The family of a young Ipswich man who they believe took his own life after he was let down by a mental health trust are to begin court action against them.
In 2016 Henry Curtis Williams, aged 21, was taking a degree in fashion photography at the London College of Fashion in London. In May that year, after celebrating his birthday with his family, he set off apparently back to London. But instead, he was found by a police officer by the Orwell Bridge and taken to the Woodlands unit in Ipswich, which deals with psychiatric illness.
Henry was assessed by a senior consultant psychiatrist who noted he had been experiencing suicide ideation which had intensified in the weeks leading up to his birthday. He agreed to a voluntary admission, but asked to be transferred to another ward. At that time his mother worked with the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, of which Woodlands is a part. Henry was diagnosed as suffering from an adjustment disorder and was considered a low suicide risk. He was discharged the next day by a junior doctor in his first year of psychiatric training, and without the supervision of a senior consultant psychiatrist.
Following his discharge, Henry returned to London. The NSFT rang the West London Mental Health NHS Trust (WLMHT) about Henry, but neither trust has a record of the call. They also faxed an assessment of his condition to the WLMHT, but they could not download it.
Four days later Henry attended an appointment with his GP in London. He was prescribed anti-depressants and his GP made an urgent referral to the local crisis team for a response within 24 hours. The team attempted to contact Henry the next day, but sadly, Henry was found hanging in Acton Cemetery. Henry’s family were not informed of Henry’s severe depressive disorder and no family members were informed of his admission to hospital. His parents were informed of this by his GP in London several weeks after his death.
At an inquest held in November 2018, the assistant coroner for West London, Dr Sean Cummings, found that Henry had taken his own life by hanging. He advised that he would be releasing a ‘regulation 28 report’, to prevent future deaths, dealing with his concerns. Those concerns included a lack of recording contemporaneous notes, Henry’s being discharged by a junior doctor without a consultant or senior colleague’s approval, and informal communication taking place between staff members without any record being kept.
The family’s lawyer is medical negligence specialist Kate Smith of Ashtons Legal.
“Henry’s inquest in November was understandably a very difficult day for his family,” Kate Smith explains. “It was clear as evidence was heard that there were concerns about not only Henry’s admission, but also that no audit of the recommendations of the NSFT’s serious incident investigation report had been carried out. Clearly these were concerns shared with the coroner, who decided that it was necessary to complete a regulation 28 report."
Kate adds: “Whilst a formal ‘serious incident requiring investigation’ had been undertaken by the trust, it’s both concerning and extremely alarming that no proper evaluation of the recommendations had been undertaken. This failure to audit must mean future patients may be at risk, and must be addressed by the trust.”
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