Belfast Telegraph

GP 'not told of suicide man's risk'

The vulnerability of a bailed prisoner who killed himself on Christmas Day was not properly outlined to his doctor upon his release, a watchdog has found.

Francis McAlary's care may have been managed differently if the GP had known the risks he faced, Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe said. However Mrs McCabe said it was impossible to say if the 49-year-old would not have taken his own life if his treatment had been handled in another way.

The prisoner had a history of mental health problems and was identified as being at risk of self-harm or suicide. He killed himself at his home in Maghera, Co Londonderry on Christmas Day 2010, four days after being released from HMP Maghaberry, Co Antrim on bail.

Mrs McCabe said Mr McAlary spent the majority of his time in Maghaberry receiving care in the prison's healthcare centre. Noting he was reviewed by a psychiatrist 22 times, she highlighted that an independent clinical review found that the standard of his care was comparable to that which existed outside prison.

But she said he was vulnerable on his release and this fact was not adequately communicated to his GP in his discharge letter.

"Overall, my investigation found that significant efforts were made, by healthcare staff in particular, to address Mr McAlary's mental problems and to manage his medication effectively," said the ombudsman.

"The efforts of the psychiatrist who cared for him were particularly conscientious and thoughtful. Of concern, however, was the failure of communications between prison and community health care providers at the time of Mr McAlary's release.

"It is essential that appropriately detailed medical records are maintained in both the prison and community setting and that this information is effectively passed from community healthcare providers to prison healthcare when a prisoner enters into custody; and information is in turn provided by prison healthcare back to community healthcare providers upon a prisoner's release.

"This is a crucial aspect of ensuring that there is continuity of care for a patient's mental health care needs so that risk factors can be appropriately identified and addressed."

The ombudsman does not give details on why a prisoner was in custody.

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