‘Why was my son allowed to die?’

Tina McNair
Tina McNair

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GRIEVING mum Tina McNair said she will have to live with never knowing how her son managed to leave a mental health unit and then went on to die.

The 46-year-old said she feels ‘disappointed’ and ‘let down’ with the help given to her son Stephen Hipkins.

Stephen Hipkins

Stephen Hipkins

Stephen was found hanged in the grounds of St James’ Hospital, in Locksway Road, Milton, Portsmouth, on January 27, last year.

The 28-year-old was a voluntary patient at The Orchards unit, which is run by Solent NHS Trust.

Today, Mrs McNair told The News she feels let down by the trust.

The mother-of-five said: ‘Stephen was sectioned when he was 18, but the health trust said they had no record of that.

‘He died on the Sunday night, yet we weren’t told until Monday at 6pm.

‘Staff said they didn’t have my number, but I had given it to them.

‘I will never know how Stephen managed to get out of the ward.

‘I don’t think he wanted to take his own life. I think it was a cry for help.

‘But he didn’t get the help he had been asking for.

‘He said he wanted to get better and get on with his life.

‘He’d got himself a flat and wanted to get help, but that’s what he didn’t get.’

Mrs McNair said that Stephen had been battling depression for several years, and as a result turned to alcohol and self harm.

He had also expressed suicidal thoughts in the past, and made a few attempts at taking his life.

As previously reported, Stephen had returned to Portsmouth in December 2012 to escape an abusive relationship in Great Yarmouth, where he had been living for four-and-a-half years.

A coroner gave a narrative verdict for Stephen’s death, as it was not clear if he had intended to take his own life.

Questions were raised into the security of the unit at St James’, after Stephen was able to leave unnoticed.

Since then, Solent has installed more CCTV cameras, and improved its key fob management system, to record who opens locked doors and at what time.

‘These measures should have been in place when Stephen was staying at the unit,’ added Mrs McNair.

‘I hope the changes made now mean no other family have to go through what we are.

‘Stephen was on alcohol detox, yet he was let out to the pub.

‘This wasn’t the first time he had hurt himself, he had a history of it.

‘I’m disappointed that-no one was able to help him.’

THE trust in charge of mental health services at St James’ Hospital has apologised to the family of Stephen Hipkins.

Matthew Hall, operations director for adult mental health services at Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘On behalf of the trust, I would like to extend sincere condolences to Mr Hipkins’ family and friends at their loss.

‘We will be considering the coroner’s findings to establish how we can make further improvements to our services.

‘It’s our aim to consistently provide the best care possible for anyone – and learn lessons following such tragedies.’

THE lawyer representing Stephen Hipkins’ family hopes

lessons will be learnt from Stephen’s death.

Dr John White, clinical negligence lawyer for Blake Lapthorn, said: ‘The evidence demonstrated problems with security at St James’ Hospital, and also clinically.

‘It shows that while Stephen had mental health problems and was facing a crisis, he was still trying to access help and it’s not clear he wanted to end his own life. Therefore, safety issues were all the more important and, had those procedures been more robust, there would have been the opportunity to save his life. Important security and clinical changes have been introduced since and I hope these will lead to an improvement in safety for other patients.’

Stephen Hipkins was in the care of Solent NHS Trust for six days before he died.

The 28-year-old was found hanged in the grounds of St James’ Hospital, in Locksway Road, Milton, Portsmouth, on January 27, last year.

He was a voluntary patient in The Orchards unit.

Here is a timeline of what happened:

January 20, 7.40pm – Stephen taken to QA Hospital after cuts found on his arm, was noted to have drank excessively. Later on he expresses suicidal thoughts and agrees to mental health assessment.

January 21, 12.30pm – Stephen offered a mental health bed in Great Yarmouth where he is registered with a GP. He refuses this.

Later, it’s agreed he is admitted informally to Hawthorns Ward in The Orchards at St James’ Hospital while he registers with a GP. He would also get advice on alcohol detox. A risk of self-harm and suicide attempt is noted.

January 22, 11.50am – Seen by a specialist who discusses Stephen may have leave, which was not taken well. At 2.30pm Stephen takes his belongings and leaves without explanation. By 3.40pm he is reported to the police as missing. He visits Hanway Medical Practice to register. He expresses suicidal thoughts to a doctor, and agrees to go back to The Orchards.

January 24, 7.45pm – Granted leave to go to pub with other patients.

January 26, 2pm – Asks for leave as he wants to ‘numb the pain’. This is not granted. Requests leave at 8.30pm and is granted.

January 27, midday – No thoughts of self-harm expressed and uses leave with no issues. At 7.20pm Stephen asks for a razor to shave with, which was used well and returned.

At 8pm he is noted as missing and security sent to search grounds. At 9.55pm Stephen is reported as a missing person to police. He is found hanged in the hospital grounds.

of St James’ Hospital at 10pm.