of psychiatrists for children and adolescents is also falling.

Many of the notices examined by the Guardian cited inadequate supervision of someone who was a clear suicide risk, or NHS staff ignoring families’ fears that their loved one would take their own life. In dozens of cases, staff made mistakes with the patient’s medication, or failed to properly assess the risk that the patient would take their own life.

The notices also included:
• Forty-five cases in which patients were discharged too soon or without adequate support.
• Seventy-two instances of poor or inappropriate care.
• Forty-one cases in which treatment was delayed.

Labour said the government should hold an inquiry into the deaths, given Theresa May’s call for the NHS to improve mental health care as part of her crusade on “burning injustices”.

The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, a mental health campaigner and former health minister, said the inquests had revealed “wholly unacceptable loss of life. I will be writing to Jeremy Hunt [the health and social care secretary], highlighting the Guardian’s analysis, and urging him to look at how the system can be reformed to ensure that every notice issued by a coroner is tracked so that lessons are always learnt.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]