Mental health minister says death of Peggy Copeman raises ‘serious issues’
- Credit: Nick Fulcher
A government minister has said the “terrible circumstances” surrounding the death of woman who was transferred 250 miles for treatment raises “extremely important issues” about the region’s mental health service.
Peggy Copeman, 81, died at the side of the M11 from a suspected heart attack during the return journey from Taunton to Norwich in a private ambulance in December 2019 while under the care of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT).
Her son-in-law Nick Fulcher has now revealed he received a letter from Nadine Dorries, the minister for mental health, about Mrs Copeman’s death.
In it she expresses concerns about the NSFT’s reliance on out-of-area placements (OAPs).
It read: “We expect patients to receive the highest standard of care from the NHS, and that people should be treated with compassion, dignity and respect.
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“Sadly, we know that this is not always the case and I cannot pretend to understand how this has affected you all.
“I would expect the NHS to investigate this thoroughly and take action.”
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Mr Fulcher said: “I have been sitting on this letter since February because it was so personal to our family.
“But after the news that Kathleen Cantell, another elderly patient, was sent to Darlington for treatment by the NSFT, it seemed appropriate to share.
“I am furious with the trust for saying that my poor mother-in-law would be the last person this would happen to.”
In response, an NSFT spokesperson said: “We want every patient to receive their case as close to home as possible.
“We carefully consider every decision to place a patient out of area, and review our beds daily so that we can move people back to a ward close to home as soon as possible.”
The trust said it was unable to provide the number of OAPs between May and September, but that on November 6 there were 24 OAPs - up from three on April 1.
But this figure does not include patients in non-NSFT beds within Norfolk, such as the Southern Hill Hospital in Mundesley. The trust said that figure stood at 18 as of November 6.
The NSFT has repeatedly promised to end out of area placements.
A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services said: “It is shocking that the NSFT is outsourcing its provision to other parts of the country and to the private sector so blatantly.”