The North Essex Partnership NHS Trust admitted in January 2016 that Richard’s death “could have been avoided”
Richard Wade’s parents saw their son “on the floor” as he attempted to take his own life hours after being admitted to a mental health unit.
The 30-year-old was found ligatured just 12 hours after being admitted to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford, Essex, in May 2015, while his parents had come to visit him.
Richard was admitted due to fears that he would take his own life if not sectioned, and his parents claim he went there “to be safe”.
But in January 2016, the North Essex Partnership Trust (NEP) admitted failings in the care they provided Richard, and the organisation accepted that if the failings hadn’t occurred, Richard wouldn’t have died when he did.
In a letter sent to Robert and Linda Wade that same month, NEP confirmed that their son’s death “could have been avoided”.
The couple are now fighting for a statutory public inquiry in search of “justice” for the families affected by failings under the care of Essex’s mental health services.
“An extraordinary man”
Right from his early childhood, it was clear Richard was a man of many talents.
He studied economics at university before undertaking a masters degree in history, and he completed a PHD in political science.
In 2013, he even published his own book based around the Conservative party’s economic policy.
And on top of his educational achievements, Richard’s parents say he was an “extraordinary man”.
“He was studious, profoundly interested in anything and everything around him,” Robert said. “He was fun, full of energy and he had a great bunch of mates.
He had an incredible sense of humour and a monstrous political understanding.
“When he died he thought he had no friends, but 100 was all we could fit in at his funeral.
“He did in 30 years what most people don’t do in a lifetime.”
He had goals and aspirations, many of which he had already achieved, but his life was cut tragically short five years ago when his mental health took a serious downturn.
“He’s very much missed,” Linda said. “As a family we were close, we travelled together and did a lot of things together and it’s left a big gaping hole.”
When Richard left university at 22, he developed a fixation on thinking he had motor neurone disease.
He became depressed as a result, but his mental state appeared to improve in the years that followed until the depression resurfaced just a couple of weeks before he died.
Even to this day, neither Robert or Linda have been able to find out why.
Linda explained: “I said have you been to the doctor and got a diagnosis? He said no, he looked up what he was feeling on the internet.
“I took him to a specialist to tell him that he didn’t have it, but when someone suffers from depression they can get a fixed belief that they’ve got something.
“It’s in their head and that’s what he thought he had.”
Richard worked as an accountant in the city, and he moved to Chelmsford from the family home in Sudbury in order to cut down the commute.
All seemed to be going well, until he returned home in May 2015.
“Two weeks before he lost his life he came here and he was off,” Robert said. “Linda asked if it was motor neurone disease again and he said yes.
“At that point, we knew the challenge we had.”
On May 16, the day Richard was admitted to the Linden Centre, he became “extremely agitated” and it was becoming almost impossible to get him out of that state.
Just as the family were preparing dinner, they noticed Richard had gone outside to the front of the house.
Robert claims Richard had called the police and asked them to section him because he thought he was going to harm himself.
The crisis team from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust soon turned up, but Richard had to wait outside for “hours” while both they and NEP decided where was best to send him, his parents claim.
“Richard had to walk up and down the road for four hours escorted by the police,” Robert said. “He was out there so long that the temperature had dropped.
“We were taking out tea, sandwiches and coats while the man was in crisis about ending his own life.”
At around 11.30pm that evening, Richard was admitted to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford.
A spokesperson for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “We were very sorry to hear about Richard’s death and offer our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
“Whenever someone is in crisis, we always endeavour to make decisions as quickly as possible, while ensuring that they receive the care they need by working with the person, their families, carers and our partners.
“It can take time to do that.”
Five minutes late to seeing their son alive
In December 2015, NEP published their Serious Incident Investigation Report, in which a number of failings into Richard’s care were addressed.
It also made reference to Robert and Linda’s visit to the Linden Centre on May 17 when they witnessed their son lying on a bathroom floor as he attempted to take his own life.
His parents claim they were just minutes too late to seeing their son alive.
Robert said: “We left here, driving as fast as we could, legally.
“It was at Freeport in Braintree where they had a little sale on so all the cars were stacked up, and that was all it took to be just those few minutes too late.”
When they arrived, they claim no member of staff was visible and no one was on reception.
And they claim that when a nurse did let them in, the couple weren’t asked to produce any form of ID before they were taken onto the ward, one of the claims backed up in the Trust’s own report.
Staff then began trying to find out where Richard was.
“We then started walking down the corridor,” Robert explained. “I’m beginning to wonder what’s going on here, this is wrong.”
There are then two separate scenarios as to how Richard came to be found in the bathroom at the end of the corridor, confirmed by both Richard’s parents and the Trust, in which two different sets of two nurses claim to have opened to door to discover Richard’s body.
It was the bathroom that was in Robert and Linda’s direct line of sight.
“Somebody else shouted out ‘he’s in the shower’ and the alarm went off,” Robert said. “But the door was shut.
“They hadn’t been in the bathroom, we were there looking at the bathroom door.
“Pandemonium broke out, total chaos, no one had a clue what they were doing,” Robert claims.
One nurse ran past us and she ran down, then a male nurse ran past us. They then ran down to the end and when I looked back the door was open, those two had opened the door.
“When the door was open we could see Richard’s legs on the floor and his head was behind, then people were piling in.
“We had to make the terrible choice which was to let them do their job and we went to what we were told was a family room by the reception.”
NEP’s internal report also found that Richard had been left with a number of contraband items when he was admitted into the centre.
“On the searching of his bag they left him with razor blades, scissors and electrical chords,” Robert said. “Despite the fact that they knew he was suicidal.”
Paramedics unable to access the ward
As medical staff rushed to the Finchingfield Ward, Robert and Linda claim at least one paramedic with an oxygen tank was left stuck outside the main entrance as no member was staff was in the reception area to let them in.
Robert said: “I had to go over to one of their people and I made it abundantly clear that one way or the other his swipe card was going over to the door.
“There was a delay in getting oxygen to Richard as well.”
The couple next saw their son once he had been moved to the intensive care unit at Broomfield Hospital.
They explained that Richard was in “such a terrible state”.
“When we first saw him in the intensive care unit I couldn’t stand there for more than one or two seconds before I had to leave the room,” Robert said.
Linda added: “He was taken out to an ambulance and we followed.
“That was Sunday and on the Thursday morning they met with us to tell us they were going to turn off the machines.
“I asked the nurse how has this happened? He came in to be cared for.
“It’s disbelief really, he went there to be safe.”
Richard passed away on Thursday, May 21, four days after attempting to take his own life at the Linden Centre.
A spokesperson for EPUT said: “We extend our deepest sympathies to Richard’s loved ones.
“We continuously strive to improve care, with patient safety at the centre of everything we do. New safety measures have been installed across our mental health inpatient services to protect our patients; including at the Linden Centre.
“We continue to cooperate fully with ongoing investigations into the care of patients under the former North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.”
Fighting for a public inquiry
Robert and Linda have now joined the fight to secure a statutory public inquiry into the county’s mental health services.
They, along with around 20 other Essex families who believe their relatives were failed by the system, want to see change and “justice” for their loved ones.
“The stories are just awful for everybody,” Robert said. “The consequences for the families are pretty much the same, it’s just the path to that is its own horror.
We need a public inquiry so it’s done in an environment where it’s appropriate for this evidence to come out.
“Some families just haven’t got the resources to deal with any of this.
“They must look at the challenges facing them and think they haven’t got the means to get from where they are to any form of justice.”
Credit: Elliott Hawkins. https://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/parents-chelmsford-man-saw-son-4548618