NHS Trust Boss Says Sorry For Distress It Caused Family Following Tragedy
The family of a mum killed by her mentally ill son, who NHS bosses failed to provide adequate care for, have finally received an official apology more than five years after her death.
Janice Smithen suffered fatal head injuries when her son Kaysley attacked her at the home they shared in Birmingham in July 2012.
An investigation the following year found that the 46-year-old’s death could potentially have been prevented if Kaysley had been detained under the Mental Health Act. Despite this, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust did not accept legal responsibility.
But now, the trust’s chief executive John Short has offered his ‘personal apologies’ for Janice’s death. His apology ‘and also those of the trust’ were sent in a letter to Janice’s sister, Samantha.
He added: “I cannot begin to imagine the distress and sorrow that the loss of your sister has caused to you and your family. I am sorry that the trust added to that distress by not conveying an apology to you.”
Samantha said: “Janice just wanted what was best for her son, providing unconditional love whilst having to witness the pain of living first hand with the effects of his illness.
“This horrible illness is indiscriminate and anyone can be affected by mental health issues.
“For the NHS Trust to deny legal responsibility for its failings in looking after Kaysley just added to the hurt, anger and pain our family have had to suffer since Janice’s death. Nothing can make up for our loss but we are pleased that the Trust has now officially apologised.”
Around 18 months before her death Janice sought advice from her GP after the family noticed that Kaysley was developing mental health problems. Kaysley was prescribed Quetiapine tablets used to treat bipolar and schizophrenia.
However, relatives continued to be concerned over the worsening condition of Kaysley. He believed his mum was trying to poison him and claimed he was possessed by demons and could influence the weather, a domestic homicide review by Birmingham Community Safety Partnership said.
The report added that Kaysley’s health deteriorated and he did not always take his medication. Various mental health assessments were conducted in isolation without co-ordination between professionals who were conducting these.
Attempts to detain him under the Mental Health Act failed, including during a home visit by health workers when Kaysley, who was showing aggression towards his mum and who was acting strange, walked out. The report stated that if police were called officers could have detained him if they deemed it sufficient.
Janice was desperate for her son to be admitted to a hospital unit. Eventually a bed was found and health bosses unsuccessfully tried to contact Janice and Kaysley. Police were called and broke into the home to find Janice’s body.
Kaysley was charged with murder but was found unfit to plead. In January 2013, aged 21, he was given an indefinite hospital order.
After the investigation found that Janice’s death could have been potentially avoided, her family instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell.
After commencing court proceedings. the case was settled for an undisclosed sum. Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust agreed an out of court settlement after denying it was legally liable for Janice’s death, despite identified failings.
Samantha added: “We hope that the heartbreak we as a family have suffered highlights the devastation that can be caused by the inadequate provision of services to treat those in need.
“It is vital that health trusts across the country learn lessons from the hurt we have been forced to suffer and ensure systems and training are put in place so other families don’t have to go through what we have experienced.”
Expert OpinionBoth Janice and Kaysley were failed by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. If staff had acted with more urgency Janice would still be alive and Kaysley could have received the vital treatment he needed.
“While it may be five years too late, we are pleased that the Trust has finally apologised to Janice’s family. We hope the Trust learns lessons from this tragic case so others don’t have to suffer like Janice and the rest of her family.” Chris Hurlston - Senior Associate Solicitor
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