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Coroner pleads for action over patient’s suicide after hospital bed delay

Royal Free are conducting a detailed review after 50-year-old's overdose

06 October, 2017 — By William McLennan

Royal Free Hospital

A CORONER has said changes must be made to prevent more deaths after a seriously ill man spent 40 hours in A&E waiting for a hospital bed before committing suicide.

Jonathan Meaney, 50, had agreed that he needed to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital as an in-patient after being taken to the emergency department of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead having taken a deliberate overdose on March 13. But two days later, with a bed still not available, he was discharged after convincing a mental health nurse that he was fit to leave and saying he had not intended to overdose.  He took his own life the following day.

Coroner Mary Hassell wrote to Camden’s mental health trust: “There seemed no urgency about the need for a bed for such a seriously ill man.” She raised concerns that the mental health nurse had not questioned Mr Meaney when he changed his story.

“This was despite the fact that Mr Meaney had told the assessing doctor he had been trying to kill himself and he had written notes of intent,” she said. Ms Hassell called for action to be taken to address her concerns. Camden and Islington NHS Trust has pledged to carry out a “detailed review” of events leading up to the death.

After an inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in August, Ms Hassell said: “Having spent approximately 40 hours in the [emergency] department, Mr Meaney told a mental health nurse he wished to go home. He now said that he had not intended to take an overdose two days earlier. The nurse, who had read the medical notes, did not challenge this assertion, and assessed Mr Meaney as fit for discharge from a mental health point of view.”

Ruling that his death was suicide, she said: “He had suffered great pain and distress in the months leading up to his death. His physical symptoms had their origin in a mental illness.”

A spokesman for the trust offered “sincere condolences to Mr Meaney’s family for their tragic loss”.

“Our priority is the safety of our service users and we take the issues raised extremely seriously,” the spokesman added: “We are conducting a detailed review and will be formally responding to the coroner in respect of action we need to take as a result.”


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