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Inquest Into Death Of Former Rugby League Player Who Took His Own Life Concludes

Former Rugby League Player Stephen Gartland Died In August Last Year


James Clarke, Press Officer | +44 (0)161 838 3169

The widow of a former Rugby League player and youth coach, who died after suffering from mental health problems, has expressed her hope that the lessons from her husband’s death continue to be learned.

Stephen Gartland, who was 45, was found dead in Castleton, Rochdale, last August after a battle with depression. Stephen, known as ‘Garty’ to his friends, had spent time under the care of Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust and treated in hospital in the months before his death.

As well as being father-of-two boys, Bradley and Liam, Stephen was a former player for Rugby League teams Rochdale Hornets, Oldham Roughyeds and Swinton Lions. Following his playing career, he moved into youth coaching and helped develop some current Superleague players.

In early 2016, Stephen began to show signs that he was suffering from mental health issues.  He became quieter, withdrawn and suffered weight loss. In May, Stephen sought medical advice and he continued to receive treatment up until his death on 19 August, 2016.

Since his death, Joanne, Stephen’s widow, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care Stephen received from the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.

An inquest into his death was held at Rochdale Coroner’s Court at The Phoenix Centre, the coroner ruled there was no issues of neglect with the care the Trust provided for Stephen.

However over the course of the inquest, the findings of an Untoward Incident Report, conducted by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust in the wake of Stephen’s death, were heard.

The coroner did reiterate the number of care and service delivery issues that Untoward Incident Report had highlight as areas that the senior management team at Birch Hill Hospital needed to address. The report identified a number of influencing factors:
- Lack of focus on suicidality as a more central theme across the care pathways
- Lack of therapeutic one on one time by the registered nursing team on Moorside ward at Birch Hill Hospital
- Environmental disruption
- Lack of a personal and structured discharge plan
- The Home Treatment Team should have included the clinical lead in the decision to discharge Stephen from all services.

Mark Havenhand, a partner at Irwin Mitchell and the medical negligence specialist representing Joanne, said: 

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“This is an incredibly tragic death and, just over a year on from Stephen’s death, Joanne remains understandably devastated by the loss of her husband and her children’s father.

“This inquest has been a long time coming for Joanne, Bradley and Liam and it is hoped they now finally have some answers. The Untoward Incident Report and this inquest revealed some areas of concern and we hope that these will be addressed as soon as possible to improve patient safety.

“We will continue to work with Joanne to ensure she, and the family, receive the right support.”
Mark Havenhand, Partner

Joanne, 46, who still lives in Rochdale, said: “The entire family was devastated by Stephen’s death and I, along with Bradley and Liam are still trying to come to terms with it.

“We hope that the Trust continues to learn from the issues which have been highlighted at inquest to ensure other families are spared the pain we have to endure on a daily basis. 

“Nothing can bring Stephen back of course, but simply, I do not want any other family to suffer like we have suffered or like Stephen suffered.”