NEW calls have been sounded for a national inquiry to see a troubled mental health trust “held to account”.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust has faced a tumultuous time in recent years – with critical inspections and closed units.

Now a Stockton councillor has called for a public inquiry into its “continued failings and lack of notable improvement” following its latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection.

Read more: TEWV first trust to recruit directors with 'lived experience' of mental illness

Forensic inpatient services were rated inadequate at the trust in a report published last month.

A vote will be held on a motion lodged by Cllr Luke Frost next week calling on Stockton Council to write to the Health Secretary and the NHS England chief executive to launch the probe.

It pointed to the failings at West Lane Hospital – now Acklam Road – which saw deaths, units closed in 2019, and inpatient adolescent services taken over by another trust.

The motion states: “Given that no one in this trust has been held publicly accountable for the continued failings throughout this time, and that the “new chief executive” has now been in post for over 18 months while inspections continue to highlight continued and further failings, it is evident and essential that the trust’s performance, service delivery and conduct is held to account.”

Families and campaigners called for an inquiry last year after a string of deaths at the trust.

Read more: Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust told to 'urgently improve' by watchdog

TEWV’s latest CQC inspection last summer yielded a mixed picture with some particular problems on forensic wards – secure settings where patients can often pose a risk to themselves or others.

Concerns were sent to the watchdog over “unsafe staffing numbers” at these sites and a “poor culture” in the run up to the visits.

The final report published in December highlighted stark failings in the service – with worries about a culture where staff “didn’t feel respected or supported”.

It added: “Not all wards and teams had enough staff who knew patients well and were able to care for them safely.

“In forensic inpatient services, staffing levels negatively impacted on the quality of care provided to patients.”

Vacancy rates on forensic wards were understood to stand at 12 per cent late last year.

While the CQC’s visit did find some good things – with “mental health crisis services and health-based places of safety” seeing its rating bumped up to “good” – the overall rating of the trust is still “requiring improvement”.

Forensic wards received the lowest possible mark on the sliding scale – with leadership of the trust marked down to requiring improvement.

Chief executive Brent Kilmurray said there was a lot of work still to do in the wake of the latest CQC verdict – with staffing pressures a “common issue” and absences at an all time high.

Last month, Mr Kilmurray said: “Easing this pressure is our biggest challenge and we are working extremely hard to resolve this. There is an NHS-wide staff shortage, and the problem is particularly acute in this region.

“This comes at a time when demand for our services is particularly high and we have invested in recruitment for a range of vacancies and new roles to meet demand.”

Meanwhile, TEWV director Ann Bridges responded to the council motion.

“Like all NHS trusts, we are highly accountable to regulators,” she added.

“We embrace that scrutiny as we embed changes to improve our service to patients and the community.

“We fully accept that improvements must be made.

“Some have been implemented already, some will take time to make the impact we need – but we are absolutely determined to deliver the necessary changes.

“We are very happy to discuss those improvements with Cllr Frost – very significant changes such as becoming one of the first trusts in the UK to create leadership roles for people with lived experience of mental illness.”

Stockton Council will debate the motion next Wednesday, January 26.

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