Manchester: Tragic Price Of Mental Health Care Shake-Up

THE M.E.N. today lifts the lid on the human cost of a controversial shake-up in mental health care. William Scott, 49, from Blackley, Manchester, died of multiple stab wounds which his family say were self-inflicted after he lost the support worker he had relied on for eight years.

Mental health workers fear at least one other death is linked to the changes and believe others are at risk. Mr Scott’s relatives say he committed suicide after the carer who visited him three times a week was moved to another job.

Mr Scott, a grandfather, was left without any support at home for three weeks. His family claim to have repeatedly asked for him to be sectioned and taken into hospital as his health suddenly deteriorated.

His death on September 28 is now being investigated by Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, which is also looking into the care of another community patient who died in a fall earlier this month.

The M.E.N. has learned that the patient had also complained about losing her carer.

Since the middle of August, the trust has re-organised its community care team, with staff being shifted around to new roles. Nurses, who have spoken to the M.E.N, say they warned the shake-up, called Change in Mind, was unsafe.

They claim the service is now in meltdown with many people relapsing and patients waiting for beds because there is no room on the wards. One nurse is so worried about her patients she has been visiting them in her own time.

Trust bosses say they cannot discuss Mr Scott’s care or his family’s concerns that he had no visits for three weeks but admit a few patients are waiting for beds. They insist safety has been their main concern during the service changes.

Mr Scott’s daughter, Emma, 24, from Langley, Middleton, said: “We tried repeatedly to get my dad admitted to hospital. I asked them – `Does he have to hurt himself or someone else before he gets help?’

“He had an excellent support worker who visited him two or three times a week. Dad was very upset when he heard that there were changes coming and he’d be getting someone else.

“But after his support worker left he went three weeks without any home visits.

“We don’t blame the nurses or support worker who looked after him so well, for so long.”

The week after Mr Scott’s death the other patient plunged to her death.

She had been treated for many years successfully for depression but was upset when her carer was moved on. Mr Scott had been cared for in the community for 24 years.

Andy Gill, of health workers’ union Unison, said: “Even ahead of the publication of the ill-fated Change in Mind, nurses in Manchester were saying it was a recipe for disaster, particularly the apparent gap between the situation managers were saying was needed and the level of work the service was trying to support.”

A senior nurse at the trust said: ” Some patients are definitely not getting the same level of support they used to get. I’m so worried I am visiting one of my patients in my own time, and I’m not the only one doing this.” Another nurse said: “There are not enough nurses left looking after patients in the community. People are moving to new jobs and there are not people in place to look after their patients.

“Some patients who are ready to be discharged are still in hospital because we can’t provide the intensive support they need when they first come into the community and this means other people who need inpatient care can’t get a bed. Some people are sleeping on chairs because there are no beds left.”

Unison is in a dispute with trust bosses after they suspended union official Karen Reissmann for speaking out about the changes.

A trust spokesman said up to five people have been on the waiting list for hospital beds in recent weeks. He said: “If we have needed to transfer our service users’ care from one team to another, safety has always been our prime concern.”