Norfolk mental health nurse tells inquest of her decision over patient

Christopher Higgins

Christopher Higgins - Credit: Archant

A mental health nurse has defended her decision to allow a patient outside for a cigarette just moments before he fell to his death.

Jemma Jones told an inquest today that she was showing patient Christopher Higgins 'goodwill' by allowing him to smoke before going to bed.

But just moments later, the 36-year-old, of South Wootton, fell over the railings of a disabled ramp at Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Fermoy Unit in King's Lynn.

He suffered a fractured skull and died days later at Addenbrooke's Hospital, in Cambridge, on July 2, 2013.

An inquest in Norwich heard how Mr Higgins had not shown any signs of agitated behaviour during the evening and was compliant with staff requests.

But earlier in the day he had to be moved to the secure Fermoy mental health unit from a different section of the hospital, after he stabbed himself with scissors.

Mrs Jones, a registered NHS mental health nurse, said Mr Higgins had been allowed out for two cigarettes during the evening - both times escorted by herself and police.

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She told the inquest: 'Everything I asked him to do, he did.

'He appeared very settled and he was very compliant. If he had been shouting abuse at me, I would have not taken him outside.

'I could have refused to let him have one. But I have been in incidents where you refuse patients to have a cigarette and they become agitated and feel you are taking away their liberty.'

She said that five police officers had been outside with Mr Higgins and herself during the final cigarette break.

The jury inquest, which was in its fourth day today, is expected to last 10 days.