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

This was the question we asked nearly 12 months ago, as we reported on a number of deaths of patients under the care of the Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Trust.

Scandal after scandal continues to engulf the trust – and the people most affected are the families who have lost ones, and those who fear the same might happen to them.

Between October 2008 and October 2015, a period of seven years, there were 310 deaths of patients reported by the Trust. In comparison, in the seven years which followed, October 2015 to January 2022, there were 753 deaths of patients reported by the Trust, an increase of over 142 per cent.

Worryingly, serious incidents also increased by 1,072 per cent in the same comparative periods.

Last month, they were fined £200,000 after pleading guilty in connection with the deaths of two of their patients, Christie Harnett, 17, and an unnamed mum, known as Patient X for legal reasons, at their Middlesbrough hospitals.

The trust admitted that it failed to adequately assess patients' self-harm and suicide risk, or implement effective ways to reduce those risks.

As we argue today, the trust has failed in its duty to provide patients with safe care. Lessons need to be learned to improve mental health services not just about this trust but on a national level.

Without a public inquiry, lessons will not be learned, practices will not change, and more people will die. Public confidence is at an all-time low in relation to the trust.

No one has been held accountable for the multitude of failings at the trust which has led to the loss of far too many lives.

The families and former patients deserve this at the very least. The impact it has had on them is immeasurable, and the hole in their lives can never be filled. This cannot be allowed to happen again.

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 a public inquiry.