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Poor care for mentally ill can lead to avoidable tragedies

Having represented the families of several people with severe mental health problems who have taken their own life due to systematic care failures I was saddened but not entirely surprised to read about the case of Simon Wilson (BBC).

According to the BBC, two NHS trusts have admitted that their failures lead to Simon being able to hang himself. Simon had been admitted to Kent and Canterbury Hospital after trying to kill himself by taking a drug overdose.

He was transferred out of the A&E department after four hours so the hospital could meet its targets. However although he had been referred to Canterbury's mental health services previously, had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and had made several suicide attempts, he was not seen by a mental health professional while in the hospital.

Without proper help and support at this time of crisis he was then able to lock himself in a toilet and hang himself. How different things could have been if the right procedures for dealing with patients who have significant mental health issues and clearly suicidal had been followed.

The similar cases I have dealt with have involved a failure to monitor patients who have voluntarily made themselves inpatients of various mental health services. They had admitted their mental health had deteriorated to such a point that they needed significant help

However despite their extremely unstable state of mind and the fact that they were surrounded by specialist mental healthcare professionals whose job it was to prevent them from committing suicide they were not monitored adequately and were able to do so.

Their families were clearly distraught that despite seeking professional help from centres established for the sole purpose of helping people who are in a suicidal state of mind their loved one was able to go through with this tragic act.

The inquests into their deaths found that there were failings and that they should not have been able to happen. The services responsible said lessons would be learned. However one of the mental health units in question had been criticised previously for an avoidable suicide and had not made adequate changes, which is completely unacceptable.

As a solicitor specialising in medical negligence at JMW I can help families to find answers, support them through the inquest process and eventually help them to claim compensation for their loved one's death. However when a child or partner has been lost due to completely avoidable errors their family can never completely recover.

The trusts involved with Mr Wilson's death must now take steps to ensure that others like him are not allowed to slip through the net.



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