Mental health boss apologises to widow of man who fell from car park

Andy Mack. Photo: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS FT

Andy Mack, service director of NSFT. Photo: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS FT - Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk NHS FT

A mental health boss has apologised to the widow of a man who fell from a city car park over the level of communication she received during his treatment.

In the months leading up to his death, 54-year-old Christopher Billham was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and treated at Hellesdon Hospital for two-and-a-half weeks.

He was discharged from the hospital on April 8, 2020 and received three follow-ups with the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) over telephone and video call in the weeks that followed.

And while there were initial signs of improvement in his condition, on July 28 he died after falling from a car park in Norwich city centre.

During an eight-day inquest into his death, Mr Billham's wife Sasha raised concerns over the level of communication the health trust had with her during her husband's care.

Mrs Billham's barrister, David Myhill, told the court that while her husband was being treated at the hospital her only contact was directly from him, that she had been given insufficient notice to collect him on discharge and that she felt she was given no opportunity to discuss his treatment privately.

And when questioned during the hearing, Andrew Mack, service director for NSFT, apologised for this breakdown in communication and said learnings from Mr Billham's case were being used to help train some 300 staff members at the trust.

When asked by Mr Myhill if it would be fair to say the way the trust involved her in his treatment was "far from ideal" he said: "That would not be what we expect and I am sorry about that".

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Mr Mack added that since Mr Billham's death,  the trust was making a concerted effort to improve communications with the families and carers of people who were receiving mental health treatment, which now includes having a named point of contact for families of those specifically being treated at Hellesdon.

Meanwhile, a jury reached the conclusion that Mr Billham's death was suicide following a deterioration of his mental health.

Area coroner Yvonne Blake welcomed the additional training being offered to mental health and emergency service staff in light of the incident and made no recommendations for the prevention of future deaths.

If you need help or support, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 both 24/7. Alternatively download the Stay Alive app, which is backed by Suffolk User Forum, if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else.

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