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Disturbed patient jumped from hospital's high-rise car park, inquest is told

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 27/08/2015

Patrick Campbell died after scaling garden fence at hospital
Patrick Campbell died after scaling garden fence at hospital

A 26-year-old psychiatric patient died after scaling a garden fence and jumping from a multi-storey car park at the Ulster Hospital, an inquest heard yesterday.

Patrick Robert Campbell, from Donaghadee, Co Down, had severe multiple injuries when he was found by security staff 17 minutes after the alarm was raised on September 19, 2013.

While he was still breathing, he was barely responsive and later died after doctors were unable to resuscitate in the emergency department.

CCTV footage at the inquest showed Patrick walking around an enclosed garden with a nurse by his side before he ran and scaled the fence.

It also showed him moving around the car park levels before he ultimately fell to the ground at the rear of the hospital car park, close to the security building.

Questions were raised by his family's legal representative whether medical staff were fully aware of Patrick's suicidal state before his death - despite the family's clear warnings.

Also questioned was his care before and after he absconded from ward 25, an open psychiatric treatment ward where he was a voluntary patient.

A fit and physically healthy young man, Patrick was said to have used a landscaping boulder to help scale the fence.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson heard that since the unit and garden opened in 2009, there had been at least 15 patients who had absconded over the fence.

Evidence was heard that the Queen's University student had a history of severe anxiety and depression which had gradually worsened over the last few years.

He developed a problem with gambling and drinking during his time at university, first as a law student at Dundee, and then later as a philosophy student at Queen's.

Patrick's condition deteriorated and he began using cannabis to help sleep before he was admitted to Lagan Valley Hospital, before being transferred to the Ulster Hospital. He died three days after his admission.

However, according to a statement from a staff nurse, two days before he died Patrick confided to her that he had been having sexual thoughts about young girls.

He alleged he had been sexually abused himself as a boarder at Campbell College, Belfast, and staff had noticed that he was not as settled as he had been when he was first admitted.

Later the inquest heard that while at Campbell, Patrick had told staff he had been looking at child pornographic images on another student's computer. He claimed when it was discovered by other students, he was bullied and sexually abused by them.

As a result of this disclosure, Patrick was put under continuous observation within sight of a nurse.

Also that night he had tried to self-harm by running into a wall, banging his head.

His aunt Julie-Ann Owens visited him that night and told the inquest: "I was so concerned about how Patrick looked, I never saw him like that before. He was pulling at his clothes and looked unkempt.

"He kept telling me it was no use, he couldn't be helped, he had disappointed his family, that we would be better having his funeral and for me to go on."

She alerted the nursing staff to her worries afterwards and was assured that Patrick was in "the safest possible place".

His father, Maurice Campbell, claimed in his evidence that he had told staff that Patrick had looked at a suicide app on his phone just a year before.

He said that he felt that the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust had failed in its duty to keep his son safe.

He further questioned why lessons had not been learnt by the trust earlier as absconding over the garden fence had happened "time after time after time again".

Patrick's death was the second arising from a patient absconding from the garden at the hospital.

James Fenton (22) was found dead in the hospital grounds in 2010. The inquest into establishing how he died is yet to be held.

Corner Ms Anderson will give her ruling today.

At hearing.

Belfast Telegraph

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