Mental health team failed suicidal man

A SUICIDAL man who needed to be hospitalised strangled himself with a shoelace after there was no bed available for him.

Gary Allen lived at Ennis House residential home, a home for people with past or present mental disorder in Enys Road, and was found dead in his bed on May 25, 2010.

An inquest into the 66-year-old’s death was held at Eastbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon (February 17).

Coroner Alan Craze was told Mr Allen suffered from a long history of mental health problems, self neglect and suicidal thoughts.

He was a retired London Underground driver and his wife Zita Allen said he had witnessed four people take their lives by jumping in front of his train.

Dr Ilan Rajap, from the Arlington Road Medical Practice, explained Mr Allen was on anti-depressants but had developed an obsession about his teeth.

Dr Rajap said, “He had seen a dentist and was complaining of severe pain. He was agitated and really quite delusional about the pain - there was no sign of infection.”

Mr Allen’s mental heath deteriorated and on May 20 he told a care worker at the home he would kill himself if he didn’t get help for his pain within an hour.

He was taken to Eastbourne DGH as a result of his suicidal intention but was sent back home after a 45-minute assessment by Joanne Mitchell from the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team.

Ms Mitchell deemed him to be at low risk of suicide and told the coroner, “He was sent back to because he was going home with support.”

However, the following day psychiatrist Dr Bernard Attamah visited Mr Allen and decided he should be admitted as an inpatient to a mental health ward.

No beds were available in Eastbourne or Hastings on and Dr Attamah and his team made no other effort to find Mr Allen a bed and instead left him at home with ‘intensive’ help from a support worker.

Mr Craze questioned Dr Attamah about the efforts to find a bed. Dr Attamah said Mr Allen was discussed at a team meeting on May 25, the day he was found dead, and it was agreed they would pursue a bed. Shortly after Dr Attamah received a phone call to say Mr Allen had killed himself.

Mr Craze said the trust, which provides mental health services, could have done a lot more and been pro-active in getting Mr Allen a bed.

Mr Craze said, “Am I being too cynical if I say one request was made for a bed and the matter was then dropped?Nothing was done to find him a bed between May 21 and his death.”

Mr Craze told Dr Attamah, “I think you abandoned the option of a bed.”

Four days later, Mr Allen took a shoelace to bed and despite two-hourly checks by care staff was found dead.

Anouska Billington, who was acting manager of Ennis House at the time of Mr Allen’s death, explained she and her staff had been keeping a close eye on him but were not trained to keep residents on suicide watch.

Mr Craze recorded a verdict of suicide.