Ipswich: Mental health boss - our failures as nine lives lost

SUFFOLK: Mental health bosses have today come clean and admitted failings following a spree of killings over a two-year period.

The Evening Star has been handed an independent report by the trust, which reveals deep concerns about the organisation’s management in light of nine killings, allegedly carried out by people who had received care from the trust at one time.

Among them was 17-year-old Lorraine Thorpe from Ipswich, who was convicted of the murders of her father Des Thorpe and Rosalyn Hunt in August 2009, and Rodney Greenland, from Ipswich, who is serving time after being found guilty of the murder of Ipswich hair stylist Simon Amers in July 2009.

The trust’s new chief executive Aidan Thomas has today reassured the public that the criticisms in the report were focused on the way the trust operated rather than care the patients received.

The report raises several concerns, which were triggered after the deaths because certain actions were not undertaken.

The killings all occurred between May 2009 and February 2011.

The chief failings include:

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n poor nursing leadership

n badly kept health records

n concerns over governance issues

n low morale among staff

n patients with multiple problems dealt with inappropriately.

Some of the other people who have allegedly carried out the nine killings and previously received care under the trust include Darren Weatherley from Needham, near Harleston, who admitted manslaughter after killing his mother, and John McFarlane from Bury St Edmunds, who is behind bars for killing Mary Griffiths.

The others cannot be named as the cases are ongoing.

Mr Thomas said: “In every case you can find that there are things you could have done differently and if done differently, the person would still be alive.

“However, even if you implement all these things, you cannot promise there would not be another outcome but the chances of it happening are diminished.”

The report, prepared by an independent team, states: “There is no single office in the trust which retains responsibility for investigating and following through on the homicides.”

It says that as a result almost no-one, inside or outside the trust, knows exactly how many have occurred and therefore lessons were not learned.

It continues: “No organisation could hope to implement each of these [action plans] independently but the track record of implementation even of the early reports when fewer existed is, in any case, poor.”

Dr Dan Poulter, a hospital doctor who is MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: “The trust has accepted there are a lot of things that needed to be put right. What happened was there was the focus was on St Clement’s and not with working with people in the community. These very tragic events have helped facilitate a re-think into how services are going to be delivered.”

Paul Watson, NHS Suffolk’s chief executive, said: “There were clearly serious issues which needed to be urgently addressed, which is why we commissioned a thorough external review to take place.

“The improvements are being made within SMHPT, which is following a thorough process which will be regularly reviewed. There is more to do and we will support and monitor SMHPT as it makes those further improvements.

“NHS Suffolk buys and manages mental health services for people in Suffolk. We have monitoring processes, including contract review meetings, checking incident reports and complaint forms.”

n Are you a family member who has had experience of these issues? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.