Coroner raises concern at NHS trust’s lack of crisis planning for teenager who took own life

An NHS trust’s mental health service has been criticised for failing to have a plan to deal with children in crisis following the inquest into the death of a troubled teenager.

Ellis Murphy-Richards (pictured) was 15 when he died after being hit by a train on September 30 2020, an inquest in Maidstone heard.

He lived with his grandmother in Faversham, Kent, and his death came weeks before his 16th birthday.

Ellis, a transgender teenager, had struggled with mental health and self-harm and had previously attempted to take his own life.

Assistant coroner Sonia Hayes recorded a verdict of suicide but said she would be preparing a report to prevent future deaths about ongoing concerns about the policies of North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs).

The inquest heard that shortly before his death, Ellis expressed suicidal intentions during a counselling session.

His family was informed he should be taken to A&E but Ellis was allowed to leave and walk to Sheppey, Kent, where he was hit by a train.

At the conclusion of the inquest, Ms Hayes criticised the care and safety plan put in place for Ellis, particularly that there were no contingency plans if he did not co-operate.

Bola Awogboro, caseworker at the charity INQUEST who supports the family, said: “It is shocking that a service caring for young people with complex mental health needs has no policy for responding to children in crisis.

“The mental health professionals who spoke to Ellis on the day of his death knew urgent interventions were required, yet their plans were reliant on A&E, the police, and Ellis’ family.

“His family were given little support, information, or options to help protect him. These clear issues must be addressed urgently, not only in Kent but nationally, to ensure other young people in crisis are protected and their families are supported.”

Ellis’ mother, Natasha Murphy, who has previously expressed fears that he may have been exposed to potentially harmful content on social media app TikTok, said: “My hope and the promise, which I made to Ellis in the eulogy I read at his funeral, was to do whatever I can to make sure other young people get the support Ellis did not.

“I am pleased that a prevention for future deaths report will be written, although am fearful that the trust will not change their policies to protect others or learn lessons from Ellis’s death.

“I feel Ellis’s death could have been prevented, like all suicides, and was not inevitable.”

Clare Evans, of Taylor Rose MW solicitors, who represents the family, said: “The inquest has heard shocking evidence of individual and systemic failures on the part of Camhs.”

A lawyer for NELFT told the inquest that appropriate steps had been taken to safeguard Ellis’ life.

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