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Family of man who jumped to his death from Norwich’s Castle Mall agree settlement with mental health service

PUBLISHED: 08:37 03 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:46 03 February 2015

Matthew Dunham. Photo: Supplied.

Matthew Dunham. Photo: Supplied.

Supplied

The family of a man who jumped to his death from Castle Mall in Norwich has agreed a five-figure settlement with mental health services.

Matthew Dunham. Photo: Supplied Matthew Dunham. Photo: Supplied

Matthew Dunham, 25, was suffering from depression when he jumped from the shopping mall on May 9 2013.

His family and the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) have settled a claim out of court, lawyers said today, after the trust admitted failures “materially contributed to the deceased taking his own life”.

The web designer first contacted mental health services in February 2013. He was assessed over the telephone and diagnosed as suffering from “severe low mood and mild anxiety”.

Mr Dunham, who lived on St Augustine’s Street in Norwich, was advised to attend stress control sessions, but a month later he was talking about suicide.

In April that year Matthew had an assessment with a mental health nurse. The nurse found that he had significant risk factors, including work related problems and money difficulties.

Mr Dunham said that he felt suicidal at times.

He was rated a seven out of 10 suicide risk by one practitioner, but two other workers in contact with him were not able to access that information.

He was then referred to the recovery team of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, but two weeks later the team had still not contacted him.

Instead, they held a meeting among themselves but not including Matthew, at which he was allocated a social worker.

He was then sent a letter on May 2 suggesting an appointment for May 23, nearly two months after his previous face to face appointment with the nurse.

On May 9, Mr Dunham jumped from height at Castle Mall.

At an inquest in September 2013, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said there were “fundamental deficiencies” in the trust’s care for Mr Dunham. The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide while suffering from mental disorder.

And Mr Armstrong made a number of recommendations to the NSFT.

Matthew’s mother Donna was appalled by Matthew’s lack of treatment and took the case to law.

Her lawyer Ben Ward, a medical negligence specialist with Ashton KCJ, said: “Matthew’s family feel passionately that the mental health service let Matthew down.

“The details of Matthew’s case reveal a hopelessly bureaucratic mental health service, which completely betrayed him.

“I dread to think of the turmoil that Matthew was experiencing at the time.

“It may be that the fatal flaws revealed by this case are due to lack of money and resources or it may be management structure.”

The lawyer said his team had worked on 20 cases in the past three years involving patients in East Anglia who had taken their own lives.

The trust admitted a breach of duty regarding failings in communication between its teams and in failing to provide an appointment more urgently.

NSFT’s director of nursing, Dr Jane Sayer, said: “Matthew’s family have our deepest sympathies and apologies for their loss. We are pleased that this matter has now been settled by the NHS Litigation Authority.”

•If you have issues and need help, contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

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