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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Carlisle lawyer’s wife tells inquest clinic let them down

The wife of a leading lawyer says she and her late husband felt let down and abandoned after he was discharged from a psychiatric clinic.

Nicholas Richards photo
Nicholas Richards

Related: Carlisle lawyer was worried over his health, inquest told

Frances Richards says her husband – who was found hanged a month after his discharge from Carlisle’s Carleton Clinic – was left feeling “completely lost” with nothing left to hang on to.

She raised concerns about the medical care Nicholas Richards received in the lead-up to his death, telling an inquest she was dumbfounded when the decision to discharge him was made.

Earlier, a doctor told the hearing that Mr Richards, 50, had been discharged with as much support and care as possible.

A coroner heard that Mr Richards, who was found dead in the garden behind his home in Etterby, on August 2, 2011, had battled depression for 16 years.

In her evidence, Mrs Richards said the care given to her husband in the Hadrian Unit at the Carleton Clinic varied widely in the levels of competence and sensitivity shown by staff.

She said the treatment was erratic and poorly structured and often her husband told her he had not seen a member of staff all day. She said communication was poor, with plans not followed through, and she had concerns about the accuracy of records being kept.

She described how her husband had become anxious and depressed leading up to his discharge from the clinic.

She added: “Nothing I said seemed to make any difference or give him reassurance.”

An appointment had been made for him to see a specialist in Newcastle on September 8.

On the third day of his inquest in Cockermouth, some of the medical professionals involved in his care gaveevidence.

Fiona Brundish, from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, summarised the findings of an investigation that was launched after the tragedy.

She described how Mr Richards had come to the Trust for treatment after suffering severe anxiety, panic attacks and clinical depression. He had also shown a tendency to catastrophise, seeing worst case scenarios. The Trust gave him intensive support.

She confirmed that at the time of his discharge, on July 7, 2011, his suicide risk was assessed as high but the previous month he had signed a contract promising not to harm himself for the sake of his family.

Earlier the inquest had heard how in the months before his discharge Mr Richards has self-harmed a number of times, on one occasion jumping into a river with his wrists tied and another time cutting his wrist on a saw.

But Mr Richards’ wife Frances said she felt that her husband had been calmer whilst he was an in-patient at the clinic’s Hadrian Unit, although the staff there concluded he was using the unit as a crutch.

They believed that he felt more hopeless while he was an in-patient and that the other patients reminded him of what he feared his future might be.

“Discharge home was about normalising his life again,” said Ms Brundish.

The Trust investigation concluded that Mr Richards was given a comprehensive package of treatment which included psychological intervention and individual clinician time, all of which was consistent with national NHS guidelines.

The hearing continues.

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