Dear Editor, I am writing in response to your article on deaths in mental health care April 16 2009.
I am concerned that this report will cause concern and deter people seeking help as it paints an alarming picture of people dying every day in mental health hospitals.
I think it is important to point out that the figures quoted include people who die from natural causes, unrelated to their mental ill-health.
Of the 30 deaths reported in my Trust during this period five were hospital in patients, all of whom died of natural causes, and of the remainder 7 were suspected suicides.
Generally in South Staffordshire our suicide rate is below the last reported national average statistics, and we have already achieved the Government target for reducing suicide by 2010.
South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare has regularly reported patient safety incidents to the National Patient Safety Agency’s (NPSA) Reporting and Learning System database and we have a strong reporting culture in the Trust.
Reports are not confined to “serious” incidents, but staff are encouraged to report any deviation from good practice or procedure and also any incident perceived as a near miss so that we can learn from them and improve our performance.
Safety in general and patient safety in particular is a top priority for the Trust and we are constantly assessing our performance in this important area.
The NPSA, which has published these figures for the first time this year, believes that an organisation with a high reporting rate is much more likely to have a strong commitment to patient safety and high safety standards.
Whilst I would support Norman Lamb in calling for more investment in mental health services, I do not believe using these figures to illustrate the state of local care to be at all helpful.
Neil Carr OBE, Chief Executive
South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, St George’s Hospital
Corporation Street, Stafford