NHS 'left patient on the brink of suicide'

A psychiatric patient says he was badly let down by the NHS support system after leaving hospital and becoming increasingly desperate at his inability to cope with life back in the community.

John Murray

A psychiatric patient says he was badly let down by the NHS support system after leaving hospital and becoming increasingly desperate at his inability to cope with life back in the community.

John Murray, 28, who has a long history of alcohol and mental health problems, says it took five days for health service staff to give him the help he needed after he became severely anxious, panic-stricken and suicidal.

And he says his pleas for support and re-admittance to hospital fell on deaf ears - even when he reached the end of his tether and threatened to harm himself or others.

Mr Murray says he only got through the ordeal thanks to the support of his friend Greg Carroll, 41, who eventually managed to get him admitted to St George's Park psychiatric hospital in Morpeth in the early hours of Monday.

Now Mr Carroll, a house renovator from Amble, is writing an official letter of complaint to the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, with copies to Northumbria Police and the Home Office - over the handling of Mr Murray's case last week.

He says the delay in providing Mr Murray with the help and treatment he needed could have had tragic consequences if he had reverted to alcohol abuse and damaged himself or innocent bystanders.

Mr Murray spent two years in St George's Hospital after being sectioned and was discharged on May 16 after making excellent progress in his recovery.

He returned to his home town of Alnwick and was given an after-care support package which meant he could contact various people, including a community psychiatric nurse and a day centre, and ask to be re-admitted if he had trouble coping.

Last Wednesday he started suffering panic attacks and contacted his support team to ask to go back into hospital. By Friday he was becoming increasingly worried by the lack of action and asked Mr Carroll to help.

The two men say no-one responded to requests for help and on Saturday a desperate Mr Murray told his friend he was either going to kill himself or harm others. He had also contacted NHS Direct and his GP.

On Sunday Mr Carroll rang St George's, explained and asked if Mr Murray could be re-admitted, but without success.

They went to the accident and emergency unit at Alnwick Infirmary, which arranged for him to see a mental health crisis team. The two men had to drive to Wansbeck Hospital in Ashington at 11pm where the team assessed Mr Murray before he was re-admitted to St George's at 1am.

Mr Murray said yesterday: "This is a prime example of people getting out of hospital with an after-care package that doesn't work and leaves them to fend for themselves through hardship and pain."

Mr Carroll said: "In effect, John's after-care plan proved to be at best a paper exercise and I believe he has been abysmally let down.

"On Friday he said to me he was at the end of his tether, feeling desperate and no-one was responding. The following day he said he was either going to do himself in or harm other people and was asking what he had to do to get help. He was dealt with abysmally, especially when you consider what other psychiatric patients have done when their requests for help or threats were ignored."

A spokesman for the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust said: "We cannot comment about individual patients and their treatment. All complaints are taken very seriously and, if necessary, there would be an internal investigation."

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