Inquiry into Essex mental health inpatient deaths relaunched with legal powers

The Essex Mental Health Independent Inquiry was established in 2021 with a remit to investigate the deaths of people on mental health wards in Essex.

The 2,000 people identified died while they were a patient on a mental health ward in Essex, or within three months of being discharged, between 2000 and 2020.

However, the then chairwoman of the inquiry Geraldine Strathdee described the number of responses to the inquiry from current and former staff as “hugely disappointing”.

Bereaved parents Melanie Leahy, whose son Matthew died while he was a patient at the Linden Centre, and Julia Hopper, whose son Chris Nota died after falling from a bridge in Queensway, have been campaigning for a statutory public inquiry through which witnesses can be made to give evidence under oath.

Dr Strathdee stepped down due to “personal reasons” earlier this year, with the new chairwoman named as Baroness Lampard and the inquiry renamed The Lampard Inquiry.

The new chairwoman is minded to extend the timeframe the inquiry is looking at to include deaths from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2023.

On Wednesday, Baroness Lampard formally launched the newly converted statutory public inquiry into the deaths of mental health in-patients at NHS Trusts in Essex.

Baroness Lampard, who previously led the investigations into Jimmy Savile’s abuse in the NHS, said: “I am determined to conduct this inquiry in a fair, thorough and balanced manner.

“I am also concerned to ensure that I do not take any longer than necessary – the recommendations from this inquiry are urgent and cannot be delayed.

“The statutory powers granted to this inquiry will allow me to gather the evidence I need to investigate deaths and serious failings in the care of mental health inpatients in Essex.

“I very much hope families of those who have died will continue to engage with the inquiry.

“To be clear from the outset, I will not be compelling families to give evidence.

“Evidence from staff, management and organisations will be gathered in a proportionate, fair and appropriate manner.”

Baroness Lampard will continue to seek evidence from families of those who died, patients and former patients of inpatient services.

She will also seek evidence from those who work in mental health settings, and other relevant parties who can help the inquiry understand the circumstances surrounding these cases, and to make recommendations on how to improve the provision of mental health inpatient care.

People can email the inquiry at [email protected] or leave a voicemail on 020 7972 3500 or write to PO Box 78136, London, SW1P 9WW.

For details, see