Mr Malone was diagnosed with treatment resistant schizophrenia in 1983 and had been sectioned multiple times. In May 2023 he was diagnosed with adult autism. At a review on 31 May he was considered to be stable. On 15 June a routine clozapine review identified sub-therapeutic levels but this was not notified to his clinicians. Sub-therapeutic levels of clozapine are likely to have contributed to a worsening in his symptoms.
Around 24 June he was noted to have suffered a significant deterioration – with symptoms of thought disorder, anxiety, and responding to hallucinations – and following a mental health act assessment on 28 June clinicians wanted to detain him under section 2. No inpatient psychiatric bed was available. Whilst he awaited a bed, he remained in the community with daily visits from the mental health team.
Last contact was on 1 July when he accepted his medication and appeared more settled. There was no answer when he was visited on 2 July. His room at supported accommodation was entered on 3 July and he was found deceased. Recently he had expressed no suicidal ideation. Post-mortem examination confirmed the medical cause of death was:
- 1a Cervical spinal cord injury.
- 1b Laceration.
The conclusion of the inquest was that death was the consequence of suicide.
The MATTERS OF CONCERN are as follows.
- Despite recognising Mr Malone needed to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital in June 2023 but there was no bed capacity, BSMHFT’ RCA report identified no remedial action.
- The Patient Safety Manager gave evidence that the lack of psychiatric bed capacity remains an ongoing problem and has not been resolved, and there is a genuine risk of the same problem with another patient in the future.
- There was an exceptional process, which required a considered decision at a high level, to make a bed available through identifying someone currently occupying a bed space to be discharged. In my view, this process is unsatisfactory as it creates a different set of risks around the patient being discharged, and amplifies the chronic shortage of beds.
- There was reference to two preceding Regulation 28 Reports to Prevent Future Deaths that focussed on the chronic lack of mental health resources in Birmingham and Solihull. In relation to the specific issue of a lack of psychiatric bed capacity, in the case of Peter Fleming (no bed was available in August 2022) BSMHFT’s response (September 2023) referred to their response in the earlier case of Leroy Hamilton (no bed was available in December 2021). This response (April 2023) stated more resources had been obtained and a collaborative plan had been implemented with NHS Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board.
- The issue of adequately funding psychiatric beds is a local and national issue. Locally, BSMHFT require their commissioners to provide the necessary funding.
- The coroner's concern is that the above dates indicate available psychiatric bed capacity in Birmingham and Solihull remains inadequate. Whilst some action may have been taken it is insufficient to resolve the problem. It follows there is a genuine risk of future deaths directly connected to a shortage of psychiatric bed spaces in Birmingham and Solihull unless further action is taken.