Initial findings of an independent inquiry called to examine deaths in mental health units across Norfolk and Suffolk are set to be published in May, officials have announced.
Last month, managers of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) announced they would commission an external investigation, amid fears over soaring numbers of cases on its sites.
The trust has now revealed that Verita, a London-based management consultancy company, has been appointed to conduct the inquiry.
The firm will work alongside independent clinical reviewer Colin Vose on the investigation, which is now set to be divided into two stages.
The first phase, which is due to be completed by May, is intended compare unexpected death rates within the trust to other providers, examine internal investigation procedures and identify priorities for further action.
A second report, which is expected to be completed in the summer, will look into the trust’s strategies to prevent patients from taking their own lives.
It will also review how the trust investigates deaths in relation to NHS guidelines.
The inquiry was ordered following a series of high-profile cases involving patients who had died while in the care of the trust, which runs Lynn’s Fermoy unit.
Last month, mental health campaigners published figures which they claimed showed the number of unexpected deaths at NSFT facilities had more than doubled in just two years, though the trust maintained the figures were misleading.
NSFT chief executive Michael Scott said: “We want people to be assured that we have commissioned this independent review to be as indepth and robust as possible.
“The safety of our service users and our services is paramount. One single avoidable death is one too many – which is why we have commissioned this investigation, to ensure we are fully confident that our services are as safe as they can be.”
“Verita and Colin Vose have the expertise and insight required to look in detail at this complex and difficult area, and provide the clarity we are seeking.
“We look forward to receiving its report so that we can understand whether there are any issues which we need to address to further improve the safety of our services for the benefit of everyone in Norfolk and Suffolk.”