Calls for an inquiry into a North East NHS trust have once again intensified following patient deaths, shocking allegations of abuse, and highly critical regulator reports

Mary Kelly Foy, the Labour MP for Durham City, joined calls from parliamentary colleagues to an “independent, judge-led review” of mental health provision at Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

The trust is responsible for mental health services across County Durham, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire.

These fresh calls follow a period of intense scrutiny for TEWV. In March, a report found that the care given to teenage patients was “chaotic and unsafe” before their deaths.

Read more: Criminal proceedings into three deaths at NHS trust delayed

Additionally, The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is currently prosecuting the trust for the deaths of three of its patients.

Since March, Darlington MP Peter Gibson and Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald have called for an inquiry into TEWV. Mr Gibson said her “shares the community’s deep concern about the trust”, with Mr McDonald saying there had been “catastrophic failings” in TEWV’s mental health provision.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday (June 7), Ms Foy said: “My honourable friends, the members for Middlesbrough and Darlington, have called for an independent inquiry into Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust.

The Northern Echo: Mary Kelly Foy in the House of Commons today. Mary Kelly Foy in the House of Commons today. (Image: Parliament TV)

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“And I join their calls for an inquiry because the testimonies I’ve received have shocked me. I can only speak broadly, but they include serious cases of improper care and misdiagnosis, and of putting people on waiting lists despite them feeling suicidal.

“In Care Quality Commission reports, we’ve seen concerns with risk assessments, communications, a lack of observation, and record keeping.

“And there’s also been concerns raised with a lack of beds for children, as well as poor staffing levels, high levels of staff turnover, and a lack of neurodiversity training.

“Horrifically, young people have taken their lives while being in the care of the trust. We owe it to them – and to all those who’ve been harmed – to investigate what’s going on. This cannot go on.”

The Northern Echo has, over the last months, published accounts of TEWV patients and their family members, which have alleged years-long waiting lists, verbal abuse, bullying, poor record keeping, and incorrect medication, amongst other issues.

Read more: Woman alleges she was told to 'go home and die' at West Park Hospital

Additionally, in May, legal action against TEWV for the deaths of three young women in their care was taken. The CQC is prosecuting the Trust in relation to the treatment three patients received before their deaths.

Christie Harnett, 17, Emily Moore 18, and a third unnamed person were all treated by TEWV between 2019 and 2020.

Christie, of Newton Aycliffe, received treatment at West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough when she took her own life in June 2019.

Emily, 18, from Shildon, had been an inpatient at the same hospital until July 2019, before moving to Lanchester Road, Durham in February 2020. She completed suicide just one week later. 

Their families, and the families of other patients treated at West Lane, have called for a full inquiry to investigate potential failings at the trust.

Alistair Smith, Solicitor at Watson Woodhouse Solicitors representing families against TEWV said: “The catalogue of failings at TEWV grows by the month, so it is very welcome that Mary Kelly Foy MP has echoed our call for a full statutory public inquiry.

“Ms Foy joins an ever-increasing cross-party group of politicians who share the concerns of the many families and individuals we represent that only a thorough judge-led inquiry will be satisfactory.

"This is the only way to establish what has happened at the Trust and learn valuable lessons to ensure this multitude of failings is not repeated in the North East or anywhere else in the UK. Mental Health services need to evolve to be proactive, not reactive.”

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Despite Ms Foy’s request for a response, Health Minister Maria Caulfield did not confirm whether the government were committing to an inquiry into TEWV.

There is precedent for inquests into mental health trusts; currently ongoing, the Essex mental health independent inquiry is the first of its kind. It was launched in 2021, amid serious concern over the quality and safety of mental health care in Essex.

Similarly to TEWV, the health service ombudsman had catalogued numerous failings in events surrounding the deaths of patients in Essex.