Surge in the number of mental health patients dying unexpectedly
The number of mental health patients dying unexpectedly in Nottinghamshire has increased by 50 percent.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust reported 113 ‘unexpected deaths’ within its mental health services in 2016/17, up from 76 in 2015/16.
The trust records any deaths not caused by a terminal illness, including suicide and natural deaths, as ‘unexpected’.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare, which provides mental health, learning disability and physical health services, reported a total of 617 deaths in 2016/17.
Of those deaths, 552 occurred within mental health services – an increase of 14.8 percent from 2015/16 when 470 deaths were reported.
Most of the deaths were people who were being treated under mental health services for older people (420) and adult mental health services (98).
Fifty-four deaths were regarded as a Serious Incident Requiring Investigation (SIRI) – an NHS England framework that includes unexpected or avoidable death, such as suicide.
Dr Julie Hankin, medical director of Nottinghamshire Healthcare, presented the data to the trust’s board on Thursday (May 25) and is exploring why the number of deaths have increased – but said changes were made to the way data is recorded around a year and a half ago. She said: “The majority of those will have been community deaths, not ward deaths. Some of them will only have had brief contact with us. “One of things we have been focusing on is GP training, because often people present at the GP struggling. We have the crisis strategy and we have been doing training with the police. It’s about trying to get that whole system joined up.”
Dr Hankin said the trust takes an inpatient death “very seriously” and said that staff on the wards work hard to keep them safe.But she is concerned that an increasing demand on mental health services – both ward-based and in the community – is having an impact.
Dr Hankin said: “We’ve had an increased demand so we have more people in the service than we used to have. At the same time what we don’t want to dismiss is we know that mental health services across the country, and we’re no different, are struggling in terms of capacity and demand. “We need to go through and say has that impacted? I will be going through that and seeing if there is a link.”
Asked if funding pressures and cuts to services could have an impact, Dr Hankin said: “It certainly concerns me, and us as a board, that the efficiency savings has an impact. We have seen that in terms of pressures that have been reported in terms of finding beds.”That’s one of the reasons I wanted to analyse this and go back to the commissioners and say that’s what’s going on.”I think it’s a concern for all of us, particularly looking forward. If we’re going through cuts year on year, mental health patients are vulnerable and have always been so.”
Dr Hankin, who is changing the way the trust records deaths, explained that an ‘unexpected’ death is one that is caused by anything but a terminal illness.
She said: “In terms of those deaths and them not all being suicides, we’re looking at how well we train our staff in physical health. The danger is mental health and physical health were pulled far too far apart ages ago.
“The trust is absolutely committed to this as a priority, not because we think it’s a dreadful problem but because we think there’s more work to do.”
Michelle Livingston, interim executive chair of patient group Healthwatch Nottinghamshire, is concerned by the statistics.
She said: “Healthwatch Nottingham and Healthwatch Nottinghamshire are very concerned to see the number of unexpected deaths in particular, those which are regarded as SIRI, have increased.
“When people die unexpectedly under the care of the NHS it can be hugely distressing for both families and staff. It is absolutely vital that, in such instances, lessons are learnt so that others don’t ever have to suffer the same fate.”We will be seeking assurances from the healthcare trust that these cases are appropriately investigated and that all subsequent learning is shared and adopted across the trust.”
Source Nottingham Post