Trust Admits Failings In Care Of Schizophrenic Patient Who Killed His Father

Expert Lawyers Secure Care Package For Severely Injured Brother Who Witnessed Horrific Killing


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A man who witnessed his paranoid schizophrenic brother beat their father to death with a metal pipe bender tool has spoken of his ordeal to raise awareness of the condition after the mental health team in charge of his brother’s care admitted a catalogue of ‘appalling’ errors.

Father-of-four William ‘Edward’ Thorpe died at the family home in Batley Carr in February 2008, after being subjected to a prolonged frenzied attack by his son Richard just months after psychiatrists had withdrawn his anti-psychotic medication and discharged him, despite his parents’ concerns about his ever increasing abnormal behaviour and symptoms.

Acting under the delusional belief that his father had harmed him, Richard attacked Edward in the early hours as he left the family home to go to work. His brother Robert woke to witness the end of the savage beating taking place but by then, it was already too late for his father. Despite attempts by paramedics to save his life, sadly Edward died at the scene.

Richard was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and detained indefinitely under the mental health act in November 2008. During the trial, an expert psychiatrist advised the court that at the time of killing his father, Richard was paranoid, delusional and suffering from hallucinations; he was a chronic schizophrenic. The Trust failed to recognise this, instead diagnosing him with depression.

As a result of witnessing his father’s killing, Robert has been left suffering a lifelong major depressive order and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to prevent Richard’s schizophrenia from escalating with such tragic consequences.

The 28-year-old is now speaking out after Irwin Mitchell secured him a substantial six-figure care package from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to fund treatment of his PTSD, psychotherapy and counselling that he hopes will eventually allow him to get back to studying and return to work.

Whilst defending the claim on technical grounds as to whether a duty of care was owed to Edward and disputing that his death was caused by their care of Richard, the Trust admitted that the care provided was substandard on the following grounds:

  • Failing to diagnose his schizophrenia
  • Failing to adequately risk assess him (including a failure to sufficiently involve his family in the risk assessment process)
  • Withdraw the prescription of anti-psychotic medication in or around September 2007
  • Failing to warn him (and his family) of the risk of relapse upon withdrawing medication

James Thompson, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office representing the family, said: “The Trust has admitted an appalling catalogue of errors in relation to the care Richard was given, errors which we say ultimately compromised the family’s safety with horrendous consequences.

“Robert will never get over what he witnessed that day and understandably feels that the Trust failed his brother, and the whole family, when they needed their help.

“Schizophrenia is a disorder which can be controlled, but not cured.  It is important that the Trust now shows that training and support has been provided to their staff to ensure that they are able to make the correct diagnosis, maintain it and provide appropriate and regular medical treatment.  It is essential that they appreciate the risk of relapse both to the diagnosis and the particular patient to ensure adequate follow up.

“If workloads mean that psychiatrist are unable to offer regular outpatient appointments it is important that those supporting mental health patients in the community know enough about the psychopathology of their patient’s illness to be able to monitor their mental state with sufficient frequency, accuracy and effectiveness to be able to know when they are relapsing so as to refer the patient back to their psychiatrist.

“Sadly we continue to be contacted by families whose loved ones have not been given adequate or appropriate treatment for a mental health illness and we repeatedly call for any failings identified in these cases to be learnt from across the NHS to protect future patients’ safety.

“Whilst money cannot make up for the loss of his father and brother, we hope that the settlement provides Robert with the necessary funds to access the specialist help he desperately needs to allow him to begin the process of rebuilding his life.”

Richard had been receiving psychiatric treatment by the Trust since May 2004 after a long history of mental health problems including attempting suicide, self-harming, hearing voices and periods of aggression and violence.

In late September 2007 Richard’s psychiatrist withdrew his medication noting in his medical records that he no longer needed it after Richard told him that he was feeling better.

Neither Richard or his family were warned of the risk that he might relapse and the Trust discharged him from their care shortly after stopping his medication.

Robert said: “We repeatedly told Richard’s psychiatrists that we believed he had schizophrenia because he would talk of voices in his head and his behaviour was very erratic.

“However, it seemed to fall on deaf ears as he was never diagnosed with the disorder and we were left feeling frustrated and felt they weren’t taking his condition seriously.

“When he came off his medication we became more and more worried about his behaviour and were surprised that more wasn’t done to help him.

“I’m sickened that he was left unmonitored to the point where he was able to kill our father. I will never ever forget the horror of that day. Nothing can bring dad back, or change what Richard did, and witnessing what happened to our Dad has ruined my life and I now struggle massively with mental health issues myself.

“I feel massively let down by the Trust and no amount of money can make up for the consequences of their failings. I just hope that by speaking out and raising awareness of schizophrenia it encourages others to seek the help they need and shows the importance of caring properly for patients with the condition to keep them and the rest of the public safe.”

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