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“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” may be an overused proverb but seems to apply to the sacked P&O workers in Kent.

Kent and Medway and Social Care Partnership Trust has seized the opportunity to try to recruit some of the workers from Dover who were unceremoniously dumped by P&O just a week and a half ago.

Among them, it reckons, will be many with skills which could transfer to the NHS – and potentially even some with clinical skills. So the trust is holding two dedicated virtual recruitment sessions for P&O staff to see where they might fill some of its 420 vacancies. As the trust points out, it has vacancies in “hotel services” and maintenance assistant roles, among others.

The government is, of course, still trying to force P&O to change its mind but if it doesn’t – and there’s little sign of it – other NHS trusts in Liverpool and Hull, all areas affected by the sackings, may see opportunities as well.

Inquiry must win support of families

The chair of a non-statutory inquiry into mental health deaths has revealed it is aware of some 1,500 in a single county.

Such a huge number is a big leap from the 25 officially probed in Essex mental health services by police in 2018.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, former national clinical director for mental health, told HSJ the 2017 merger of north and south Essex services to form Essex Partnership University FT would be among areas investigated.

It is yet to link the majority of the 1,500 deaths to specific failures and cause of death has not been established in 60 per cent of cases.

Initial evidence has identified themes around sexual safety, poor care and lack of compassion.

However, if the inquiry is to be effective and achieve Dr Strathdee’s aim of “holding systems’ feet to the fire”, and improving mental healthcare both locally and nationally, it must win support of families desperate for the truth.

It is telling that just 14 families have so far engaged – dozens of relatives are continuing their fight for a statutory inquiry. Without one, witnesses cannot be compelled to give evidence under oath and will instead be “invited” to come forward.

Also on today

In North by North West, Lawrence Dunhill examines a merger that illustrates the difficulty realities of integration, and The Primer recaps on health stories concerning maternity service failings, the implications of the spring statement and the Living With Covid plan.