Coroner's concern at suicide

A CORONER has asked mental health bosses in Suffolk to review their procedures after a schizophrenic jumped to his death off the Orwell Bridge - days after his pleas to be admitted to hospital were rejected.

A MAJOR review of mental health procedures was today underway after an inquest heard how a schizophrenic's pleas for help went unheard - days before he took his own life.

Stephen Woodruffe was referred to St Clements Hospital in Ipswich by drugs charity Norcas after he confessed to not taking his medication for a fortnight.

But his request to be admitted to hospital was rejected by a mental health nurse who opted against making a face-to-face assessment of his condition - instead making a judgement following a telephone conversation.

The nurse, Sue Lindsay, said she could not elicit any symptoms of psychosis in his voice and gave the 28-year-old a 24-hour crisis number to call.

Days later, on June 9 last year, degree student Mr Woodruffe, of St George's Street, Ipswich, jumped to his death off the Orwell Bridge.

Greater Suffolk coroner Peter Dean, sitting at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, said lessons needed to be learned from the tragedy.

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“There are clearly issues around the ability to fully assess a set of circumstances on the telephone rather than physically seeing a patient,” he said.

“It does appear his problems at the time did not seem to be related specifically to psychosis although he himself, knowing his condition, was worried he was about to become psychotic. Is that not enough information, given the history you're aware of, to trigger a face-to-face assessment to pick up not just the symptoms but also the signs?

“His one attempt to get himself admitted to a hospital that, by his own admission, he didn't like very much was not even met with a mental health assessment. I think lessons need to be learnt about the way people approach these things.”

Today, Nicola Brown from Suffolk Mental Health Trust said procedure was followed to the letter - but confirmed a review of the guidelines would be conducted.

However, she said if those procedures were found to be sound, no changes would be made.

Robert Bolas, deputy chief executive and director of nursing at the Suffolk Mental Health Trust, added: “The outcome was tragic but I have listened to the evidence and recognised we will need to look at our current systems again in terms of telephone evidence gathering”