Hudgell Solicitors is supporting the family of a man who died when falling from the Humber Bridge after being allowed to leave a Hull mental health facility alone, just 24 hours after attempting to kill himself.
Father-of-one Stephen Hope, 45, was being treated at Newbridges inpatient unit in east Hull.
He had been diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder, along with other mental and behavioural disorders, and was sectioned on February 28 of this year, following an attempted overdose.Mr Hope, who had a long history of drug abuse, often expressed suicidal thoughts due to methadone withdrawal.
However, following treatment he was downgraded to an “informal patient”, as staff classed him as low-risk when assessed on March 26, meaning he was no longer under constant supervision and could leave the unit for short periods.
As reported in the Hull Daily Mail, Hull Coroner’s Court was told that the following morning, police found him on railway tracks after a ‘near-miss’ with a train at St George’s level crossing in Hull.
He told police he had “bottled it” and that he “could not believe” he had not gone through with suicide.
When brought back to Newbridges, a consultant psychiatrist concluded that Mr Hope was not at risk of seriously harming himself as he was calm and relaxed when assessed, and he was due to be discharged on April 1.
Mr Hope expressed his wish to go to alternative accommodation at The Wilson Centre the following day, with the psychiatrist noting that he should be accompanied, and also given help to arrange his benefits and accommodation.
However, Mr Hope was actually allowed to leave by himself the next morning, and instead went to Humber Bridge, where he was seen on CCTV falling from the railings.
A jury at Hull Cororner’s Court gave a verdict of suicide following a three-day inquest.
Solicitor Hayley Collinson, who is representing the family, said the inquest had highlighted a number of issues regarding Mr Hope’s care under the Humber NHS Foundation Trust.
She said: “It is accepted that care planning for Stephen unfortunately fell some way below the standard required and expected.
“Given his history of trying to harm himself, and having spoken of his intention to commit suicide just the previous day, it is somewhat surprising and concerning that Stephen was allowed to leave the Newbridges Unit unaccompanied on the day of his death.
“There was a clear communication failing at Newbridges, as the consultant psychiatrist who assessed him specifically requested that he be escorted to the Wilson Centre when leaving.
“It did not happen, as unfortunately this stipulation was not recorded on the patient notes, but instead entered into a diary which was only seen by a staff nurse after Stephen had left alone.
“Mr Hope didn’t go to the Wilson Centre, but instead to the Humber Bridge, where he fell to his death.
“As was highlighted by the coroner, we too strongly feel that ‘alarm bells’ should have been ringing when allowing Stephen to leave unaccompanied just 24 hours after being in such a vulnerable mental state.
“Having heard all the evidence, we will now be advising the family with regards to potentially pursuing a clinical negligence claim in this sad case.”
Stephen’s mother, Janet Powdrell, said: “It has been clear from evidence that opportunities were missed to prevent a much-loved son, father and uncle from taking his own life.
“I am disappointed that as his family, we were not regularly kept informed of Stephen’s state of mind, and of his care.
“I firstly wasn’t told he had moved from Miranda House to Newbridges, and when I called there I was told Stephen had left the unit that morning and had headed towards Holderness Road.
“They told me he was going to the Wilson Centre and I took that to mean he wasn’t on section anymore, and I presumed he was maybe coming to visit me, but he never did. Had someone escorted him there he may well still be with us today.
“Stephen absolutely doted on his daughter Molly and was in general brilliant with children. He was a happy-go-lucky man who loved all his nieces and nephews, and they loved him back. He will be missed by all of his family, and we hope that lessons are learned as a result of our loss.”