Concerns over patient freedom after suicide

CONCERNS have been raised over the way psychiatric patients can come and go as they please at Amberstone Hospital after one man walked out and killed himself.

An inquest heard staff at the hospital in Hailsham failed to notify police as soon as they noticed schizophrenic Richard Machon was missing on Friday October 21 last year.

His naked body was found near a footpath above cliffs at Beachy Head the following day by walker Keith Miller. Thirty-two-year-old Mr Machon, who was once a promising surfer, had taken handfuls of paracetamol tablets, bought in Boots, and amphetamine.

At the inquest into Mr Machon’s death, his mother Michele Mauger said she was concerned staff had not contacted police earlier and also said she had asked staff to include in his notes the fact her son heard voices in his head who told him to take drugs or he would be killed on October 21.

She said her son had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act over the years but had recently been de-sectioned on the condition he remain at Amberstone as a voluntary patient.

Mrs Mauger said her son was intelligent, funny and kind but had suffered with mental illness since his late teens due to drug use and also lived 80 per cent in another world in which he believed he was the head of MI5 and was building another planet.

She said he contacted her most days and spent time with her at her home in Grange Road but she did not hear from him on the Friday before his body was found.

Support workers at Amberstone Peter Gent, Tracey Cole, Holly Wilson and Vedwunty Smith all told the inquest Mr Machon had been “pleasantly settled” the day he disappeared and because it was felt he was getting better, police weren’t called in until 7.30pm on the Friday evening.

However, Dr Bilal Ahmad, Mr Machon’s consultant psychiatrist admitted there had been a “slackness in documentation” and police should’ve been called earlier.

Recording a verdict of suicide while the balance of Mr Machon’s mind was disturbed, East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said Mr Machon had taken a massive overdose of paracetamol and he intended to take his own life.

“My job is not to criticise, my job is to see if lessons can be learnt,” he said. “I do think staff at Amberstone should’ve notified the police earlier.” If you need to contact The Samaritans, call 08457-909090 or email: jo@asamaritans.org