MPs To Debate “The Use Of Suicide Risk Assessment Tools In The NHS” Following Death Of Son In Sheffield
A grieving father from North Yorkshire is stepping up his campaign for improvements in mental health assessments following the death of his son, who despite multiple recent suicide attempts was considered by hospital staff not to be a suicide risk.
Richard Bellerby’s son Andrew, who at the time was living in Sheffield, took his own life on 10 July 2015, at the age of 35, less than 48 hours after being taken to hospital by ambulance in a suicidal state. On admission to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, he was risk assessed by un-trained nurses using their Crisis Triage Rating Scale (CTRS) and deemed fit to be discharged.
An inquest in October 2015 identified numerous missed opportunities to provide Andrew with psychiatric help. Meanwhile, an internal investigation by the Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (the Sheffield Trust) found that the nurses who carried out the CTRS assessment had no training in doing so which the Department of Health has confirmed to Mr Bellerby is contrary to national guidelines.
Following his son’s death, Richard, 73 of Aldwark, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his son’s care as a result of which his legal team subsequently secured an out of court settlement for Richard and also received an apology from Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust.
Richard has spent the last three-and-a-half years campaigning for all 85 mental health trusts in the country to use a standard, independently verified triage tool for assessing suicide risk. He also wants to ensure that national guidelines are adhered to so that all NHS clinicians are fully trained before assessing suicide risk and making “life or death decisions”.
So far, Richard has persuaded the Sheffield Trust to cease using the CTRS assessment tool, which he felt from the outset was “not fit for purpose”.
Richard feared that other mental health trusts might be using the same or similar assessment tools to the CTRS and so he began investigating the use of suicide assessment tools throughout the NHS.
With assistance from Manchester University and their inquiry “The assessment of clinical risk in mental health services, 2018”, Richard established that 39% of the 85 mental health trusts used entirely locally devised assessment tools but 29% of clinicians taking part in the survey had not received any training in the use of the tools.
Richard has also been working closely with MIND (the mental health charity) and his local MP Kevin Hollinrake, who has now secured a debate in the House of Commons on the issue which will take place on 4 September at 4pm.
Expert Opinion“Richard is still deeply affected by the death of Andrew and how his son was let down in the days before he died.
Following the issues that were identified in connection to Andrew’s death, Richard has been determined to campaign for change so others don’t have to suffer the heartache his family has.
He has made great progress and the parliamentary debate is a major milestone in Richard’s campaign. Irwin Mitchell will continue to support Richard and hope that his efforts can lead to change and improvements in patient care.”
Samuel Hill - Senior Associate Solicitor
Richard said: “Nothing will ever bring Andrew back, but I want to ensure that lessons are learned and changes are made so that no-one else has to lose their life needlessly.
“According to the Manchester University Inquiry, in 2015 alone, 636 people including my son were deemed by clinicians to be “low or no immediate risk of suicide” but then went on to take their own lives within three months of being assessed.
“By bringing my campaign to Parliament, I am hoping it will raise the understanding and magnitude of this problem and generate legislation to improve mental health care as a whole and in particular suicide prevention.”
Richard’s MP Kevin Hollinrake said: “Since their tragic loss, the Bellerby family have worked tirelessly to do everything they can to make sure others to not suffer the same fate.
“It has been my pleasure to support their efforts and we shall continue to campaign for change until appropriate processes and procedures are put in place to prevent further tragic suicides.”
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