Deaths over a seven-year period at a mental health unit will be subject to an independent review, a health minister has announced.

Edward Argar said the Government intends to commission the investigation into “serious questions” raised by a “series of tragic deaths” at the Linden Centre in Chelmsford.

Families of patients who have died have been petitioning for a public inquiry.

Melanie Leahy’s son Matthew died at the Linden Centre on November 15, 2012.

Matthew, 20, was found hanging in his room.

An inquest into his death found there had been “multiple failings” at the centre.

Mrs Leahy, from the Maldon area, has been campaigning for the trust to be held to account.

More than 105,000 signatures were collected in support of a petition for a public inquiry into her son's death.

Mr Argar said it was hoped “lessons learnt” can benefit care across the NHS “as quickly as possible”, with the Department of Health also working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure the review does not prejudice ongoing legal action.

The HSE last month announced action was being taken against Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust following an investigation into North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEPUFT).

It investigated how NEPUFT managed risks from “fixed potential ligature points in its inpatient wards” between October 2004 and March 2015, with the first hearing due to take place on November 12 at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Argar said health minister Nadine Dorries had given "careful consideration to the failures in care at the former North Essex Partnership Trust".

He said she had set out her intention to commission an independent review into the "serious questions raised by a series of tragic deaths of patients at the Linden Centre between 2008 and 2015”.

Replying to the debate, Mr Argar said: “I have noted the CQC’s review into the handling of these matters.

“However, the CQC states that it decided not to use criminal enforcement powers to prosecute the trust.

“They state this decision was taken after liaison with the Health and Safety Executive and Essex Police, instead using civil enforcement powers against the trust after Mr Wade’s death.

“They further state there was insufficient evidence to proceed to criminal enforcement as they state the evidence indicated that breaches were committed by a series of individuals whose action lay outside CQC’s prosecuting powers.”

In 2018, Essex Police dropped an investigation into up to 25 deaths of patients who were in the care of NEPUFT, at nine separate establishments, since 2000.

Investigators found “clear and basic failings” in care but insufficient evidence for corporate manslaughter charges.

The investigation began after allegations about Mr Leahy’s death.

North Essex Partnership University Trust merged with South Essex Partnership University Trust in April 2017, and the body is now called Essex Partnership University Trust.