A former health board chief has sparked fury by suggesting a landmark inquiry into mental health services should not have gone ahead because it held up work to improve care.
Crawford Reid, former chairman of the Perth and Kinross integrated joint board (IJB), believes the independent inquiry “completely screwed” plans to redesign local mental health facilities.
The inquiry, led by former prisons governor David Strang, strongly criticised what it described as a loss of “trust and respect” in local psychiatric services.
But Dr Reid believes the launch of the inquiry – at the behest of the bereaved families of suicide victims – has set progress back in Tayside by two years.
The redesign was signed off in January 2018 by Perth and Kinross IJB, which is in charge of inpatient mental health services, but was put on hold following the inquiry’s interim report in May last year.
Ahead of an NHS meeting to discuss a proposed action plan on mental health tomorrow (Thursday), Dr Reid said: “Several aspects of the inquiry report give me great concern. (Ex-chair and ex-chief executive) John Brown and Malcolm Wright came in at a time when Tayside was in a dysfunctional shape – it was a knee-jerk reaction.
“I’m not minimising how ruinous suicide is but what’s happened is the mental health transformation programme has been basically put on hold.
“If the transformation programme had started to move in, things would have improved with a full complement of consultants.
“They completely screwed it.”
Relatives of those who took their own lives after engaging with local mental health services have criticised Dr Reid’s comments as poorly considered.
“There have been ample opportunities for genuine change with regards to mental health services in Tayside over the years given the sheer volume of investigations and horror stories.
“Nothing was changing hence why I, and others campaigned for this inquiry.
“Perhaps if these fantastic changes that are being proposed had actually been implemented years ago, lives would have been saved and there would have been no need for an inquiry.”
She added: “I feel yet again that we, the bereaved families who campaigned tirelessly for change, are being used as a scapegoat for the never-ending list of failures.”
Mandy McLaren, who lost her son Dale Thomson to suicide in 2015, said: “The redesign was in the interim report, and it did say it should be halted.
“The matter with him is he doesn’t want to take any responsibility for the part they all played in allowing these failures and allowing these deaths.”
Following a near-two-year investigation, the Independent Inquiry issued 51 recommendations on February 5.
Witnesses who gave accounts to the inquiry described how the transformation programme appeared to be little more than an asset management plan to save money.
However, Dr Reid believes that, with time, the programme could have gradually reintroduced localised care at facilities such as the Mulberry Unit in Angus, which was mothballed in 2017 despite being only despite being opened in 2011.
He also believes independent case reviews should have been held for each person who dies after engaging with mental health services.
“If you look at each and every recommendation there’s not one that moves the process of improving mental health services in Tayside one inch forward,” he added.
“Not one of those 51 recommendations, without the transformation programme going on, will improve anything.
“The transformation programme had no time to bed in and move forward – if it had been allowed to develop the situation would have been fantastic compared to what it was two years ago.
“It’s not perfect but it’s far better than what we’ve been left with at this time. The sooner it gets put back on the boiler the better.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, this inquiry should not have gone ahead.”
NHS Tayside and the independent inquiry have been contacted for comment.
“We really need to work with staff to fix mental health”
Renewed calls have been made by NHS staff representatives for health bosses to work with them to improve mental health services in Tayside following the publication of the Strang report.
Jenny Alexander, employee director at NHS Tayside and a Unison rep, said the 51 recommendations were unlikely to be met unless staff were on board with the health board’s plans
She warned that actions could not be rushed through in the way the mental health transformation programme was perceived to be by some observers in 2018.
She told a meeting of Dundee’s health and social care partnership board (HSCP) yesterday: “The partnership aspect of this is very, very important.
“If we are running off and doing things like in 2018 we’re not going to do anything differently.
“We really need to start working in partnership with staff-side – if we don’t have staff on side we will never get through those 51 recommendations.
“We need to make sure we have improvements done for these people that we’re caring for.”
The independent inquiry found that staff reported feeling disrespected and undervalued by senior colleagues.
One mental health staffer described the atmosphere in mental health services as “a culture of fear”.
Arlene Mitchell, Dundee HSCP locality manager, says actions have already been taken in response to the inquiry.
