MENTAL health trusts are being asked to review the deaths of patients with severe mental illness for 'red flags' to help improve patient treatment.

The new guidance issued to the NHS by the Royal College of Psychiatrists aims to prevent failings being repeated in light of the death of teenager Connor Sparrowhawk in Oxford in 2013.

Inspections of deaths that occurred after one of four scenarios should prompt further investigation by the trust.

The so-called 'red flags' include instances where concerns over care have been raised, where the patient has suffered psychosis or an eating disorder during their last spell of care, where a patient was recently admitted to a psychiatric ward, or where the patient was under the care of a crisis and home treatment team at the time of death.

Any of the four 'red flags' should prompt a further voluntary investigation of the patient's notes to determine a rating of their care, with advice on why it was good or poor.

Care minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Each preventable death is a tragedy and we must learn from every one.

“This new guidance will equip trusts with the tools to more quickly identify areas of improvement, provide more support for families and implement changes to better care for people with severe mental health conditions.”

Work on the guidance was prompted because of the death of Mr Sparrowhawk, an 18-year-old with autism and epilepsy who drowned while in a bath at the Slade House care unit – at the time run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

The most serious examples of care failings in NHS mental health services are already dealt with under Serious Incident investigations.

However, the teenager’s death led to concerns being raised after it was discovered in 2015 that Southern Health had failed to properly investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 patients with learning disabilities or mental health problems over four years.

The trust, was fined a record £2million after admitting a series of “systemic failures” following the deaths of Mr Sparrowhawk in 2013 and that of a second patient while in its care a year earlier.

This year the national Learning Disability Mortality Review, also prompted by Mr Sparrowhawk's death, found care failings had taken place in one in eight deaths of people with learning disabilities.

However, reviews into just eight per cent of 1,311 deaths had been completed when the report was published in May.