A GP surgery has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the run-up to a Dundee dad taking his own life.
Lee Welsh was found dead at his Peddie Street home last August, aged 27.
His dad Phil complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) about Coldside Medical Practice, claiming GPs had failed to give Lee adequate care before his death.
He also complained that practice bosses had failed to respond to the family’s original complaint in a reasonable way.
The SPSO has now informed the family that neither of the two complaints were upheld.
The ombudsman said it appreciated there were difficulties in Lee’s case but concluded: “I am of the view that medical staff followed the relevant guidance and acted reasonably in light of the information available to them.
“I conclude that the standard of medical care and treatment provided to Lee was reasonable.”
Mr Welsh said: “We are very disappointed that the ombudsman found there was nothing to suggest that Lee was suicidal.
“On two occasions Lee told his GP he was going to crash his van into something in a bid to end his own life.
“A counsellor at his work also contacted Lee’s GP herself to tell him she was concerned he was suicidal.
“However, the ombudsman’s findings claim there were no details in Lee’s clinical records to suggest that urgent admission to a psychiatric unit was necessary.
“The findings added that history presented did not suggest that Lee was planning to harm himself and that the GP assessment was reasonable and they did not overlook any significant risk which could have prevented Lee’s suicide. I just don’t accept any of that.”
A spokesman for Coldside Medical Practice said it would be inappropriate to comment on an individual case.
Changes to mental health services in Tayside could become the lasting legacy of those who have taken their own lives across the region, it has been claimed.
The independent inquiry into how NHS services are provided began taking submissions from members of the public last week.
Chairman David Strang said he hoped testimony – both positive and negative – would help improve treatment and support throughout the country.
The inquiry was ordered after a public campaign by families who blamed poor care at the Carseview Psychiatric Centre at Ninewells Hospital for a series of suicides.
Gillian Murray, whose uncle David Ramsay took his own life after being turned away by Carseview, has been at the forefront of the campaign for the inquiry and said it could be a chance for “real change”.
And she said it was vital that people with experiences of mental health services “stand up and be counted”.
She said: “This crisis has been on-going for over a decade and NHS Tayside have been aware of the failings but done nothing.
“If they were genuinely committed to change; it wouldn’t have taken for my uncle to lose his life and for me to campaign through to parliament, first at First Minister’s
Questions then the debate to get an inquiry.
“The same issues have been raised time and time again about NHS Tayside mental health.
No lessons have ever been learnt thus far. Lives have been lost and others shattered – this is a crisis that will have ripple effects felt down the years.”
Ms Murray said she remained angry about the lack of treatment given to her uncle.
“I will never forgive NHS Tayside, nor forget. I can only hope that real change happens as this is a living hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” she said.
“Each and every person needs to stand up and be counted by coming forward with testimonies and evidence to illustrate the scale of this crisis.
“Change needs to happen and those who have lost their lives should never be forgotten – this is their legacy.
“They may have been failed but their preventable deaths may prevent others suffering the same fate.”
Evidence can be submitted to the inquiry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Independent Inquiry, 15/16 Springfield, Dundee, DD1 4JE.
Dundee-based Labour MSP Jenny Marra said the allegations were “horrifically worrying.”
NHS Tayside has said it will investigate the patients’ allegations.
Following the documentary, another former Carseview patient told BBC Scotland that she felt “traumatised” following her time in the unit and said it should be closed.
The Scottish government said the accusations were “very concerning” and that they had “been clear” that NHS Tayside must “swiftly investigate any allegations of mistreatment or breaches of patients’ rights.”
Ms Marra said she had been given “cast-iron assurances” two years ago during a visit to the unit that “everything was fine” and that “these problems don’t exist.”
She said: “Now clearly that just wasn’t true.
“I am calling today on the cabinet secretary for health to put NHS Tayside mental health services into crisis measures because this is about public confidence.
“People in Dundee and Tayside need to know that their loved ones are being properly cared for.
“And from what we have seen on the documentary, people are being failed, there is clearly no doubt about it.”
David Strang, the former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, will chair an independent inquiry into mental health services across NHS Tayside.
The allegations made in the BBC documentary will be included in the inquiry.
Ms Marra, who has called for a new team of doctors to be brought into Carseview, said: “It’s supposed to report in September, they really need now to speed up this process.”
Former patient Daisy Stewart, who was first admitted to Carseview aged 17, said she could “totally relate” to many of the accusations in the programme.
She said: “I felt like the restraints were kind of like punishment rather than the other hospitals I’d been in.
“They’ve tried to make it supportive, whereas in Carseview it feels like you’re a nuisance and they just want to quieten you.”
Miss Stewart said she was mixed in with “a lot of people who were taking drugs or had taken drugs.”
She said that her time in the unit did her “no good at all” and called for Carseview to be closed.
She said: “I’d say it nearly killed me.
“I’m surprised I got through it and I still feel really traumatised from it to the point where I still don’t really trust mental health professionals very much.
“I definitely felt more traumatised from Carseview than the trauma I had when I originally went in.
“The whole place has a vibe that is not healthy for a person without mental illness, never mind someone with depression.”
Miss Stewart’s mother Lisa said that on one occasion her daughter had left Carseview and phoned her from a shop after taking an overdose.
