11,872 Serious Incidents recorded by NHS mental health trusts in two years

By Blackwater Law

A Freedom of Information request by medical negligence solicitors Blackwater Law has revealed that 11,872 Serious Incidents have been recorded by 53 mental health trusts in England during the period 1st April 2015 – 31st March 2017. 5,873 Serious Incidents were recorded in the past year compared to 5,999 the year before.

The data for mental health trusts comes as part of a larger piece of research by Blackwater Law to ascertain the occurrence of Serious Incidents across 235 trusts in England and Wales and Welsh health boards.

The data relating to mental health trusts is based on the 53 mental health trusts outlined on the NHS website however it is also acknowledged that other trusts may also provide some mental health services but if their primary focus is on acute or community health services, the number of Serious Incidents for these trusts have not been included within the figures for mental health suggesting the total number of mental health related Serious Incidents may indeed be higher.

The research which is thought to be the first of its kind also investigates the types of Serious Incident that have occurred during the period 1st April 2016 – 31st March 2017 for 29 out of the 53 trusts. This degree of information was not provided by the remaining mental health trusts.

Out of the 3,254 Serious Incidents that descriptions were provided for, the 5 most commonly occurring Serious Incident types were:

Unknown/unexplained death – cause not disclosed 787 24%
 Self harm and suicide, attempted and actual including threats  756  23%
 Clinical/patient care procedure (including substance misuse, pressure ulcer, moisture lesion, wound) medication error/incident/delay  423  13%
 Abuse/aggression (including violence) actual or alleged to patient or staff  263  8%
 Accidents to service users or staff, falls and ill health 169  5%


In addition to the above, other categories from which Serious Incidents were recorded include 112 recorded Serious Incidents relating to absconsion, absence and missing people, 12 Serious Incidents relating to Mental Health Act processes and breaches and 39 Serious Incidents recorded due to bed occupancy/unavailable beds. There have also been 48 instances of attempted, alleged or actual homicide occurring during the same time period. In instances where a Serious Incident may have been recorded directly down to negligence on the part of the care provider it may be possible for those affected by the Serious Incidents to pursue a mental health care claim in order to seek compensation for their suffering.

The research reveals that Serious Incidents were recorded across incredibly varied circumstances ranging from patient and staff behaviour through to Serious Incidents relating to arson/fire/fire related incidents/property damage and estate facilities including security.

As well as an incredibly varied list of Serious Incidents there are also significant variations in the amount of Serious Incidents recorded by each trust, which is to be expected given that each trust is likely to offer differing levels of services and may specialise in certain elements of mental health and therefore is likely to have higher patient numbers than those who may not specialise in services or only operate a small number of sites.

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