Journeys of Hope And Freedom: A lived experience perspective

A CHARM Zoom Public Meeting

Wednesday, 8th December 2021

18:30 – 20:30

Book your place via EventBrite here

Tracey Higgins & Elisabeth Svanholmer reflect on their own journeys and how they found roads to autonomy and fulfilment

Two lived experience perspectives on the challenges of hearing voices and other extreme states.

Our speakers will reflect on their own journeys and how they found roads to autonomy and fulfilment. They will consider their experience of ‘schizophrenia’, medication, hospitalisation and the ways they found to recover their lives.

Tracey Higgins, is the author of The Girl on the Bridge: A Memoir. (2021) ‘….an exquisite, sensitive, and painful rendition of a struggle against almost impossible odds’. Her experience shows us that ‘schizophrenia’ doesn’t have to be a life sentence. While some mental health professionals called her hopeless, she went to college, worked in Government, and owned and operated a popular restaurant. “

Elisabeth Svanholmer lives with experiences of hearing voices and identifies as highly sensitive. She is on an ongoing journey to figure out how to be human in a world that seems increasingly fragmented and dehumanising. She is based in West Yorkshire, UK and is a self-taught facilitator and organiser of training, supervision and other ways of people coming together to learn and connect. She is passionate about creating space for things that may be considered uncomfortable, strange, inconvenient, confusing and distressing.
She finds inspiration and solace in nature, movement and relationships. See more about Elisabeth here

Organiser of Journeys of Hope And Freedom: A lived experience perspective
CHARM Communities for Holistic Accessible Rights based Mental Health
We are a campaign calling for changes in the way psychiatric services are provided in Greater Manchester.
We’ve teamed up with people with lived experience, trade unions, family groups and citizens
We are calling for a root and branch review and an action plan to transform mental health services in our communities.


Coroners warned of mental health care failings in dozens of inquests

Observer investigation identifies 56 cases in which patients lost their lives after being unable to access the help that they needed.

Shortfalls in mental health services and staffing have been flagged as concerns in dozens of inquests since 2015, the Observer can reveal, with coroners issuing repeated warnings over patients facing long waiting lists or falling through gaps in service provision.

The Observer has identified 56 mental health-related deaths in England and Wales from the start of 2015 to the end of 2020 where coroners identified a lack of staffing or service provision as a “matter of concern”, meaning they believed “there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken”.

Coroners issue Reports to Prevent Future Deaths (PFD) when they believe action should be taken to prevent deaths occurring in future, and send them to relevant individuals or organisations, who are expected to respond. In one case, a woman referred to psychotherapy services had still not received any psychotherapy by the time she died 11 months later. In another, someone had endured a seven-month wait for a psychological assessment.Advertisementhttps://fccdde4c2292aba023508c38b58b4ba6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Alison Cobb, senior policy and campaigns officer at the mental health charity Mind, said: “It’s shocking that so many should lose their lives because there isn’t enough capacity in mental health services to provide adequate care. These prevention of future deaths notices are meant to inform better ways of working, and it’s especially concerning that similar stories are repeating over and over again.”

Many of the cases are suicides. The causes of suicide are complex, and there is rarely a single event or factor behind them. PFD reports do not set out to identify why someone decided to take their own life, and rarely go so far as saying that a particular factor made death more likely by denying the victim the necessary support.

However, in the PFD report for a man who died in December 2019, the coroner wrote that moves to admit the victim as an informal patient at the hospital’s psychiatric unit floundered as “there were no beds available in Suffolk, or anywhere else in the country at the time”.

The coroner wrote: “Had a bed been available and had [he] been admitted as he and medical staff had wished on the evening of the 16 December 2019, his death would not have occurred.”

In another case, the PFD report for a 15-year-old boy who died in October 2018 warned of a lack of NHS services for autism and a “severe shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds for children and adolescents in the NHS”.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, said: “The Conservatives have cut a quarter of mental health beds since 2010. This has put the NHS at breaking point, with devastating consequences for people’s lives.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Every death by suicide is a tragedy and we are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the services when they need them.

