PERFORMANCE: South Essex Partnership Foundation Trust has recorded five unexpected deaths and a suspected homicide among patients in a three-month period, HSJ has learned.

The trust recorded the six fatalities between November and January. They were reported in a board paper on serious incidents to its main commissioner, NHS South Essex.

The trust said it could not discuss the specifics of any case due to patient confidentiality but confirmed all five unexpected deaths, which are suspected suicides, were community patients.

The foundation trust told HSJ that an NHS South Essex public health consultant had considered the spate of deaths and decided that figures showed the suicide rate among users of South Essex’s mental health services “is similar to other mental health services across the country”.

A statement from the FT added: “During the financial year 2011-12 the percentage of serious incidents reported as deaths was 0.5% in comparison to the national percentage of 0.6%.”

The trust itself is carrying out an internal investigation into the five unexpected deaths. A coroner has not yet determined causes of the deaths.

The FT also said: “Every serious incident is subject to an immediate ‘seven-day report’ where, if any issues of patient safety are highlighted, actions are taken immediately to share learning without waiting for the outcome of the full investigation and action plan.

“As well as the ‘seven-day report’, a full internal investigation is carried out – these are still current and not finalised for the serious incidents in question.”

The trust recorded nine unexpected deaths in 2011-12 and eleven unexpected deaths in the first ten months of 2012-13.