Family calls for Essex mental health inquiry to include mother’s death

Exclusive: Andrea Waddington, who went three months without NHS psychiatric appointment, died after inquiry cut-off date

A man whose mother killed herself after going three months without an NHS psychiatric appointment has said it is wrong that a public inquiry will not investigate her death and others like hers.

The Lampard inquiry is looking into the deaths of almost 2,000 mental health patients in Essex since 2000 but Andrea Waddington’s will not be included because it occurred in February, after the inquiry’s chosen cut-off date of the end of last year. Additionally, Waddington, who was 59 when she died, does not qualify because she was being treated in the community.

Her son James, 29, said the exclusion did not make sense. “The experience of an outpatient is just as bad if not worse,” he said. “And although she passed [away] outside of the period, obviously the difficulties in her treatment journey were within the last year, so it’s still in the period.”

He also said he had been told there were no beds available even if she were to have been sectioned.

James said his mother was sectioned in 2012, put on an antidepressant and was well until the beginning of last year when her own mother fell ill. He said her mental health went downhill after a doctor responded by changing her medication, and the type and dose changed frequently over the next few months.

When she began having suicidal thoughts, a mental health crisis team started to make visits but then stopped, he said. James estimated that his mother had five psychiatrist appointments in a year, three of which were by phone.

In October last year a psychiatrist told Waddington they were leaving the area, and the next appointment, which was on the phone, was not until 2 February, when another psychiatrist said they too were leaving, James said. Two days later his father found her dead in the loft.

“You’ve got a three-month window where you’ve had no help from the NHS and yet her thoughts were still the same,” James said. “During that period of October to February, there was no one involved. The mental health team could have stepped in and said ‘OK, because you haven’t got a psychiatrist, we’ll resume the visits’. There was basically nothing – just a void.

“If I put myself in my mum’s mind, she’s been waiting all that time, you finally have a call and the person basically just tells you that [they’re leaving].”

He said that before his mother became unwell last year she was “really bubbly”, and she enjoyed gardening, yoga and playing the piano. “I would have expected another 30 years with her,” he said.

Priya Singh, a senior associate at Hodge Jones & Allen who is representing the family, said there were many others in the same boat. “They have valuable evidence to share and the [inquiry] chair needs to give urgent consideration to the position regarding such families,” she said.

Ann Sheridan, an executive nurse at Essex Partnership University NHS foundation trust, said their thoughts were with the Waddingtons and “we are constantly striving to improve care that we offer those with often complex needs. We will of course take onboard any recommendations from a future inquest.”

An inquiry spokesperson said that “unfortunately” there was a “necessity for an end date”, and that including all community care “would significantly broaden the scope beyond the inquiry’s core purpose of examining inpatient deaths”.

Expressing sympathy for his mother’s death, they added: “We would urge Mr Waddington (and anyone impacted) to contact the inquiry, either himself or through his legal representatives.”

Credit The Guardian

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