Escaped patient hanged himself

A MENTAL health hospital "let down" a man who escaped from their care to hang himself from a tree.

Alan Fallows, 48, of Dahlia Road, Kettering, committed suicide in the churchyard off London Road while being treated for depression in the Kingfisher ward at St Mary’s Hospital, Kettering, an inquest heard yesterday.

Mr Fallows was under close supervision at the time and should not have been allowed out of a locked part of the hospital. It is thought he changed his clothes before escaping through unlocked patio doors on January 8 last year.

After the Kettering inquest Mr Fallows’ partner Tracey Craythorne said: “I think it’s disgusting. He should never have been able to escape.

“We are speaking out to show people in Kettering the low standard of the services being provided for them.”

The inquest heard that Mr Fallows, who suffered physical and mental abuse during childhood and was a heavy drinker, had a history of mental health problems stretching back almost 20 years. He had not been sectioned and volunteered to attend the hospital.

Coroner Ann Pember said: “Clearly he had problems. I’m very concerned that a patient who was a suicide risk had an opportunity to leave in the way he did.

“I do feel that the services have let down Alan Fallows and those who cared for him.”

At the end of December, 2005, Mr Fallows took an overdose and was admitted to St Mary’s. Around the turn of the year he was released but was readmitted shortly afterwards after taking another overdose.

He was placed on general observation and subject to an hourly head count. The inquest heard that staff should have been aware of his whereabouts at all times.

Mr Fallows’ death and the circumstances surrounding it have been probed by internal and independent investigations, said Northamptonshire Mental Health Trust. Chief executive Ron Shields said the conclusions reached were that all the necessary systems and processes were in place.

He said: “However, the failure to observe Mr Fallows properly gave him the opportunity to leave the ward with such tragic consequences. Appropriate action has now been taken with the staff involved.”

Around the time of Mr Fallows’ escape – between 11.45am and 12.15pm – one member of staff was going for a smoke break which, the inquest heard, contributed to confusion on the ward.

Now, staff are not allowed to smoke on site.

Director of mental health at the trust Brendan Hayes said: “On behalf of the trust and all of the staff I would like to extend our sincere apologies to Alan’s family members.”