Trust accused over death tolls

Police release details of incident at the Fermoy Unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Tuesday.
Police release details of incident at the Fermoy Unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Tuesday.

A mother whose son died while in the care of a Lynn mental health unit has accused bosses of “accepting” cases like that of her family.

The BBC’s Panorama programme, broadcast on Monday, revealed the number of unexpected deaths within the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) had doubled in four years.

The trust’s chief executive, Michael Scott, told the programme mistakes had been made, but insisted it was now on “a journey of improvement.”

But Ann Higgins, from South Wootton, whose son Christopher died while in the care of Lynn’s Fermoy unit in 2013, said Mr Scott’s attitude was “inadequate and contemptible”.

She said: “Unlike Michael Scott, who accepts unexpected deaths, I cannot and know that my son Christopher was a victim of a flawed system.

“At local level there was poor management and staff training, incompetent medical assessments, neglect and lack of care. He and many others should not have died.”

In a later statement, Mr Scott said the trust “noted with great disappointment” it was the only trust to be featured in the programme.

And he insisted he would have “no hesitation” in referring a member of his family to the trust now, pointing out that it had been deemed to “require improvement” along with other trusts in its latest inspection.

He added: “Our staff do the very best job they can every day for local service users, carers and families, under the immense pressures facing the NHS and mental health services right across the country.

“Our trust has recognised that it has made mistakes in the past and made decisions - some of them many years ago – that still have an effect upon our staff, upon our service users and upon those who care for them.

“For those mistakes, once again, our board offers its most sincere apologies. We may still not get everything right all of the time, but we are a different organisation to the one we used to be.”

Mrs Higgins said former staff who featured in the programme had told her that Christopher’s case fitted into a wider pattern within the trust.

She also hopes the media exposure will help to change public perceptions and force politicians into making significant reforms.