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Mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk have come under fire with calls for an investigation in to the deaths of 8,440 people

Campaigners are calling on the police to investigate thousands of mental health deaths in Suffolk and Norfolk since 2020.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk has written to both counties’ police forces, asking them to investigate the deaths of patients of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).

An independent report by Grant Thornton found as many as 8,440 patients had died unexpectedly over three years.

Theresa is concerned for staff who work in mental health services.
Theresa is concerned for staff who work in mental health services.

This week, NSFT said it was working hard to learn from the deaths of people who were receiving its services when they died.

But Mark Harrison, campaign chairman, said: “This is the biggest deaths crisis in the history of the NHS.

“It is happening in the NHS foundation trust charged with providing mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.

“The police are being asked to act because all other options to save the lives of people in mental distress have failed. We are being failed by all parts of the system that are meant to be there to protect us.”

Campaigners are asking the police to review cases where coroners have issued prevention of future deaths (PFD) notices and other patients have died in similar circumstances.

PFD reports are issued when a coroner believes action should be taken to prevent future deaths, with authorities required by law to respond with an action plan within 56 days.

Campaigners are also asking police to assess whether the threshold has been reached for charges of corporate manslaughter to be made against senior managers and board of NSFT.

The campaign’s letter to Suffolk and Norfolk’s chief constables identified a number of common themes in PFD reports between 2013 and the present day, which caused or contributed to deaths at NSFT.

These include disorganisation between staff, “chaotic and inconsistent” record keeping, “poor joined-up working” with other teams in and outside of the NHS, a lack of follow-up with patients, insufficient training, and staff shortages.

The letter added: “To not investigate these fatalities of patients will demonstrate the police are failing in their legal and moral duties to protect the lives of mental health patients and service users in Norfolk and Suffolk.”

The campaign has also written to the heads of NHS England, the Department for Health and Social Care, and the Care Quality Commission – demanding they fulfill their duty of care and use their statutory powers.

In response, the NSFT said no PFDs had been issued in 2023, while earlier this year the trust had moved from a CQC inadequate rating to requires improvement.

A trust spokesman said: “We offer our sincere condolences to all families and carers of people affected.

“We can assure all families and carers that we are working really hard to learn from these incidents and do our very best to ensure they are minimised in future.

“Every prevention of future deaths report has resulted in an action plan sent to the coroner to commit to actions that are needed to improve care.”

A Suffolk Police spokesman said: “We have received the letter and will be responding to it once we have had time to assess its concerns.”

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