These include the creation of new senior mental health posts, a new process for investigating adverse events and a plan to improve better support for those leaving mental health inpatient services.
Ms Mitchell said: “From a Dundee perspective, we’re in a good position…to ensure a strong staff partnership approach.
“We feel there’s a need to strengthen some of the staff partnership activity.”
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.
An investigation has been launched into the practice of doctors who cared for two Dundee suicide victims shortly before they died.
The General Medical Council (GMC) investigations centre on the care of Dale Thomson, 28, and David Ramsay, 50, who both took their own lives after visiting Dundee’s Carseview psychiatric centre.
Mr Thomson took his own life after discharging himself from the centre in 2015, while Mr Ramsay killed himself after being turned away from the same centre the following year.
A public outcry surrounding the deaths led to NHS Tayside launching an independent inquiry into its mental health services.
Now the GMC, which maintains the official register of medical practitioners in the UK, has launched its own investigation after “reviewing information in the press.”
The medical staff involved in the care have not yet been named, however, the family of Mr Ramsay received a letter from the organisation confirming the investigation, while family of Mr Thomson have also been contacted.
Gillian Murray, the niece of Mr Ramsay, said: “We absolutely welcome this investigation.
“We’ve been saying for the past two years it’s clear that the staff involved with David’s care failed him.
“Now there are various different investigations to determine exactly why he was failed and whether the staff involved are fit to practise.
“David lost his life through sheer negligence.”
Mr Ramsay, who had been experiencing psychotic episodes, was advised to “pull himself together” and to do “normal things” like take his dog for a walk.
After twice being turned away from Carseview, he was found dead at Templeton Woods four days later on October 9 2016.
Meanwhile, Mr Thomson turned to Carseview for help after barricading himself in his flat in January 2015.
He was allowed to leave the centre by doctors, however, and was found dead in his Charleston home just over two weeks later by mum Mandy McLaren.
A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the death of Mr Thomson, though finding his death “unavoidable”, did highlight shortcomings in NHS systems which were “relevant” to his death.
Ms McLaren also confirmed she had been called by the GMC and had instructed the body to speak with her lawyers.
She said: “They said they had been looking over newspaper clippings.
“It’s a good thing but I don’t hold out much hope that anything will get done.
“I would like to be proved wrong though. Something needs to change.”
A campaign by families claimed at least 10 suicides could have been prevented had better help been given at the mental health unit.
It is not known whether any other families in Tayside have been contacted.
A spokesperson for the GMC said the organisation would not comment on any ongoing investigations into individual doctors.
Mandy McLaren (left) has slammed the FAI on her son Dale Thomson’s death as a ‘whitewash’
Dale Thomson’s mother Mandy McLaren feels let down after her son’s death was ruled “unavoidable” despite systemic failures at the Carseview psychiatric centre in Dundee.
A grieving mum has branded the inquiry into her depressed son’s death a whitewash “covering people’s backsides”.
A sheriff ruled Dale Thomson’s death was “unavoidable” despite systemic failures at the Carseview psychiatric centre in Dundee.
Dale’s mother Mandy McLaren said: “Nothing will ever get done if people in the NHS don’t start taking responsibility for their actions. None of these FAIs achieve anything. People are too scared to tell the truth.
“It is a box-ticking exercise for the health boards. It’s all about covering backsides.”
It’s the second time this year Carseview has been criticised for its treatment of patients who took their own lives.
It emerged in May that David Ramsay, 50, was found dead in October 2016 after being sent home and told he should walk his dog.
It has also emerged that 44 patients had to wait a year to begin therapy at the unit. Dad-of-one Dale, 28, had told his GP in January 2015 of suicidal thoughts and was sent to Carseview for an emergency assessment.
He was sent home but taken back in by police after he threatened to burn down houses.
Again he was allowed out and went back to his GP on January 22, reporting the same symptoms. Dale was given an urgent assessment at Carseview the following day but was put on medication and told to go back to his GP if he felt worse.
Four days later, on January 27, he was dead.
During a fatal accident inquiry this year, procurator fiscal depute Steven Quither claimed a “chance was missed” by NHS Tayside staff to prevent the tragedy.