Ms Stewart called Carseview and was told that her daughter was sleeping. After checking, staff discovered she was not there.
She said: “I said, is someone going to get her? “No. we’re too busy for that.”
“So I had to go and the police were there and they said this happens all the time, nobody comes to get them.”
Ms Stewart said she could not take her daughter from the unit as she had been admitted under section.
She said: “I wanted to get her out because I felt she was more in danger in there than she was out.”
Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said: “I will be expecting an early update from NHS Tayside on their investigation and the action they intend to take.”
The minister said Mr Strang’s appointment marked the independent inquiry’s “first key milestone” for families.
She said: “I also note NHS Tayside has today appointed Prof Keith Matthews as a new associate medical director for mental health services.
“His background and clinical leadership will play an important part in working to transform mental health services across the region.”
More than 5,000 young people in Scotland have been denied mental health treatment during the wait for a national probe into rejected applications.
Nicola Sturgeon was challenged repeatedly at First Minister’s Questions on her government’s progress in tackling mental health issues.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the SNP administration has let down vulnerable children by taking more than a year to complete an investigation into why so many youngsters are not getting the treatment they seek.
In Tayside and Fife alone, 816 young people have been knocked back by Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services since last March, when the government promised to launch the review.
Labour’s analysis of the Scottish Government figures showed the national figure was 5,410.
“Nicola Sturgeon once claimed she had a sacred responsibility to make sure every young person gets the same chance to succeed,” Mr Leonard said.
“She has abdicated that responsibility to some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said the results would be published on June 12, adding there are legitimate reasons why children are not offered CAMHS treatment.
“We announced an audit, we had to plan how that audit was going to happen so that we get it right,” she said.
“The work is now underway and I’ve given the progress report on that.
“It’s important that we get that work right in order that the action that flows from it are the right actions.”
She added that the 2017/18 budget for mental health exceeded £1 billion for the first time, while the CAMHS workforce has increased by 65%.
Meanwhile, Jenny Marra, the Labour MSP, asked what progress had been made towards setting up an emergency mental health unit in Dundee that provides 24-hour support.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin MBE, whose important and life-affirming memoir The Stranger on the Bridge (Bluebird) was released earlier this month.
The moving title chronicles the journey Benjamin undertook in 2014, to find and thank the stranger who stopped and saved his life, six years previously.
What inspired you to write The Stranger on the Bridge?
This year marks ten years since I had my first breakdown, received my diagnosis and went to the bridge to take my own life. Finally I am in a very different place and have learnt a great deal about my own mind and mental health in general over the past decade. It felt very timely to write about my journey now.
Have you always been interested in writing? How did it feel revisiting the childhood diaries that you sample throughout?
Writing has always been incredibly therapeutic for me. Growing up I found it difficult to express my mental health issues vocally, so writing became a key outlet. Revisiting my childhood diaries was a challenging but cathartic experience. I knew I’d been distressed throughout my youth, but I had forgotten just how much I was struggling in silence.
What was the most challenging part of the project?
I think the most challenging part of the project was finally letting the manuscript go and it being published for people to read. It is such a personal and intimate book, and there was a lot in there that people didn’t know about so I felt extremely nervous in the weeks leading up to publication. Now that people have started reading it though and the response has been overwhelmingly positive I feel much more relaxed.
What impact are you hoping the book will have on its readers?
I hope it will give the reader an insight into mental illness that perhaps they haven’t had before. More than anything, I would like the book to offer those that are struggling some hope that they can overcome the adversities they are experiencing.
What has the reaction been like since sharing your story?
The reaction has been so positive. Mental health is something that touches so many of us. For such a long time it has been a taboo, but finally the silence and the stigma attached to mental illness seems to be shifting.
You’re a passionate mental health campaigner – would you say that public perception of mental health has changed or evolved in recent years? What part do you think publishing plays in this?
Publishing can play a huge role in changing attitudes towards a topic like mental health. Matt Haig’s powerful bestseller Reasons To Stay Alive helped my Mum to understand and talk about mental illness with me for the first time.
It’s an exciting time in terms of publishing on this subject. I’m seeing more and more books focusing on this area. I’m particularly looking forward to reading Natasha Devon’s A Beginners Guide To Being Mental which is published later this month. I know that it’s going to be a groundbreaking book about mental health.
Do you think the industry has a responsibility to be sharing more stories like this?
For a long time we’ve only had the opportunity to read primarily challenging stories on mental health. Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a prime example of this. It is a gripping story but ultimately it is one of despair and hopelessness.
I would love to see more stories on bookshelves that offer the reader hope, whilst remaining accurate and honest, of course. Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook is one such book which is hopeful and yet doesn’t shy away from the day to day, difficult reality of living with a mental illness.
Finally, are you working on anything new at the moment?
Myself and Britt Pflüger, who I co-wrote this first book with, are now working on our second book. It will be a tribute to overcoming adversity, with contributions from various individuals who have achieved it. I’m really looking forward to working on this book. Writing The Stranger On The Bridge was hard at times because of its content, but our new book will be much lighter and more positive.
Going forwards I think I would love to write books on mental health for children and young people. 75% of all mental health issues start in adolescence so it’s vital we address the subjects of mental illness and suicide from a young age. I know it would have made a real difference to me to have read a book on mental illness when I was suffering silently in my teenage years.