Rise in deaths and suicides show under funding in mental health

January 26, 2016 4:59 PM

Lib Dem mental health poster from 2014There has been a dramatic rise in serious incidents in mental health trusts across England, including thousands of unexpected deaths and suicides, Liberal Democrats can reveal.

The Liberal Democrats have uncovered figures which show more than 8,000 incidents were reported last year. The figures from NHS England were unearthed after an FOI request from the Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson Norman Lamb, and cover serious incidents reported between 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.

Norman Lamb said:

"The Clinical Commissioning groups should be equally focussed on mental health as well as physical health. At the moment whenever they feel under pressure to cut budgets, it's the unprotected mental health services that get sliced.

"Year after year the problem occurs, and year after year the problem gets worse.

"This cannot continue any longer. People are literally dying as a result of the horrific under funding. People are losing their lives as a consequence of the institutional discrimination of mental health.

"The way that funding gets allocated to mental health always means that it loses out."

Serious Incidents are events reported by each trust and automatically trigger an investigation. The decision as to whether something is classed as an SI is a local decision. In December it was revealed that since 2011, Southern Health failed to report more than 1,000 deaths as serious incidents, and subsequently failed to investigate them.

The figures show:

  • In 2014-2015 there were 8,139 serious incidents (SI) across NHS England's 58 Mental Health trusts, a rise of 34% on 2012-13.
  • The number of Serious Incidents reported increased by 21% between 2012-2013 and 2014-2015.
  • The rise in the number of SIs involving patient suicide, or suspected suicide rose by 26%
  • Two mental health trusts did not provide information for 2012-13 (Solent NHS Trust and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust), but this does not affect the overall trend. Even when excluding figures from these trusts over the following two years, there was a similarly significant increase in the total number of SIs (+31%) and those reported as unexpected deaths (+20%) and suicide/suspected suicide (+22%).
  • Determining whether an event should be reported and investigated as a serious incident is a local decision made by each trust, using official guidance provided by NHS England. Because a trust might choose not to record an adverse event as an SI if it determines that an investigation is not required, the figures are likely to underestimate the real number of serious incidents.
  • Similarly, NHS England has advised that the figures are unlikely to include all reported SIs related to unexpected deaths and fatal self-harm. These incidents might be reported under a different incident category, while some trusts avoid categorising an incident as a suicide unless the Coroner has made a formal verdict of 'suicide' at inquest.
  • In the first six months of 2015-16, 1,132 serious incidents were recorded as an 'Unexpected/potentially avoidable death', and 794 SIs involving patient death were recorded as 'Apparent/actual self-inflicted harm', but SIs may be recorded under both categories.
  • The figures will spark further concerns about mental health services in England, after it was revealed in December that Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of more than 1,000 people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities since 2011.
  • The reporting system was revised in May 2015.