He said: “Further assessments should have been considered as Mr Thomson was exhibiting a wide range of bizarre behaviour and had a background of depression. But there was a lack of assessment and a chance missed. It may have led to a different outcome.”
Yesterday, Sheriff George Way released his report in which he said “there were no reasonable precautions whereby the death of Dale Thomson might have been avoided”.
But he listed a string of “relevant” factors relating to his death.
The sheriff said there were “serious systemic failures” in Dale’s care and added: “Whilst I cannot establish a causal link to his death, they are indisputably relevant facts.”
He wrote: “It seems to me that a window of opportunity closed when Mr Thomson realised nothing was actually happening.”
But he concluded: “The failures of Carseview are perfectly clear. They should not have occurred.
“I, however, accept that all these issues have been addressed and corrected. I have, therefore, no recommendations to make for the future.”
Mandy hit back: “This report is one contradiction after another. It’s a joke.
“Until things change, more young people are going to die – it’s as simple as that.”
Some Tayside patients with mental health problems have had to wait nearly two years to start treatment, shocking new figures have revealed.
A Freedom of Information response from NHS Tayside revealed that in 2017/18, 44 patients had to wait 12 months to begin psychological therapy, while at least 12 people had to wait 18 months or more for treatment to begin.
The longest wait an individual endured was 687 days – around 22 months.
One mental health campaigner said the operation of mental health services in Tayside is “baffling and terrifying”.
NHS Tayside is currently in the process of setting up an independent inquiry into its mental health services after a campaign by the relatives of men who took their own lives demanded a probe into the Carseview Centre.
The investigation is expected to review safety, care standards and access to mental health services.
Staff shortages are being blamed for the lengthy waiting times.
Gillian Murray, whose uncle, David Ramsay was found dead at Templeton Woods on October 9 2016 following a mental breakdown, said the recruitment crisis will not be solved until underlying problems at NHS Tayside are addressed.
Although he had begged for help at the Carseview Centre psychiatric unit, Gillian’s uncle was told to go home and take his dog instead. He then killed himself.
She said: “There needs to be more recruitment but nobody wants to come to Tayside because they know what’s going on.
“But there also needs to be more training. It’s common sense really. If somebody is saying they are suicidal you don’t tell them to go and walk the dog.
“To me it is just baffling and terrifying.”
She added people who need psychological therapy are only to get worse the longer they go without treatment.
Gillian works with the campaign group Lost Souls of Dundee which has been calling for an investigation into mental health services in Tayside.
A spokesperson for Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership said: “Like many other Boards across Scotland, we are facing a national shortage of trained staff in a number of psychological specialties. In addition, we are facing a significant increase in demand.
“Regrettably, this has meant a longer wait for some patients.
“We continue to actively recruit to a number of posts within the psychological services in our efforts to reduce waiting times.”
The Scottish Labour leader has backed calls for a public inquiry into a Dundee psychiatric unit.
The city as a whole has suffered the biggest rise in suicides in Scotland, with a 61% surge in a year, according to official figures.
The Scottish Government released its suicide prevention draft strategy on Thursday, which proposes workplaces do more to help stop the tragedies.
Richard Leonard threw his weight behind the Lost Souls of Dundee group, which is demanding answers over the deaths of their loved ones.
In a column for The Courier, the Labour chief said fighting the increasing “human tragedy” in the city had “fallen to brave women such as Mandy McLaren”, a bereaved mother.
And he said Carseview had “turned people away only for them to take their own lives”.
Ms McLaren’s Lost Souls of Dundee has led calls for a full inquiry into the way Carseview looks after mental health patients.
Her son Dale Thomson was admitted to the unit in January 2015 after trying to take his own life.
The 28-year-old was discharged and found dead four days later.
There were 19 suspected suicides in Dundee in 2011, compared with 23 in 2015 and 37 a year later, the National Records of Scotland figures show.
There were also rises over the five years in Perth (12 to 20) and Angus (14 to 17). Rates dropped in Fife, from 63 to 43.
Launching the Scottish Government’s mental health draft strategy Maureen Watt, the mental health minister, said while the suicide rate in Scotland has fallen over the past decade, the government “must go further”.
“As part of our proposals, we aim to produce a world-leading suicide prevention training programme for employers,” she added.