“We are expanding and transforming mental health services in England, backed by £2.3bn a year by 2023-24, including £57m of investment in suicide prevention by 2023-24 to support local suicide-prevention plans and the establishment of suicide bereavement services in every area of the country.”

See full article here

Source: The Observer, September 2021


“Unless similar units cease to receive public money, such lethal outcomes will persist” says independent report into deaths of adults with learning disabilities at hospital

An independent report into the deaths of King, Nicholas Briant, 33, and 36-year-old Joanna Bailey, who all died at Cawston Park, said their relatives described “indifferent and harmful hospital practices”.

The report, published on Thursday, makes reference to “excessive use of restraint and seclusion by unqualified staff” and a “high tolerance of inactivity”.

“Unless this hospital and similar units cease to receive public money, such lethal outcomes will persist,” the report said.

How many people from Greater Manchester are living in Units like this?

The report into the deaths at Cawston Park has made 13 recommendations to a series of agencies including the Law Commission, suggesting a review of the law around private companies caring for adults with learning disabilities and autism.

“Given the clear public interest in ensuring the wellbeing and safety of patients, and the public sponsorship involved, the Law Commission may wish to consider whether corporate responsibility should be based on corporate conduct, in addition to that of individuals, for example,” the report said.

Flynn, who was commissioned by Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board (NSAB) to write the report, said the report highlighted “failures of governance, commissioning, oversight, planning for individuals and professional practice”.

See full article here

Source: The Guardian, 9th September 2021

Green light for £105m Park House mental health unit in North Manchester

ospital bosses have been given the green light for a new £105.9 million specialist mental health unit in Manchester.

The UK Government has given its final approval for the major new site at North Manchester General Hospital.

It will replace Park House, the hospital’s existing mental health inpatient unit which provides assessment and treatment for adults and older people with mental health needs – including depression, schizophrenia, psychosis and dementia.

Source: Manchester Evening News, 14th November 2021

NHS England proposes new mental health access standards 

The NHS is set to take another major step towards improving patient access to mental health services with the introduction of five new waiting time guarantees.

The proposals could ensure that patients requiring urgent care will be seen by community mental health crisis teams within 24 hours of referral, with the most urgent getting help within four hours. Mental health liaison services for those who end up in A&E departments would also be rolled out to remaining sites across the country.

The NHS is consulting on the new standards, which have been piloted by mental health providers in collaboration with acute NHS trusts, and are backed by clinical and patient representatives.

See full article here

Source: NHS England, July 2021

Mental Health Counselling Crisis: Just 12 counsellors for 2826 students at University of Manchester

The Mancunion has revealed that the University of Manchester has just 12 counsellors and 5 mental health nurses in their counselling service, although 2826 of their current students have disclosed mental health issues.

The number of students registered with the Disability Advisory Support Service (DASS) for mental health issues has increased steadily from 2333 in 2018/19, but the number of students receiving at least one private counselling session with the University’s service has dropped by 10 per cent from 3266 to 2910, an FOI request reveals.

Students have reported struggling to access the service, with one* saying: “I called them multiple times, only to not get any answer or be told the week was already full and to try the week after”.

In response the University of Manchester spokesperson said, “For a period of time during lockdown and remote operation access to the appointment line became more difficult. In recognition of this … we have recruited 4 triage and support workers offering the first point of contact to all callers and introduced a new caller management system. This allows the appointment line to be available throughout the day and routine next day appointments are offered. Urgent and crisis queries will be offered same day support. In addition the duty counsellor responds to all email queries.”

But the University’s claims of a same-day booking service have reportedly led GPs and Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT) to rely on the University’s system, rather than offering external support to student patients.

Full story here

Source: The Mancunion, October 11th, 2021

Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust care workers vote for strike action over increase in hours

GMMHT care workers have voted to strike against plans to make them work seven days a week. Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust has asked the workers, who help “extremely vulnerable people,” to “volunteer” to increase their working week from five days to seven days, their union said.

