The parents of a young Ipswich woman who passed away while under the care of Suffolk's mental health trust have expressed concerns over an MP working there.

Lisa and James Woolnough, whose daughter Ellen died in July 2022, have asked how MP Dan Poulter could remain confident of him dealing with grievances relating to Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) while employed there.

Dr Poulter, who is MP for central Suffolk and north Ipswich, declared in his register of members’ interests that he has been employed on a flexible contract at the trust since February 12.

He works as a part-time NHS consultant psychiatrist, earning £7,237 per month.

Mr and Ms Woolnough said: "What guarantees and assurances can he offer his constituents that he can support them without prejudice when faced with issues concerning NSFT? 

"Our confidence and trust and that of other families and service users does not rate highly or positively when it comes to NSFT.

"How on earth could a constituent of MP Dan Poulter have confidence of a truthful outcome if they have a grievance with NSFT that psychiatrist Dr Dan Poulter works for? 

"It's like marking your own homework."

Ellen, known to friends and family as Ellie, was under the care of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) at the time of her death, having been diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).

Ipswich Star: Dan Poulter, MP for central Suffolk and north Ipswich.Dan Poulter, MP for central Suffolk and north Ipswich. (Image: Archant)

The 27-year-old had struggled with her mental health since the age of six.

The inquest into her death in February concluded with presiding coroner Darren Stewart OBE ruling that Miss Woolnough had taken her own life while struggling with the diagnosed condition of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder.

A prevention of future death report sent to NSFT by Suffolk Coroner's court was released on Monday. 

Mr Stewart said that he could not say for sure that Miss Woolnough’s interactions with NSFT on May 20 or July 19 directly led to her death, but he did find that both interactions had been “inadequate” and “missed opportunities” to productively engage with her.

A prevention of future deaths report into the incident on March 28 found action should be taken by the trust to prevent future incidences occurring.

The report noted concerns with training, processes within urgent referrals, and preserving evidence such as phone calls between Ellie and the NSFT crisis handler for conducting an inquest.

A spokesperson for Suffolk User Forum said: "SUF is unsurprised that some people most affected by mental health services in Suffolk perceive a conflict of interest.

"Our question of NSFT is how in their employer procedures and practices, and in anticipation of circumstances which may arise, they can provide reassurance to people."

A spokesperson for the mental health campaign group, Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, added: "We are very disappointed that Mr Poulter has not chosen to prioritise the needs of his constituents by robustly holding the trust to account."

Ipswich Star: Jayne Stevens is the chief officer at the Suffolk User Forum, which strives to be a voice for mental health service users.Jayne Stevens is the chief officer at the Suffolk User Forum, which strives to be a voice for mental health service users. (Image: Suffolk User Forum)

Dr Poulter said: “Like many MPs who are also doctors and who practice in their own constituencies, such as Dr Caroline Johnson and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, I am very proud to work and support patients in my own constituency here in Suffolk. 

"I have previously worked locally at the James Paget Hospital and am now proud to work for NSFT, bringing my clinical expertise to the trust and its patients. 

"Working locally here in Suffolk better informs me about the local NHS and therefore enables me to be a stronger advocate for the needs of local patients.

“As I have always done, I continue to hold robust conversations and to hold NSFT to account on behalf of my constituents and I will continue to do so in my role as the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.”

If you need urgent mental health support call NHS 111 and select option 2, or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week