• Police launch probe into patient deaths at acute adult inpatient unit
  • The Essex Police probe is investigating whether there is a criminal case to answer over the deaths of patients at the Linden Centre, now run by Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust
  • Seven patients have died at the unit since 2001 by attaching ligature to fixtures or furniture on the wards
  • Trust says the history of serious incidents at the unit was a “great concern”

Police have launched an investigation into a number of inpatient deaths at an acute mental health unit, it has emerged this afternoon.

The probe, which has been revealed in an investigation by 5 News, is looking into whether there is a criminal case to answer over the deaths of patients at the Linden Centre near Chelmsford, now operated by Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust.

Seven inpatients have died at the unit since 2001 by attaching ligature to fixtures or furniture on the wards.

Essex Police said it could not confirm the total number of deaths it was investigating or how long the inquiry will take.

A spokeswoman said the probe will focus on whether there were any “criminal failings of persons connected to the organisation”.

She added: “Essex Police is conducting initial enquiries in to a number of deaths which have occurred at the Linden Centre since 2000.”

The Health and Safety Executive said it was working with Essex Police but the investigation was being led by the force.

The unit was previously run by North Essex Partnership University FT, which merged with South Essex Partnership University FT on 1 April.

An inquest into the death of one of the patients – 30 year old Richard Wade who hanged himself – concluded today at Chelmsford Coroners’ Court.

The jury heard how Mr Wade hanged himself in May 2015 using an item the staff had failed to confiscate when he was admitted a few hours before. Mr Wade’s parents had just arrived to visit him when he was found.

The jury found that Mr Wade “killed himself whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed”.

It said his risk of suicide was “not properly and adequately assessed and reviewed” and “adequate and appropriate precautions were not taken to manage” his risk of suicide.

The latest Care Quality Commission report into North Essex Partnership, published in December last year, rated it as “requires improvement” overall but “inadequate” for safety.

The watchdog flagged up ligature points as an ongoing risk and took enforcement action against the trust, ordering it to ”improve their governance and assurance systems relating to the assessment and management of risk such as ligature risks”.

The CQC said it will be awaiting the results of the inquest into the death of Richard Wade and the police investigation before deciding what action to take.

In a statement Essex Partnership said the history of serious incidents of self harm at the Linden Centre was a “matter of great concern” and will fully support any police or HSE investigation.

It said it was already:

  • Undertaking a full ligature audit across the entire trust and had set aside funding to take action on the results;
  • Committing to a review within the first three months of the current suicide training packages and to putting one in place across the entire organisation; and
  • Establishing a CQC executive steering group, chaired by the chief executive, to review all CQC action plans.

It added: “The new trust places patient safety as a top priority. As part of this we are improving the systems to ensure that investigations are carried out rigorously, thoroughly and that true learning from them is shared across the entire organisation, so that we can take action to prevent similar occurrences in the future.”