Medical Law Experts Say Public Need Reassurance That Improvements To Mental Health Services Are Working
Lawyers acting for the distraught wife of a father-of-two who committed suicide because he feared redundancy following council cuts say the mental health Trust needs to reassure the public that improvements to their services are working after hearing evidence against them at an inquest.
Refuse Collector Wayne Grew, 37, hanged himself from a tree in Queen Elizabeth Park in Birmingham on 4 March 2011. He had repeatedly been seen by mental health specialists after threatening to take his own life and his heartbroken wife Lisa, 39, pleaded with medical staff to help him.
She even showed Wayne’s GP a suicide note that she had found 11 days before his death, but mental health specialists failed to adequately assess his suicide risk.
Lisa contacted medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell in a battle to get answers about why more wasn’t done to help her husband in the weeks leading up to his death which has left their two children Darcy, eight, and Ruby, four, without their father.
Following an inquest at Birmingham Coroners Court that was heard for two days last July and resumed for two days this week, HM Deputy Coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe heard Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust have made improvements to their services since Wayne’s death. She recorded a Narrative verdict today (19 February) and said Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust made a number of failings including a failure by the Home Treatment Team to assess Wayne’s level of suicide risk after 22nd February 2011 and failed to establish his recent history to inform their decision about suicide risk.
She recommended the Trust has a portable computer to be used between consultations to remind them of medical records and refresh their memory.
Tom Fletcher, a medical law and patient’s rights expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office representing the family, said: “Wayne’s family believe that he was severely let down by mental health professionals when he needed their help most. They are concerned to hear assessments were not adequately carried out which may have confirmed the risk Wayne posed to himself.
“Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust now needs to show that lessons have been learnt and that the improvements they have put in place since Wayne’s death are working to prevent any other families from suffering the same loss.”
The inquest heard Wayne became increasingly withdrawn and depressed after he received a text from a colleague in November 2010 saying that there would be an emergency meeting the next week to discuss redundancies.
He visited medical staff seven times over the next 24 days, as the anti-depressants he was prescribed did not help and he was regularly having break downs.
After suffering panic attacks at work Wayne saw a psychiatric nurse at City Hospital who referred him to the Home Treatment Team and they visited Wayne the next day. However, following this, Wayne’s condition was not deemed serious enough to warrant Home Treatment and he was referred back to the Community Mental Health Team.
Lisa said: “He was seen by this team on a few occasions over the next few weeks but there seemed to be no sense of urgency amongst anyone and no real help offered.
“On 21 February Wayne’s mum phoned me to say one of his friends had spotted him coming out of the woods with a piece of rope and he had told him he’d left a suicide note. I found it in the bedroom straight away and it broke my heart to read it but even then I didn’t believe he would take his own life. I convinced myself it was just a cry for help.”
Lisa took the note to Wayne’s GP the next day who immediately spoke to a doctor at the Longbridge Health Centre, which specialises in mental health. At the inquest, Wayne’s GP said that the referral to the mental health team was urgent as Wayne was showing suicidal intent, but he was not detained under the Mental Health Act.
The Home Treatment Team were sent out to him the same day but during the inquest, it was heard that those assessing Wayne on this day were not aware that he had been seen going into the woods with a rope the previous day or that a suicide note had been found so they failed to appreciate the threat he posed to himself.
Wayne was then seen five more times at home but on 3 March at a multi disciplinary team meeting it was decided to reduce visits, reduce medication and to discharge Wayne as soon as possible.
Lisa added: “The next day two policeman arrived at the door and I just knew Wayne had done it. I broke down with grief. Some of Wayne’s friends came round and said they had found his car near Queen Elizabeth Park. I went straight there and I looked inside the glove box and there was another suicide letter. It felt like my heart was being ripped out.
“It has been very difficult to hear that thorough assessments were not carried out and that staff could have done more for Wayne. It might mean he would still be here today and my two little girls would still have their daddy.
“I still can’t come to terms with the fact he is not here. No one should have to go through what this family has and I don’t think I will be able to accept what has happened until I know that the improvements made by the Trust are working to make sure no one else is treated like Wayne was.”
Wayne’s parents, Elaine and Kevin Grew, said: “Wayne was a wonderful caring son and brother and a beautiful boy. He lived for his family and two girls and was a good father.”
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