Razor suicide bid patient illegally drugged by NHS

Sarah Boyack says the news is deeply concerning. Picture: Neil Hanna
Sarah Boyack says the news is deeply concerning. Picture: Neil Hanna
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HEALTH bosses have been ordered to take urgent action after a mentally-ill patient who attempted to kill herself by swallowing razor blades was illegally drugged and locked up by medics.

The patient, who went to A&E having attempted suicide, was injected with an anti-psychotic drug and forced into an ambulance after being fastened to a trolley following a struggle with up to six staff members.

However, it was later found that a series of blunders meant paperwork to detain the patient under the Mental Health Act had not been completed correctly, while questions were raised over whether appropriate discussions with her about the decision had ever taken place.

The Scottish Government’s Public Services Ombudsman, Jim Martin, said there was “clearly a complete failure to follow due process” and hit out at “a significant lack of record-keeping”.

He issued a series of recommendations to NHS Lothian, going as far as to say his report should be discussed by the organisation’s most senior members at a board meeting.

NHS Lothian today issued a public apology to the patient, who hasn’t been named, and said that action would be taken.

Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack branded the case “deeply concerning”.

She said: “This case underlines the need for appropriate guidance and training to ensure that medical staff understand and follow correct procedures when caring for patients under mental health legislation.

“NHS staff do a tremendous job under difficult circumstances and I would like to see consideration by the board of whether staffing level pressures are contributing to failures to complete paperwork fully.”

The patient’s ordeal began on November 25, 2011, when she arrived at St John’s Hospital, Livingston, claiming to have swallowed two razor blades. One was found in an abdominal X-ray and she was transferred to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, although surgery was not required.

Staff took the decision to detain the patient under the Mental Health Act, but a short-term detention certificate used was not valid, as permission from a mental health officer had not been obtained.

The patient was injected twice with halopridol after becoming involved in a struggle and was restrained before being taken to the St John’s psychiatry ward.

The ombudsman said only a court could determine the legality of holding the patient, and that he had received expert advice that there was no legal basis to remove or detain her. Mistakes with the order were only identified five days later.

Sarah Ballard-Smith, deputy nurse director at NHS Lothian, said: “We accept the ombudsman’s recommendations in full and will take action on all points highlighted in the report.

“In particular, feedback from this report will be shared with the relevant staff at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and St John’s Hospital, and formal protocol surrounding patient restraint will be reiterated.”