A HEALTH trust which was criticised by Southend MP David Amess has hit back and accused him of using words which stigmatise mental health patients.

The member for Southend West gave a speech in Westminster in which he criticised the South Essex Partnership Trust over a wide range of issues, including the pay of senior management and the number of complaints against staff.

A spokeswoman for South Essex Partnership Trust hit back, saying it had asked to meet with the MP to address his concerns and had been refused.

She pointed out that it had passed recent inspections by both Monitor and the Care Quality Commission.

Responding to his statement that complaints against the trust had rocketed since 2004, the spokewoman said: “Over the past ten years, the population covered by the trust has increased from 725,000 to 2.5 million, which is a rise of 250 per cent.”

In his speech, Mr Amess said the trust had allowed a suicidal Rochford Hospital patient and another person to “escape” from the hospital recently.

He said: “I want to ask how the staff on duty at the time, bearing in mind that these patients have fragile minds, allowed two patients to escape from a secure unit. What has happened is absolutely disgraceful.”

But the trust spokeswoman said that South Essex Partnership Trust services weren’t the ones involved in the incident and added: “The trust fully supports the anti-stigma campaign surrounding mental health and objects strongly to use of the terminology ‘escape’ in this context.

“The majority of mental health patients are informal and are, rightly, at liberty to leave or be discharged from hospital.”

She added that there was no evidence, as he alleged, that agency staff were turning up late for shifts, and that while a higher number of clinical staff have been hired since the expansion of the trust, the number of executives has been reduced.