SOUTHERN Health is failing in its duty to care for some of the most vulnerable people in the county.
That’s the damning claim by MPs today after it was revealed gaps in the trust’s safeguarding procedures may have contributed to the death of a Havant man who ‘had been crying out for help’ for months.
Southern has said lessons will be learnt. Well how many more lessons will it take and lives lost?Linda Low, of Rustington
David Hinks, 30, committed suicide on December 14, last year, at his home in Redbridge Grove.
At the inquest into his death, Portsmouth Coroners’ Court heard how the troubled South West Trains ticket inspector had made scores of threats to kill himself. It came amid a year-long battle against depression and relationship woes with his American wife of almost three years, Jessica Hinks.
At the time of his death, Mr Hinks was under the care of the county’s Acute Mental Health Team – run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. Southern has been under scrutiny for the last six months over how it has failed people in its care who have mental health issues.
He had warned a number of health professionals that he wanted to kill himself and had attempted to end his life on at least five occasions.
Yet despite this, he was never admitted to a psychiatric ward, instead being offered a range of anti-depressants and a place in a group therapy session.
Things took a turn for the worse on December 10 when Mr Hinks was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his wife.
Although no further action was taken by police, this prompted the breakdown of the relationship between the couple – who met in 2010 while playing online game World of Warcraft – which led to Mr Hinks killing himself days later.
However, in spite of his arrest, Southern took no immediate action to check on his mental wellbeing even when he missed a number of appointments.
It was only days after his death on December 18 when the trust sent someone to his house to check him that they discovered he had killed himself. The response has been criticised by Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt.
‘It’s absolutely devastating for every single family affected by these failings,’ Mrs Drummond told The News.
‘People have been let down by Southern Health. It’s an appalling situation which I know the Department of Health is very concerned with.’
Ms Mordaunt added: ‘Systems must be in place to protect the seriously vulnerable in the area.
‘Clearly the problems at Southern are substantial and they need to improve.’
Kerry Elliott, team leader at Southern’s Early Intervention in Psychosis, admitted failings had occurred and told the court ‘lessons had been learnt’.
She highlighted shortcomings in the trust’s safeguarding training and risk assessment procedures but said since then, Southern had improved staff training in these areas as well as overall communication between services.
But despite this, Mr Hinks’ heartbroken mother Linda Low, of Rustington, West Sussex, said more could have been done to prevent her son’s death.
She said: ‘He had been crying out for help. Southern has said lessons will be learnt. Well how many more lessons will it take and lives lost?’
Paying tribute to her son, she added: ‘He was our 6ft 4in gentle giant. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.
‘He always went the extra mile and would help anyone – that was the sort of person he was. He’ll be greatly missed.’
Dr Lesley Stevens, medical director at Southern said staff were ‘deeply saddened’ by Mr Hinks’ death and extended sympathies to his family.
‘Once we learned of David’s death we immediately started an investigation to see if there was anything we could have done differently,’ said Dr Stevens.
‘We also contacted David’s family to give them the opportunity to be fully involved in our report.
‘Key learnings from our investigation included the strengthening of staff’s understanding of safeguarding policies.
‘We have also started work to review the risk reporting on our patient records system and our clinical disengagement policy to make sure we can better spot problems before they arise.
‘Patients who do not attend meetings will also be discussed, including their risks, at handovers with a full rationale of decisions taken and documented.’
Deputy coroner Robert Stone recorded a conclusion of suicide due to an overdose of prescription drug propranolol.