Turned away just hours before tragedy

JUST hours after being turned away from a mental health hospital, a suicidal Ipswich woman plunged to her death from a fourth-floor flat.Ruth Walker, of Woolverstone Close, died on May 7 having been told she did not need to be admitted to the St Clement's Hospital the previous night.

JUST hours after being turned away from a mental health hospital, a suicidal Ipswich woman plunged to her death from a fourth-floor flat.

Ruth Walker, of Woolverstone Close, died on May 7 having been told she did not need to be admitted to the St Clement's Hospital the previous night.

After an afternoon spent hitting walls and threatening to kill herself, her desperate husband John had taken her to the hospital so she could get help and he could have some respite.

But a staff nurse and doctor who assessed her decided she did not need to be admitted to hospital and could go home.


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Mrs Walker, 49, had made past "impulsive and explosive" suicide attempts, including one at Ipswich Station in October when she laid down on a railway track, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes.

Mr Walker, a window cleaner, said: "We went to St Clement's for help and we didn't get it.

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"We were desperate. I could not go to sleep at home in case she hurt herself. But they gave her some tablets said she would be better in two days.

"I couldn't cope that day, let alone for another 48 hours. I found that baffling."

Mrs Walker left the hospital in a very distressed state, having wanted to stay there. It took two staff nurses to help Mr Walker get his wife in the car.

While travelling home, she made two attempts to jump out, prompting Mr Walker to call the hospital to tell them what had happened.

Mr Walker, speaking at the inquest in his wife's death, at Ipswich Crown Court, said: "The person I spoke to said she would speak to the assessment team and get back to me. That call never came."

This has prompted an internal review of procedure at the hospital, something welcomed by Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean.

Dr Dean also called for families to be given more information about their relative's illnesses and for more respite care to be offered to carers.

The inquest heard a crisis resolution home treatment service will be launched in October to address this issue.

Staff nurse Liz Everett and Dr Aezad Naseem carried out the assessment on Mrs Walker.

Mrs Everett said the decision not to admit her was made partly on past experience.

She said: "Mrs Walker seemed quite calm by the time we saw her. She expressed no death wish and said she wanted to feel better.

"In the past we'd assessed Mrs Walker and not admitted her and things had calmed down. This looked like a familiar pattern."

She added if she had been told of Mrs Walker's actions after leaving the hospital, she would have reassessed her.

The morning after the assessment, having been left alone for two hours, Mr Walker returned home to find his wife had fallen from the window.

The inquest heard she died of multiple injuries and a narrative verdict was recorded. Dr Dean said he could not be sure Mrs Walker intended the result of her actions.

His verdict took into consideration the fact no one returned Mr Walker's call and the need to review methods of assessment given to patients. He added communication needs to be improved at the hospital to prevent similar tragedies happening again.

A spokesman for the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership confirmed an internal review is taking place and would not comment further until this is completed.

A GRIEVING widower today paid tribute to his "kind and considerate" wife.

John Walker had been married to Ruth for 22 years, having met her while she was on holiday in Thetford, where he lived.

Mrs Walker, along with her two sisters, brother and parents, lived in Dovercourt, Essex at the time.

The pair soon became attracted to one another, marrying 20 months later in the bride's hometown.

Work commitments saw them move to Ipswich around 20 years ago, where they have been ever since.

Mr Walker said: "Ruth was a kind and considerate person who was loved by her family and friends. She is sorely missed by us all.

"She helped people where she could and was very close to her family."

Mr Walker said he wanted to thank the Iceni Project, the Bridge House Clubhouse Mental Health Facility and social services.

"The family found their support a great help," he said.

Mrs Walker's parents, Irene and Peter Peacock, sisters Alison Dodd and Miriam Amos, along with brother-in-law Giles Amos, sat through the inquest alongside Mr Walker.

Afterwards, the family said they were happy with the coroner's verdict.

Opinion - see page 4

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