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Medics wrong to discharge depressed Carlisle lawyer from care - coroner

Doctors were wrong to discharge a severely depressed man from care less than a month before he killed himself, a coroner has ruled.

Nicholas Richards photo
Nicholas Richards

Related: Carlisle lawyer’s wife tells inquest clinic let them down

Nicholas Richards, 50, was found hanged in his back garden just weeks after being discharged from Carlisle’s Carleton Clinic.

Mr Richards, a father-of-three and leading lawyer at Carlisle firm Cartmell Shepherd, had struggled with depression for 16 years.

During the four-day inquest his widow, Frances Richards, raised concerns about the medical care he received in the lead-up to his death, on August 2, 2011.

Mrs Richards said she had to battle hard to get her husband medical care.

She told Robert Chapman, assistant coroner for north and west Cumbria, that she was “dumbfounded” when he was discharged on July 7, 2011.

Mr Chapman shared her concerns as he delivered a narrative conclusion , saying it was clear that Mr Richards killed himself at a time of immense anxiety and hopelessness.

He said: “I am told that the discharge on July 7 led to feeling of complete hopelessness for the future.

“I should say that having heard from doctors in the team, I am sure they were doing their best treating what was clearly a very complex case.

“I think that while it would be necessary for him to be discharged, it was just the wrong decision to make on July 7, at a time when they were aware of his reliance on them and when his stress was going to be at its maximum.”

Within the previous weeks Mr Richards had cut his wrist on a circular saw, put ligatures around his neck, and jumped into a river with his hands tied.

After he was discharged the family went on a holiday to Cornwall from July 12 to 22, but it was described as a “disaster”.

During the break Mr Richards went to the edge of a cliff and contemplated jumping.

Mrs Richards said that the care given to her husband in the Hadrian Unit at the Carleton Clinic had varied hugely in the levels of competence and sensitivity displayed.

Following at the conclusion of the inquest Mrs Richards, represented by a legal team from Burnetts, said: “We are grateful to the coroner for his very thorough investigation and glad that he agreed with us that it was the wrong decision to discharge Nick when he was still relying so heavily on the in-patient team.”

A Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said after the hearing: “We offer our sincere condolences to Mr Richards’ family at what must be a very difficult time.

“We have taken his death very seriously and immediately undertook an internal investigation. We have listened to what the coroner has said and will review the findings in detail.”


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