Hospital turned couple away before man killed wife and himself, inquest told

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A mentally-ill man killed his wife and then himself hours after the “inseparable couple” were turned away from an A&E department where they had tried to seek help, an inquest heard.

Thomas Kemp, 32, had threatened to kill himself with a knife in the early hours of August 6 last year and his 31-year-old wife Katherine Kemp dialled 999.

Police arrived at their Ipswich flat while Mrs Kemp was still on the phone to the ambulance service and found them to be calm.

Officers gave them a lift to Ipswich Hospital, but the couple were turned away by the mental health crisis team who mistakenly believed the episode was about Mr Kemp’s anxiety over the size of his penis, the hearing in Ipswich was told.

Mr Kemp had previously been assessed as suffering from anxiety, body dysmorphic ideas and paranoid delusions.

He was due to meet with the psychiatric liaison team later that morning.

Suffolk area coroner Jacqueline Devonish said that the failure to consider alternatives to discharge from hospital was a “missed opportunity to have done something effective to prevent these deaths”.

Recording narrative conclusions, she said that Mr Kemp stabbed his wife to death during a psychotic episode when Mrs Kemp tried to prevent him from harming himself with a knife.

Mr Kemp cut himself then fell from a window and bled to death.

She said the deaths were contributed to by Mr Kemp’s “non-compliance with prescribed medication” and the “failure of the crisis response team to see (Mrs Kemp) and her husband and undertake an assessment” when they went to hospital earlier that morning.

The coroner added: “Thomas loved Katherine and wouldn’t have knowingly hurt her.”

A&E receptionist Mandy Mckenzie previously told the hearing that when the Kemps arrived at the department Mrs Kemp told her “please can you help, he has knives and is going to harm himself”.

“Mrs Kemp was very distressed and tearful and kept asking for help,” she said.

“Mr Kemp made no eye contact and kept looking at the desk.

“Mrs Kemp kept holding onto his arm.”

Triage nurse Maria Tabar, who said she assessed Mr Kemp as high risk then told the crisis team, said during her evidence that the crisis team told her: “You know the problem? Suicidal thoughts are not the problem, it was his manhood.”

Coroner Ms Devonish said: “Her evidence was they were just laughing about Thomas.

“She was surprised and couldn’t understand.”

Ms Devonish said that she found Ms Tabar to be a “credible, hard-working and sympathetic professional”.

In a statement read by barrister Jonathan Metzer after the conclusions were read out, the family of Mr Kemp said: “Both Thomas and Katherine reached out for help and they were discharged.”

They said the pair were “failed”, adding: “We don’t want to see the pain our family are experiencing repeated.”

Diane Hull, chief nurse of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), said after the hearing that the trust had commissioned a review and identified areas for improvement, including team working and communications.

“There is an absolute need to learn what went wrong and why, so that services can be improved and, most importantly, prevent another family suffering what Mr and Mrs Kemp’s families have been through,” she said.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Chris Radburn / PA Wire.