Calls for a public inquiry into the region's failing mental health services reached Westminster, backed by the emotional pleas of those who have lost loved ones.

Following the fourth consecutive failed inspection of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), campaigners have called for a full inquiry into how this has been allowed to happen.

On Tuesday, members of the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk travelled to the capital to lobby MPs and ministers over these pleas.

The group, who were joined by this newspaper, included the bereaved parents of people who have died while receiving treatment from the trust and former Trust workers who had grown exasperated while on its staff.

'You are angry for the rest of your life'

Eastern Daily Press: Campaigners Sheila Preston and Duncan DoubleCampaigners Sheila Preston and Duncan Double (Image: Archant)

Among the campaigners was Sheila Preston, whose son Leo Jacobs, from Norwich, died from a suspected heroin overdose while being treated for schizophrenia at the age of 39.

Determined to try and make things better for others in need of similar intervention, Ms Preston became a governor at the trust, but after several years stepped down, feeling her concerns were never listened to.

She said: "Once you have lost somebody you love and feel like they could have been saved, you are angry for the rest of your life.

"I've been involved in the Trust for 20 years and attended thousands of meetings because I wanted to try and make things better, but I feel like I have wasted my time.

"I do not feel like much is happening that will make things any different, which is why I believe we need a public inquiry to be held. I keep hearing what needs to be done, but not how they (NSFT) are going to do it."

Fear conquered for fight

Eastern Daily Press: Caroline Aldridge, facing up to her discomfort with train journeys to join the campaignCaroline Aldridge, facing up to her discomfort with train journeys to join the campaign (Image: David Hannant)

Caroline Aldridge, from North Norfolk, lost her son Tim in 2014 and has since written a book - He Died Waiting - chronicling his experiences while being treated.

Some years ago, Mrs Aldridge suffered a brain injury which resulted in her suffering severe travel sickness when using public transport - but refused to let this stop her making the journey.

She said: "Every time I hear of another person dying under similar circumstances to Tim it feel like a slap to the face because it shows that no lessons have been learned.

"As a bereaved parent the one thing you wish for is that the same mistakes are not made again and nobody has to go through what you went through.

"This is what has triggered me."

Former psychiatrist demands change

Eastern Daily Press: Mental health campaigners in Westminster tube stationMental health campaigners in Westminster tube station (Image: Archant)

Duncan Double, from Yarmouth, spent more than 20 years working as a psychiatrist for NSFT, while also serving on its board of governors.

But like Ms Preston, he grew exasperated and felt as if his concerns were not being listened to.

He said: "I was at the very first meeting of the campaign and at the time was a governor of the Trust - which just got more and more frustrating.

"I think there are issues in the Trust that need to be resolved and that can only be done by getting everything out in the open."

'Small mistakes'

Another campaigner, who did not wish to be named, said she was backing the calls due to struggles her son has had getting the care he needs.

She said the Trust continuously made "small mistakes" which mount up until they reach crisis point.

She said: "It starts with low-level incompetence and just gets bigger and bigger.

"They do not seem to deal with the small issues and then they get bigger and bigger and five years later the poor souls die."

Eastern Daily Press: Campaigners at Portcullis House, the government's lobby buildingCampaigners at Portcullis House, the government's lobby building (Image: Archant)

MP backs calls

The calls have been backed by Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, who organised the meeting and chaired it.

He said: "Me and my team organised this meeting to lobby parliament because it seems as though we are going around in circles with this issue.

"A public inquiry will be able to look at just how many people have died - whether it is 1,000 as some suspect or even more.

"We also have no idea about failings which have fallen short of death but left peope disabled through suicide attempts and torn families apart.

"It is not just about finding out who is responsible for the failings but finding out how they can be learned and prevent the same mistakes happening time and time again."

The Department of Health and Social Care refused to comment on the meeting.

What has the Trust said?

Eastern Daily Press: Stuart Richardson, chief executive of NSFTStuart Richardson, chief executive of NSFT (Image: NSFT)

Stuart Richardson, chief executive of NSFT, insisted that inroads are already being made in response to the latest damning CQC report.

He said: "We remain committed to providing high quality, safe and effective mental health services for people in Norfolk and Suffolk.

"We have already taken action to improve following the CQC's most recent inspection, including increasing support and training for our staff, redoubling our efforts to recruit more nurses and doctors and bringing services closer to people's homes through our community transformation projects.

"However, we recognise there is more to do and are continuing to work closely with our patients, service users, staff and partners to drive sustainable improvements and build strong foundations for the future.

"We are focusing on five key areas - safety, timely access, engaging with staff, governance and leadership and changing services to meet people's needs.

"We would like to remind anyone who is experiencing a mental health crisis that our dedicated staff are here to help and would urge anyone who needs urgent immediate support to contact our 24 hour helpline by calling 111 and choosing option 2."