The parents of two young men who committed suicide after perceived failures of care by medical staff in Tayside have said they hope the deaths of their sons will not be in vain.
Dale Thomson took his own life in 2015 after spending time in Dundee’s heavily-criticised Carseview Centre, used to house and treat patients with mental health problems.
Dale’s heartbroken mum Mandy McLaren, a vocal critic of the health board and a campaigner for better mental health provision in Dundee, claims NHS Tayside “killed her son” and said she will “never forgive” the board and staff for the treatment Dale received.
She sat down for an interview with Tele, joined by Phil Welsh and Lesley Nicoll, who are also from Dundee.
Their son Lee Welsh took his own life in August 2017 after what the couple say were failings by his GP.
In 2016, while saying she could not comment on specific cases, the then-health minister at Holyrood, Shona Robison, apologised for any care which fell below the expected standard.
Ms Robison, who was replaced in the role by Jeane Freeman in June 2018, said: “If a service or part of the health service doesn’t meet the standards it should meet, then of course I would apologise to their family — whether that’s in mental health services or any other service.
“Obviously I can’t comment on individual cases to any great extent, because I’m not party to the full clinical information.
“Most of the time, our services are of a very good quality – sometimes services do fall short of where they should be.”
Mandy, however, said at the time the apology was “too little, too late” and should have been made to her personally.
Phil received an apology from the NHS after what was described as a “callous” response to Lee taking his own life.
Phil said he and Lesley were “disgusted” with the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership’s statement in the wake of Lee’s death.
They later received a personal apology from then-chief executive of NHS Tayside, Lesley McLay.
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The family say that if they can prevent one family from enduring the same heartache they are currently suffering, Lee’s death will not have been in vain.
They are also campaigning for a crisis centre for people who can access acute mental health services without referral.
In the Trust and Respect report, it states that the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has been working with various agencies and bodies in Tayside “to support the drive to increase access to preventative and short-term interventions”.
A probe into serious abuse allegations at Carseview could impact a controversial shake-up of mental health services.
The first phase of a planned review, which will see general adult psychiatry acute admissions centralised in Dundee, is due to begin in June.
However, health chiefs say they are prepared to make changes if necessary,when the findings of an independent investigation into claims patients were pinned to the floor and mocked by staff at the Carseview mental health unit in Ninewells.
The Perth and Kinross Integration Joint Board heard preparatory work on the mental health review is already under way, with the first phase due to begin in June.
The plan was agreed in January 2018, following months of consultation and protest. Learning disability inpatient services will be provided at Murray Royal Hospital Perth, after services were transferred out of the outdated Mulberry unit at Stracathro in Angus.
The board was given an update by the four-person panel leading the review.
Conservative councillor Colin Stewart asked: “We’ve heard that we need to work quickly to address risks, but we are also told there are delays to the redesign programme.
“I understand there is going to be an interim report on the independent inquiry published later this month.
“Have you had any indication that there may be points raised for action in this report, that might have implications for the redesign programme?”
Arlene Wood, associate director for mental health, confirmed she had not had any feedback or update on the review. “The clear steer that we have had from the chief executive is that we continue, for now, on the quality improvement and redesign programme because we know there are inherent risks in the system and this work needs to happen,” she said.
“It would be remiss of us to wait for the report. If there are things raised that require us to change our course of action, then we would address that at the time.”
The board heard the heads of health partnerships in Dundee, Perth and Angus were working on a Tayside Mental Health Alliance, to tackle a range of challenges facing the sector.
Professor Keith Matthews, associate medical director for mental health services said: “It would be a mistake to underestimate how challenging the environment is for mental health services.
“We have issues with recruitment and there are emerging difficulties with retention of staff.”
He said the Scottish Government was attempting to address a national shortage of psychiatrists with an international recruitment campaign.
“Although many efforts are being taken to resolve these matters, the likelihood of anything being resolved soon are pretty low.”
He added there was a need to move away from a workforce reliant on high-cost agency work.
A grieving mum has demanded an overhaul of mental health services after it emerged dozens of people have taken their own lives in Dundee despite seeking help.
The proportion of suicide victims in the city who have attended a psychiatric appointment in the year leading up to their deaths is higher than in any other part of the country, official data revealed.
Mandy Mclaren, whose son 28-year-old son Dale died in 2011 shortly after discharging himself from the Carseview Centre in Dundee, said the new figures were evidence that people are being let down by NHS Tayside’s mental health services.
“To me the whole system is failing,” she said.
“That amount of people committing suicide is absolutely shocking. It does not get any easier.
