More help needed: figures show rise in number of mental health deaths
MPs have blamed government cuts for the “appalling and tragic” rise in the number of mental health deaths.
New figures show unexpected deaths among mental health patients in NHS care have soared by more than a fifth over the last three years.
And the number of patients attempting or committing suicide has risen by 26% since 2012-13.
Campaigners said the statistics, obtained by Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb , should be a “wake up call” for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Lamb blamed the rise on the “threadbare” funding of mental health services which had left some hospital trusts “struggling to cope.”
“People are literally dying as a result of the horrific under funding.
“People are losing their lives as a consequence of the institutional discrimination of mental health,” he said.
Norman Lamb warns of ‘threadbare’ funding for mental health
The NHS England figures form 58 mental health trusts show the number of serious incidents – avoidable deaths, serious harm, injury or abuse – has risen from 6,074 in 2012-13 and 7,345 in 2013-14.
There were 1,713 unexpected deaths of in-patients or those cared for at home during 2014-15, up 21% from 1,412 in 2012-13.
Mr Lamb likened the scale of the problem to the Mid Staffordshire scandal where hundreds of patients died as a result of poor care.
“Significant numbers of unexpected deaths at the Mid Staffs NHS trust caused an outcry and these figures should cause the same because they show a dramatic increase in the number of people losing their lives.
“NHS England and the government should set up an investigation into the causes of this as these figures involve tragedies for families around the country and the human impact is intense,” he said.
Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, said: “This drastic increase in the number of people losing their lives in NHS care is utterly appalling and tragic for all families involved. It must act as a serious wake up call for Ministers.
Luciana Berger MP says the figures are ‘appalling and tragic’
“At a time of rising demand, the Government has presided over service cuts and staff shortages, with devastating consequences.
“It’s high time the Government accepted their failings on mental health and translated their empty rhetoric into the action that is desperately needed.”
A spokeswoman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission called for a full Government investigation.
“It is nearly one year since we published our inquiry into the non-natural deaths of hundreds of people with mental health conditions detained in psychiatric hospitals, prisons and police cells.
“In particular, it called for a new system of independent investigations into unexpected deaths of people detained in hospitals to match what exists in other settings.
“It is vital that this is now implemented and lessons are learned to prevent further avoidable harm and heartbreak,” she said.
An NHS England spokeswoman said: “Reporting of incidents is intentionally up right across the NHS, including mental health, as part of our national effort to encourage transparency and a culture of learning.
“That’s the lesson from the airlines – openness is a precondition for safety and improvement. That’s as true for mental health services as it is for maternity care or surgical operations.”