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Hospital suicide man's dad hits out over trust 'failures'

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 28/08/2015

Vulnerable: Patrick Campbell
Vulnerable: Patrick Campbell

The father of a man who took his own life after he absconded from a psychiatric hospital ward has claimed that a health trust failed "to provide a safe and secure place" to treat his son.

Maurice Campbell was speaking after the inquest into the death of 26-year-old Patrick, who died at the Ulster Hospital after he fell from its multi-storey car park shortly after scaling an outside fence nearly two years ago.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson said in her findings that the Queen's University student from Donaghadee, Co Down, had died on September 16, 2013 "by his own act when the balance of his mind was disturbed".

She accepted a consultant psychiatrist's evidence that open wards, where Mr Campbell was being assessed, had to "strike a balance to provide an environment that is safe but not necessarily restrictive".

She agreed with his view that a single-purpose psychiatric care unit should be provided by the South Eastern Health and Social Services Trust to replace the current three units, none of which were purpose-built, and will send her findings to Health Minister Simon Hamilton.

A spokeswoman for the trust said the lessons had been learnt and recommendations implemented from the serious adverse incident review conducted after Patrick's death.

"The trust concurs with the views of the coroner that a purpose-built inpatient mental health unit would benefit the treatment of our patients in an open ward environment," she said.

"The death of a patient by suicide is a tragedy, and one that our mental health professionals, doctors, nurses and social workers continually strive to prevent."

Mr Campbell told the Belfast Telegraph afterwards: "Patrick was so much more than the person who has been talked about in this inquest.

"Patrick was a lovely lad, very caring, really he was such a massive part of our lives.

"He was our first child, he was somebody who had lots of friends, but who had a very troubled life.

"The best thing that could happen in his memory is that better mental health facilities were provided."

The coroner said in her ruling that CCTV footage showed Patrick leaving the garden where patients could smoke at 11.10am, lying on the ground at 11.13am, being found by two security guards at 11.29am, attended by two medical staff at 11.38am, and then removed by paramedics before treatment in the emergency department, where he died at 1.19pm.

Mr Campbell added: "The trust completely failed to provide a safe and secure place to treat our very vulnerable son.

"We strongly feel that a highly defensive management culture in the trust stops lifesaving lessons being learnt at the right time."

He also referred to a previous death of a psychiatric patient, James Fenton.

Mr Fenton was found dead in the hospital grounds after he absconded from the unit about two years before Patrick died.

"After Patrick's death, 13 changes have been made, but had those changes been made after the previous incident where James Fenton died, perhaps we wouldn't be standing here today and Patrick would still be alive," Mr Campbell said.

Belfast Telegraph

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