'Inadequate NHS care' for UEA student found dead in room, inquest told

Theo Brennan-Hulme 

Theo Brennan-Hulme - Credit: Contributed

Mental health care offered to a Norwich student who took his own life was inadequate, a coroner has said. 

The conclusion of the inquest into the death of first year University East Anglia (UEA) student Theo Brennan-Hulme took place on Wednesday afternoon.

The 21-year-old English Literature and Creative Writing student - from Stoke-on-Trent - was found inside his campus room on March 12, 2019 after cleaners had been unable to gain access the day before.

Senior coroner for Norfolk, Jacqueline Lake, gave a conclusion of suicide stating the circumstances showed Mr Brennan-Hulme had intended to die "on the balance of probability". 

She added a short narrative that a mental health assessment carried out on February 28, 2019 was inadequate.

The senior coroner said there was a breach of systemic duty by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

She said: "I am surprised the trust was still seeking to place responsibility for what happened on staff incompetence instead of the systems in place."

The court had earlier heard Mr Brennan-Hulme had referred himself to the UEA's wellbeing service due to low mood and depression in September 2018. 

The University of East Anglia has been told to pay £55,000 compensation to a lecturer who was unfair

The University of East Anglia - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

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He had previously been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

Ms Lake told the court Mr Brennan-Hulme had been struggling with life at university due to a combination of academic stresses and a breakdown in relations with his housemates.

The court heard he had been seeking support, but also became increasingly anxious missing classes and turning to alcohol and drugs.

A statement released by Mr Brennan-Hulme's parents Esther Brennan and Andrew Hulme said: "The University of East Anglia and the psychiatric emergency service denied our dear son Theo a fighting chance to live.

"Between them the university and psychiatric emergency service rejected Theo’s known high risk state and only enabled further isolation and hopelessness with no further signpost for care; a most desperate place for him to be."

The university has said it signposts vulnerable students to NHS provision and is working to identify improvements to the effectiveness of their support.

The trust has acknowledged Mr Brennan-Hulme should have been accepted for treatment instead of being sent back to university alone.

The Samaritans helpline is on offer on 116 123 24 hours a day.