Wife of Happisburgh man who took his own life calls on NHS trust to share lessons learned from his death
PUBLISHED: 09:17 07 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:40 07 January 2014
The widow of a Norfolk man who took his own life after his repeated requests for help were ignored by mental health teams wants the lessons learned from his death to be shared across the country.
Angela Bane was speaking after it was revealed an undisclosed settlement had been reached with the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust following the death of her husband Peter.
Mrs Bane has said the case of her husband Peter’s suicide highlights the “poor state” of mental health services in the UK, and is calling for procedures put in place following his death to be rolled out throughout the UK to improve care and protect patient safety.
Mr Bane, 47, of Happisburgh, died after he was hit by a train at Witham railway station in Essex on February 16, 2010.
The father-of-three was found with a suicide note in his pocket and had told Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust on at least three occasions in the two weeks prior to his death that he was contemplating taking his own life.
Following his inquest in February 2011, Mrs Bane instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether more could have been done to prevent her husband’s suicide.
Health bosses have since accepted his death probably would have been avoided had he been admitted to a psychiatric hospital when he asked for help, and an undisclosed settlement from the trust has been agreed.
Essex assistant deputy coroner Eleanor McGann wrote to the trust after Mr Bane’s inquest, asking for action to prevent a similar fatality.
Hadrian Ball, the trust’s medical director, said services had been “improved substantially” since Mr Bane’s death and Mrs Bane now wants the trust to share the lessons it has learnt.
She said: “Peter was let down when he needed professional help most and we continue to be amazed that the trust had such a poor referral practice in place, given the severity of the types of cases receptionists were expected to handle.
“As we hear more and more news about cuts to mental health services and budget restraints, what happened to Peter only goes to show what a poor state many mental health services in the UK are in.
“As a family who lost a loving husband and father because of inadequate procedures that jeopardised the safety of vulnerable people it is both infuriating and heartbreaking.
“We are pleased to hear the trust has implemented new procedures to try and prevent any other errors being made, but we hope this will now be rolled out across the UK to ensure no other patient’s safety is compromised in a similar way.”
In its response to the coroner, the trust confirmed a single referral system had been put in place, administrative staff had been reminded of the importance of accurate and complete message taking and the referral form had been updated to include the message takers name, so individual’s work can be monitored.
Dr Ball added: “Services have been improved substantially since Mr Bane’s death to reduce the chance of anything similar happening again.
“The trust’s senior management is committed to continual improvements in our services and we will work with commissioners to ensure that recommendations continue to be implemented and learning shared.”
Anita Jewitt, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, which represented the Bane family, said: “Peter and Angela did all they could to seek out help in the correct way and Peter referred himself to mental health professionals. But, unfortunately, at this stage, the loss of vital information and poor communication let the family down with tragic consequences and is totally unacceptable.’’
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is currently in the process of slashing £40m from its budget by 2016, which is set to result in a 20pc reduction in bed numbers. A campaign has been formed calling for more government funding for mental health services.