Family plea for social care overhaul after Somerset man’s death

The parents of a chronically sick Somerset man who died after an overdose of prescription drugs have called for social services to take better care of the long-term ill.

Andrew Prentice, 38, from Taunton, who was diagnosed with pancreatitis when he was 15 and later had his pancreas removed, leaving him diabetic, died in July 2009 after taking too much of two drugs he was prescribed to help him cope with his illness.

His illnesses had rendered the promising student and keen sportsman so weak he often struggled to climb the stairs. But despite being medically unable to work for many years and with eight different council and NHS organisations involved in his care, he was still on a waiting list for a flat with enough room for a 24-hour live-in carer to look after him, because different groups debated how to fund his care.

After an open verdict on his death was returned, Andrew’s mother Brenda Prentice said her son had been “let down by all the agencies who should have been there to help him.”

“The whole service needs to be overhauled,” she said.

“Social services all over the country appear to some extent to be failing and the whole service needs to be looked at in depth.

“We are told they do not have the money to run the service. I would suggest they have the money but they are spending it on the wrong things.”

Andrew was found dead on the kitchen floor of his one-bedroom flat with a half-made sandwich on the work surface. He had first suffered pancreatitis at the age of 15 and by the time he was 17 he had had 60 per cent of his pancreas removed. By the time he was 28 it has all been taken out, leaving him diabetic.

He had gone to the then Plymouth Polytechnic, now the University of Plymouth, in his teens, but was forced through ill health to drop out. When he died on July 26, 2009, he was living in a flat in his home town of Taunton, Somerset, in a unit for people with mental health difficulties, but had been told he would have to leave as soon as other accommodation could be found – something that had left him worried. His parents had previously remortgaged their own home to allow him to buy a flat after his marriage ended.

The inquest at Taunton’s Municipal Buildings heard he had tried to take his own life in 2004 through an overdose of insulin, and since then voiced his desire to commit suicide.

But Somerset coroner Michael Rose said there was insufficient evidence to rule that he killed himself, after hearing that medicine he was taking had left him confused, and liable to forget when he had already taken his high daily medication doses, including morphine. He died from an overdose of two drugs, Amitriptyline and Zopiclone.