6:00 AM August 6, 2022
An independent review has been commissioned to get to the bottom of how many people have died in the region whilst suffering from mental health problems.
The number of people who have died due to mental health issues in Norfolk and Suffolk remains a disputed figure, with questions consistently asked about how this is recorded.
Campaigners say the number is comfortably in four figures, however, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – which provides specialist mental health treatment in the region – refutes this.
The confusion is largely centered around the way deaths are reported and just what qualifies as a mental health death.
The review, which will be conducted by health leaders in Norfolk and Suffolk, aims to “verify” the mortality data previously reported by the Trust.
Currently, the Trust keeps record of any people who have died within six months of being in touch with mental health services.
It categories these as “expected” and “unexpected” with expected deaths referring to those who have died of natural causes.
A spokesperson on behalf of Norfolk and Waveney and Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Systems said: “We are working with NSFT to commission an independent review of NSFT’s mortality data. The focus of this review is to verify their reported mortality data.
“We are currently developing the details for the review. Once this has been agreed upon, subject to procurement timings, we anticipate receiving the first findings from the review in the autumn.
“The outcome of the review will be published.”
Cath Byford, deputy chief executive of NSFT, said: “We are currently talking with our regional and Integrated Care Board colleagues on how best to do this so it’s truly an independent view.”
It will not be the first time an exercise of this nature is carried out on behalf of the Trust.
In 2016, an independent review into “unexpected” deaths was conducted by Verita, the same organization which investigated the NHS over Jimmy Savile’s abuse of children in hospitals.
However, this review was criticized by campaigners for being “too narrow”
What do campaigners say?
The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk estimates that at least 1,000 people associated with NSFT have died.
Campaigners say they have reached this stark figure through a combination of statistics provided in Trust board papers and keeping track of newspaper reports of inquests.
A spokesman said: “It is clear from the Trust’s refuting of 1,000 deaths without being able to give a number that it has lost count.
Figures reporter at board meetings, to the media and in official documents just don’t tally.
“It is impossible for members of the public and probably monitoring bodies to see how many have died and to learn from deaths we need to know who has died and why.
“We need a statutory public inquiry because only that has a remit with enough breadth, depth and authority to compel witnesses to give evidence.
“We are not convinced the terms of reference [of the review] will be broad enough.”