Mark Gould, guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 12 April 2011:
Three patients have died within the last 12 months on the same locked psychiatric ward, following repeated warnings from unions that budget cuts would put staff and patients at risk.
In April last year, Prodip Debnath died after suffering multiple stab injuries to his face, head, chest and stomach in the Tower Hamlets Centre for Mental Health, in Stepney, east London. A fellow patient, Kamran Uzzaman, was found guilty of his murder.
After Debnath's murder, the East London NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, instigated a raft of cuts to save up to £20m over three years. At the time, staff belonging to the health union Unison warned that the cuts – including reducing nursing cover by the equivalent of two nurses per ward – could put patients at risk.
They also warned that new rotas would reduce the crucial handover period between shifts to just one hour, which could jeopardise the vital exchange of information on patients with complex needs, and would also oblige nurses to cover six shifts instead of five.
Since then a second patient has died on the same ward – Roman ward – after placing a plastic bag over his head and suffocating.
A mental-health worker who did not want to be named said: "The patient found the bag in a wastepaper bin. Anti-suicide guidelines say plastic bags should not be left on locked psychiatric wards because of the risk they present." Read more>>