Family of Clayhall suicide victim speak out over mental health trust concerns

Simon Peter Harris

Simon Peter Harris - Credit: Archant

The grandmother of a 30-year-old man who took his own life in Goodmayes Hospital says she feels “sick to her stomach” that lessons have not been learnt.

News this week that inspectors have criticised the mental health trust in charge for failing to protect patients at risk of suicide, led to the family of Simon Harris speaking of their concerns that “nothing has changed”.

Simon, 30, of Clayhall, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and body dysmorphic disorder.

He was found dead on December 20, 2014 at the hospital, in Barley Lane, which is run by the North East London NHS Foundation Trust (Nelft).

In April last year, an inquest jury concluded that neglect had contributed to Simon’s death, and the trust admitted failings.

Now, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) says the trust “requires improvement”, with the report finding that vulnerable patients at risk of hanging themselves were not kept safe.

Brenda Robinson, 69, of Clayhall, said she felt “disgusted” after seeing the report.

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She said: “I just want to know, what has changed?

“The report says there have been five serious incidents in a year, including suicide. How is that still happening?”

When Brenda learnt about Simon’s death, she screamed so loud her neighbours thought she had been attacked.

Simon’s mother Sharon Harris, 50, broke down next to her mother in the early hours of December 21, 2014.

Simon was taken to the Ogura ward, Goodmayes Hospital, Barley Lane, after police found him at Goodmayes station at 1.30am on December 14.

Brenda said: “We were so relieved that he was in there, we thought he was safe.

“Now I wish we had never let him stay in there.”

Simon loved art and was “always smiling”, said Sharon.

“He is so terribly missed by all his family,” she added.

“He has missed new nieces and nephews, and life going on.”

Brenda said: “We miss that lovely smile every day.

“Simon was so smart and hated the feeling of being spaced-out on his medication.”

After the inquest, the family received an email apology from the trust, which missed out Simon’s brother Liam.

At the time of going to press, a Nelft spokesman confirmed that a formal letter has now been sent.

Stephanie Dawe, the trust’s chief nurse and executive director of integrated care, said: “If the family did receive a response and deemed it inappropriate, then that’s something we would need to go back to.

“Sorry isn’t enough, and nor would it be to me if I were in their shoes.”

Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, said the report raised a number of serious concerns.

He said: “One of the most distressing cases I have come across since becoming an MP involved a deeply saddening suicide on an adult ward at Goodmayes.

“It is a stark reminder of what can go wrong when steps are not taken to properly ensure the safety of patients with mental health needs.

“Dealing with risks, improving safety and giving care must be a priority for the trust to ensure that standards improve.

“Staff must also be properly trained to ensure they are able to give the best care they can.

“I know the trust is dealing with staff shortages and is seeking to improve, and the well established patient experience group is an example of something they are getting right.”

The Samaritans have a 24-hour helpline, call 116 123 for support.