Deaths in Mental Health Care

Janet Daby Excerpts
Monday 30th November 2020

(1 year ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department of Health and Social Care
Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I congratulate the hon. Member for Hartlepool on the wonderful way in which he opened the debate and the two preceding speakers on their powerful contributions. I rise to speak on behalf of my constituent, Mrs Marian Coles, who was alerted to the debate and contacted me. I want my speech simply to be what she has written to me, to place her concerns on the record. Mrs Coles said:

“I am writing regarding the Westminster Hall debate concerning deaths in mental health care which calls for independent investigations into deaths in mental health settings. As a family that has been personally affected by this after our son took his own life whilst a mental health inpatient in Kettering in May 2017, we would ask if you would represent us at this debate. This was the second suicide at this facility 7 months apart. Staff failings were admitted at the inquest and 3 nurses were disciplined but they refused to give us the details. It has taken us 3 years for the NHS to settle this case.

We were involved with the serious incident report that took place but strongly support an independent inquiry being held after such deaths as is allowed in other organisations. Why should an organisation investigate itself over a death that may have been caused or contributed to by failures of its own staff or systems? The lack of an independent inquiry hampers the ability to root out issues of system neglect or misconduct and also jeopardises the welfare of future patients by failing to address such concerns. There is overwhelming evidence that the current system for investigating deaths in mental health settings is not fit for purpose.

“We very much hope that you will be able to take part in the debate and offer your support”—

I do—

“for an independent inquiry for families that may be affected by these tragedies. I am deeply traumatised by the death of my son, as is all of my family and we have to live with this every day of our lives”.

It is a privilege for me, as the local MP, to place Mrs Marian Coles’s concerns on the record.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. The circumstances of the debate are truly heartbreaking. I begin by extending my condolences to the family of the late Matthew Leahy and all families who have lost loved ones with mental illness at the hands of those who were supposed to protect them and care for them.

For many decades, mental health has not received enough attention or funding in comparison with physical illness. I draw attention to the mental health unit in Lewisham, which has already been viewed as not being fit for purpose—it was not built for people who have mental health problems—yet funding has never materialised for the changes needed to make it suitable for people with mental health problems. With the pressures of the pandemic, medical professionals are reporting more and more that people are suffering with mental illness due to economic hardship or loneliness, so it is clear there will be greater demand for mental health services over the next few years. It is imperative that we have well-functioning and well-funded mental health services to prevent needless deaths of the most vulnerable who are in need of those services. Medical professionals, the police and everybody around them also need support to be able to care for people with mental health illnesses. They need training, supervision and, most of all, not to be overworked. They also need to be able to debrief when they find things difficult.

I would like to raise the case of the late Kevin Clarke, from my constituency of Lewisham East, who sadly died following a mental health relapse. My condolences go out to his family, who are still bereft from the loss of Kevin, who, despite not posing an immediate threat to anyone, was handcuffed and placed in a leg restraint while telling the police that he could not breathe. In October, an inquest concluded that the officer’s restraint and supervision towards Kevin were excessive and sadly contributed to his death. However, the police were not the only professionals involved in his care. Other professionals were also in contact with him prior to this tragic incident.

A strategy of care needs to be in place for all mental health patients, one in which patients are listened to and family members are involved, so that loved ones can talk about preventative measures and their concerns, as well as contribute to the care plans that are needed. Mental health doctors, mental health nurses, social workers and care staff all need to work collaboratively with all professionals involved in keeping the most vulnerable people safe and secure, and to prevent these fatal, awful incidents of suicide or types of restraints leading to death. Change needs to happen.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (in the Chair)
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Hon. Members have either not turned up or taken less time than expected, so, unusually, I will increase the time limit for the last speakers to five minutes.