HOW long can a mental health trust face a barrage of criticism without the Government stepping in and finding out, on behalf of local people, what is really going on?

How many more, in the emotive words of solicitors representing bereaved families, people must die before someone investigates?

The statistics relating to the number of deaths of patients of the Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust appear to justify the solicitors’ accusation that nothing has changed at the trust, despite the insistence of bosses that it has. It is true that statistics don’t always tell the whole story and that mental health is a complex subject that may not be adequately expressed in statistics, but isn’t that what an inquiry should decide?

In the spring, the independent report into the deaths of three young trust patients between June 2019 and February 2020 was published, and it made truly depressing reading as the scale of the trust’s inhumanity was laid bare. Bosses insisted matters at the trust had improved.

Then we learn that one patient took his life in June 2022 having contacted the trust 37 times in the months leading up to his death and an internal review highlighted some worrying failings with the crisis team effectively in special measures. Those measures have now been lifted, so bosses insist matters have improved, but the statistics suggest nothing has changed.

These are the most vulnerable people in society and it is clear that, in the past, the trust has failed them. The only way for the public to be confident of the future is for an outside inquiry to tell them exactly what the state of play is.