“You hope they will learn by their mistakes, but they’re not.”
In nearly half (46%) of the 164 suicides in Dundee between 2011 and 2017, the victim had a psychiatric outpatient appointment in the 12 months before their death, which is the highest rate in the country.
The Scottish Suicide Information Database, which was published on Tuesday, showed there were 769 probable suicides in Tayside and Fife during that period. The national total was 5,204.
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said every suicide was a tragedy and was “comprehensively reviewed by the Tayside multi-agency Suicide Review Group to look at the circumstances surrounding each individual case”.
Rose Fitzpatrick, chair of the Scottish Government’s National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, said: “The Scottish suicide rate fell by 20% between 2002-06 and 2013-17, and we are committed to reducing this by another 20% over the next four years.”
People have until December 14 to give evidence to an independent inquiry into mental health services in Tayside.
Visit www.suicidehelp.co.uk or phone Samaritans on Freephone 116 123.
Scottish Labour is renewing calls for a public inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside.
At First Minister’s Questions this week, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard quoted comments by the Samaritans that suggested the Scottish Government was not taking suicide seriously enough, following research by the charity that found 61 per cent of Scots have been affected by suicide.
Leonard also raised the case of 50-year-old David Ramsay, who took his own life in 2016.
Ramsay killed himself after being twice rejected for treatment by the Carseview Centre at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, despite having made three suicide attempts in the space of a week.
Leonard said: “As the First Minister will know, Scotland’s suicide rate is more than twice the rate for Britain as a whole, and that in Dundee the suicide rate has increased by 61 per cent in a year.
“Behind those statistics are real people and real families who have lost loved ones, including the family of David Ramsay.”
He added: Tragically, David Ramsay’s story and the experience of his family is not unique in Dundee, so when I was in Dundee in March I backed the call by families for a public inquiry into mental health services at NHS Tayside.
“Why has the First Minister’s Government remained silent on this crisis and silent on that demand for a public inquiry?”
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended the Scottish Government’s record.
She said: “Richard Leonard has raised issues about the Carseview centre in NHS Tayside.
“It is not right or fair to say that the Government has ‘remained silent’.
“I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport has visited Carseview on a number of occasions.
“I understand that the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland carried out an unannounced inspection of Carseview in March, and made a number of recommendations.
“Let me make it very clear today, as the health secretary and the mental health minister have already done, that we expect NHS Tayside to respond fully to the recommendations within three months.
“The recommendations have also, I understand, been shared with Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
“We will pay very close attention to NHS Tayside’s response, and if we consider that further action is required, that action will be taken.”
The Scottish Government has recently consulted on a draft suicide prevention action plan, with the final version, taking account of feedback, expected to be published in the summer.
A man who is said to have mental health issues was left languishing in a police cell for an extra night amid an argument over who should transport him to hospital.
Kyle Forbes told police he had taken an overdose of his medication but when he was taken to A&E at Ninewells Hospital he became aggressive and committed a breach of the peace.
Forbes, 25, of Acorn Court, Cellardyke, admitted at Dundee Sheriff Court that on December 23 he behaved in a threatening or abusive manner.
Fiscal depute Joanne Smith told the court that police had received a call from Forbes saying he had taken pills and they attended with an ambulance crew.
He became aggressive at Ninewells and swung a chair around and called a doctor a “cow”.
He was placed in the cells that day and was due to appear in court on December 27.
However, a police doctor was of the opinion that Forbes was a danger to himself and he was not brought up from the cells to appear before a sheriff. Instead, it was arranged for him to stay at Stratheden Hospital in Cupar.
His solicitor Sue Williams told the court there was a dispute between police from Tayside and Fife divisions over who should transport him to the hospital so he remained in the cells overnight.
Mrs Williams said that on Thursday December 28 the same doctor had seen Forbes in the morning before his court appearance and was now of the opinion that he did not need to be medically assessed, as the opinion of NHS Fife was that his problems were drug or alcohol-related.
She added: “He is quite clearly unwell and he is on medication for depression, so he has obviously been assessed as having a mental health issue.
“This doctor thought there should be an order for him to be assessed and there was a bed for him on Wednesday night but now today he has changed his mind.
“I’m very disturbed about this because he has been in a police cell since December 23.”
Sheriff Lorna Drummond said she was concerned about the situation but had been told by the Crown that Forbes doesn’t have a medical disorder.
Mrs Williams moved that Forbes be remanded in custody for three weeks for a medical assessment and Sheriff Drummond agreed.
Sentence was deferred on the breach of the peace matter until January 17.