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Opportunities were missed in case of Suffolk man Richard Handley, NSFT safeguarding chief tells inquest

PUBLISHED: 17:22 31 January 2018 | UPDATED: 18:10 31 January 2018

Several opportunities were missed in the case of a Suffolk man with Down’s Syndrome who died at Ipswich Hospital in 2012, a safeguarding chief at the region’s mental health trust told an inquest.

Saranna Burgess, named nurse for safeguarding and adults at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), gave evidence at an inquest into the death of Richard Handley at Suffolk Coroner’s Court in Ipswich today.

The inquest heard Richard, from Lowestoft, had suffered from lifelong constipation problems and mental health issues, which included psychosis.

Senior Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean told the court one of the trust’s former consultant psychiatrists Dr Salman Ahmad – who saw Richard on a regular basis – was told about concerns regarding his distended stomach by carers, leading him to refer the 33-year-old for an urgent GP appointment.

Dr Dean said Richard’s condition and behaviour appeared to decline in the year before his death at Ipswich Hospital’s A&E on November 17, 2012, from complications of a bowel obstruction.

He added: “Richard was outgoing, chatty, active and friendly.

“He enjoyed swimming and playing board games.

“The level of social interaction over the proceeding 12 months up to his death was noted to be in decline by all of those involved.”

Giving evidence, Ms Burgess – who carried out an individual management review (IMR) for NSFT after Richard’s death – said there were missed opportunities to discuss Richard’s case within the multi-disclipinary Community Learning Disability Team.

She told the hearing: “I think there were several missed opportunities – the change in Richard’s accommodation, the change in Richard’s behaviour.

“These were occasions when the psychiatrist could have discussed the case of Richard within the multi-disciplinary team.”

In the IMR, which Dr Dean read to the court, Ms Burgess added it would have been reasonable to expect Dr Ahmad, a specialist in learning disabilities, to physically examine Richard given the level of concern about his appearance.

She said that had the psychiatrist discussed the case and considered the potential link between physical and behavioural symptoms, Richard may have been admitted to hospital earlier.

The inquest, expected to last two weeks, continues tomorrow.

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