26 August 2020

I know I haven’t been told the truth and a public inquiry is what is necessary…how many more deaths do there have to be before change happens?

                                         Melanie Leahy, mother of Matthew Leahy who died in the Linden Centre, Essex in 2012

On Saturday 22 August, bereaved families from across Essex gathered together for a memorial service for their loved ones who were failed by mental health services in Essex. The peaceful memorial was to both remember loved ones and join forces in a call for changes across the entire county.

Among the multiple families searching for justice is Melanie Leahy whose son Matthew was found hanged just one week after being admitted as an inpatient to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford in 2012. Between 2004 and 2019, six inpatients died by hanging in the same centre demonstrating the lack of learning from recommendations to make wards safer – including those highlighted by INQUEST to the Care Quality Commission in 2016.

Melanie is leading the campaign for a public inquiry into Essex mental health services and has now secured legal backing from London based social justice law firm Hodge, Jones and Allen. With the number of bereaved families joining the campaign in double digits, and almost 106,000 signatories to a petition that is now under consideration in Parliament, there is hope that a public inquiry will be granted and recommendations for change will ultimately result in fewer lives being lost.

INQUEST supports the families' efforts to put the lack of accountability and learning demonstrated by mental health service providers in Essex under the spotlight and published a statement to this effect ahead of Saturday's memorial.

INQUEST has long called for transparency, oversight and accountability in relation to deaths that occur in inpatient mental health settings. An independent national learning mechanism to oversee and monitor recommendations arising out of deaths, parliamentary scrutiny and publicly available investigation reports are all necessary components of a system built to identify concerning patterns – something which has thus far been the responsibility of bereaved families and organisations like INQUEST.

INQUEST stands in solidarity with Melanie and all the other families searching for the truth behind their loved ones deaths.

For further details on the families’ fight for justice, to join the campaign or to answer the call for other families whose loved ones have died due to failings in Essex mental health care, please visit www.curementalhealth.co.uk

Melanie Leahy was interviewed by Channel 5 on her battle searching for answers and the call for a public inquiry.