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Mentally ill father's death could spark review into psychological treatment services

PUBLISHED: 16:00 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:43 01 May 2019

An inquest has been held into the death of Julian Gaunt, whose body was found in North Walsham in November 2018. Picture: Norfolk Police

An inquest has been held into the death of Julian Gaunt, whose body was found in North Walsham in November 2018. Picture: Norfolk Police

Archant

The time it takes people in Norfolk with serious mental health problems to receive treatment could come under review following a father's death.

The body of Julian Gaunt – who suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder and anxiety – was discovered by a dog walker in a field in North Walsham on November 23 last year, four days after he was reported missing by his family.

The 46-year-old support worker and counsellor had been in contact with various teams from Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) and medical professionals had recommended he be referred for more long-term psychological treatment.

But at an inquest into his death, held in Norwich on Tuesday, senior coroner for Norfolk Jacqueline Lake said she had “major concerns” about the length of time Mr Gaunt may have waited for support.

She said she was particularly concerned by a statement from Michael Cummings, acute services manager at NSFT, who told the inquest that people with less serious problems could receive treatment from the county's wellbeing service faster than those with more complex conditions.

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“It is of concern that those requiring more serious input have to wait longer,” Ms Lake said.

Mr Gaunt's family, including his wife Vicky Aspinall, from Norwich, raised further concerns about their communication with the trust in the months leading up to Mr Gaunt's death, included two meetings with his care coordinator which were not kept – one of which because the coordinator could not locate his mother's home in North Walsham and had no mobile phone signal to call them and check the address.

There were also concerns about how urgently calls to the trust's crisis line were handled – but Mr Cummings said this was not intended as a “blue lights service”.

Ms Lake recorded a narrative conclusion but said there was no evidence that Mr Gaunt had attempted to take his own life. His medical cause of death was recorded as pneumonia and hypothermia.

NSFT carried out an investigation following Mr Gaunt's death, the findings of which were presented at the inquest.

Ms Lake said she would give the trust until July 31 to respond to the report's recommendations before deciding whether to launch a report to prevent further deaths.

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