Medical chiefs faced questions over the number of serious patient safety incidents in mental health care in Barnet, Enfield and Haringey.

The number of serious incidents – which can include avoidable deaths and injuries – in Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust rose from 48 in 2017-18 to 51 in 2018-19.

The trust was rated “requires improvement” following the last visit by care watchdog the Care Quality Commission and is aiming to achieve a good rating at the next inspection.

Councillors at a meeting of the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny (JHOSC) committee on Friday (April 26) asked why the number of serious incidents had risen despite the attempts to improve.

Cllr Pippa Connor, Haringey Liberal Democrat member for Muswell Hill, said: “With all the initiatives that you are doing, I would have been assuming that serious incident cases would be decreasing.

“Is there something behind the fact that they are not?”

Amanda Pithouse, executive director of nursing, quality and governance, pointed out that the rise was a small one and could go back down in the future.

She added that the trust was encouraging staff to report incidents and that could lie behind the increase.

Andrew Wright, director of strategic development at Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, said: “The serious incidents come to the executive team every week. There is an immediate oversight of that.”

The trust’s Draft Quality Account states that there were 495 deaths of people under its care in 2018-19 – none of which was judged to be avoidable.

But the report also points to “a range of care and service delivery problems while investigating deaths, which were addressed by action plans in each case”.

It adds that there are regular reviews of patient care to see if there are any lessons that can be learnt from deaths.

The report notes that there is an inquiry underway into a case in which a patient with a learning disability died from choking.

Cllr Lucia das Neves, Haringey Labour member for Woodhouse, questioned whether issues only picked up after patient deaths could have been identified earlier.

Ms Pithouse said: “With the serious incidents, we will look to see if there is anything we can learn from. It does not necessarily mean it contributed to the outcome.”

Representatives from the trust said they were working on several key areas in which the service could improve, including physical health risk assessments.

The report states that the trust is committed to “continuous evidence-based quality improvement across all services”.