Mental health trust settles Suffolk suicide claim as watchdog gives third warning on risk

  • Posted

Posted 12/02/2015

Sharon Allison 1397332402_SharonAllison2014CPX.jpg

Further evidence of poor management at a mental health trust comes after it is revealed that criticisms last week were first levelled at them eight years ago, but ignored. They have since cost at least one life. Ashtons Legal medical negligence specialist Sharon Allison pursued the legal claim on behalf of the family concerned.

Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission recently criticized Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust for failure to remove ligature points from a unit for high risk patients. The fear is that patients might hang themselves. Chief executive Michael Scott accepted the criticism and suggested it provided a good starting point to make improvements. Yet in 2007, another independent review made that same criticism and nothing was done about it.

Three years later in 2010, a patient hanged himself. In August 2010 Joe Ruler, aged 19, was detained at the Wedgwood Unit in Bury St Edmunds after demonstrating suicidal tendencies. He remained there for three weeks, during which time he was diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. He was discharged but then readmitted the following day, having once again demonstrated suicidal tendencies. He hanged himself three days later. Once again the trust said they would learn lessons, but apparently failed to act.

In January last year an inquest into his death declared that Joe had taken his own life but that Joe’s death had ‘highlighted problems surfacing in the region’. Joe’s family held the trust responsible for his death and pursued their claim through the law; Ashtons Legal clinical negligence specialist acted for Joe’s mother, Dawn Brazier. The Trust have recently made an out-of-court damages settlement of four figures. The hospital accepted that there was a breach in the duty of care that was owed to Joe by failing to address the known ligature points, and that such a breach caused him to take his own life.

‘They were warned in 2007 and said they’d act,’ Sharon Allison claims. ‘But in 2010 a young man hanged himself so something clearly went wrong.’

‘I am all for reviews to look at what can be done better and safer, but these reviews are meaningless unless there is accountability for their implementation and continued review.’

‘I’m frankly astonished and very disturbed that the most recent CQC report found some ward environments were unacceptable and needed many improvements to make them safer, including reducing ligatures. How long does it take to get this right?’

In a statement Dawn Brazier, Joe’s mother, who lives in the Scottish Borders, said: ‘It breaks my heart that the trust do not seem to have learned from the mistakes made with Joe.

‘I took great comfort from the inquest where the coroner referred to a legacy left in the wake of Joe’s death, that change in mental health services had happened and would continue to do so.

‘However in light of the recent report from the CQC, it would appear that any change is inadequate and many vulnerable people like Joe remain at risk. As a mother who has lost her son through the admitted failures of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, this further revelation is unacceptable on every level.’


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