Unexpected mental health patient deaths 'up 50% in three years'

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The number of unexpected patient deaths in mental health trusts has risen by almost 50% in three years, data shows.

Figures for England obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme show there were 2,067 unexpected deaths in 2012/13, rising to 3,160 in 2015/16.

Unexpected deaths include death by suicide, neglect and misadventure.

Some 33 mental health trusts out of a total of 57 in England responded to the BBC's Freedom of Information request.

The think tank, the Health Foundation, said mental health trusts in England have had their funding cut by £150 million over the past four years.

The programme heard how the death of Leo Jacobs was one of those classed as an "unexpected death".

Mr Jacobs, who had schizophrenia, was 39 when he died of a suspected accidental overdose at his flat.

Leo's mother, Sheila Preston, told the programme: "I begged the trust to help him but they thought he was living well - he was managing but I knew that he wasn't.

"I knew that he was going to get iller and iller and iller. And he died and when they came to tell me I was not surprised. I was expecting it.

"The idea that people would be better living in the community is a very good idea - but the support is not there to help them maintain their health.

"I know, I know, that my son and I know that people in the trust, good people in the trust, know that my son could've been saved."

Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust cared for Mr Jacobs.

Its chief executive Michael Scott said: "Five years ago before I joined the trust, the trust was under financial pressure, there's no doubt about that, and it had to respond to that financial pressure by changing the way it ran its services.

"And my personal view is I think mistakes were made in that period."

He said of the trust: "We're on a journey of improvement.

"What the facts actually show is that one of the reasons that those numbers (unexpected deaths) are changing is that we are providing more services than we ever did before.

"We've acknowledged that people are dying, what's important is that we understand the causes."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said changes had been brought in over how deaths are recorded, which meant the rise was to be expected.

"This increase in the number of deaths is to be expected because the NHS is very deliberately improving the way such events are recorded and investigated following past failings - from April, all NHS Trusts will be required to publish both numbers of avoidable deaths and how they are improving care.

"We also dispute the funding figures used in this programme - just this year, mental health spending by CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) has gone up by £342 million, which is on top of an extra £1.4 billion allocated in this Parliament."