The 25 workers, who are members of the public service union Unison, are campaigning against the proposals, warning that “seven days is not safe.”

Unison North West regional organiser Lyndsey Marchant said: “This group of dedicated mental health workers are determined to provide high-quality care to those who need it most.

“This is exactly why they have voiced their opposition to the trust’s flawed proposals, which would stretch an already overloaded service to breaking point. 

“This group of NHS workers’ overwhelming vote in favour of strike action shows the strength of feeling on this issue.

“We call on the trust to listen to its front-line workers and return to the negotiating table with proposals that provide its hard-working staff with the resources to deliver excellent care.”

The workers said in a statement: “We work with extremely vulnerable people who have experienced a first episode of psychosis.

“We are telling the trust that the service is so overstretched that asking us to spread across seven days is not safe without additional staffing and resources.”

No dates have been set for strike action and Unison said that, following the vote, more talks with management are planned.

Juliette Tait, associate director of HR at the Trust, said: “Throughout the pandemic, we have been supporting the delivery of seven-day community services in Manchester to ensure that the right support is available at the right time for all who need it. We have received great support from our staff to enable this to be delivered safely and effectively.

“Patient safety is our number one priority. A seven-day community mental health service offer for Manchester is key to this, and directly responds to the dynamic needs of our service users, which occur on every day of the week. This is already successfully in place across our other localities and follows national guidance.

“Following implementation of seven-day working in our Manchester services, we have supported all our staff who were originally contracted to work over five days to remain doing so.

‘We have no intention of forcing any member of staff to change their working pattern unless they wish to do so on a voluntary basis to support their own personal flexible working needs.

“We continue to engage with our staff and their representatives in relation to this matter, and remain immensely proud of the service our staff provide.”

Full story here

Source: Morning Star, 22nd October 2021

Inquest into death of baby thrown into River Irwell to look into dad’s treatment beforehand

An inquest into the death of an 11-month-old baby who was thrown into the River Irwell will look into the treatment his father received beforehand.

Zakari William Bennett-Eko died after his dad hurled him into the river, in Radcliffe, on September 11, 2019. 

Zak Bennett-Eko was later found guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, after it was found he was having a major psychotic episode at the time.

He was sentenced to a hospital order confining him to a secure psychiatric unit – from which he ‘may never be released’.

At a preliminary hearing today, senior coroner Joanne Kearsley revealed that the inquest would look at the treatment Zakari’s dad received from various agencies after his release from being sectioned.

Zak Bennett-Eko was sectioned in 2014 after suffering from cannabis-induced psychosis. He was discharged in 2016 and put on a community treatment order for six months.

That then ceased and the hearing was told that a number of services had involvement with Zak.

Among the agencies represented at today’s hearing were Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust, Manchester City Council, North Manchester General Hospital, Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group and Bury Council.

Ms Kearsley said the inquest would look into Zak Bennett Eko’s care plan after the community treatment order ended and how agencies responded to his ‘medical and social needs’ following his release.

The inquest will also focus on the prescribing and monitoring of Bennett-Eko’s medication in the two years prior to his son’s death.

He was signed up to a GP practice in Fallowfield until 2018, although it is not yet clear who his GP was following that or which pharmacy he collected his prescription from.

The hearing was also told that Zak attended North Manchester General Hospital’s A&E department on six occasions in the five months prior to throwing his son in the river.

Four of the visits came in the fortnight prior to Zakari’s death – the last of which was three days beforehand.

Ms Kearsley requested statements from the healthcare staff who interacted with Mr Bennett-Eko while he was at hospital as well as from Greater Manchester Police, summarising their involvement with him.

She said the facility where Zak was confined had been contacted, but he was ‘not well enough and does not wish to engage’ with the inquest proceedings.

A further preliminary hearing will take place next month.

Full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 21st October 2021

Pennine Mental Health Trust boss apologises to heartbroken mother after her son, 24, who ran away from carer on walk to the shops dies

A health chief has apologised to the family of a mentally ill young man for a series of failings in his care before he died.

Sam Copestick, 24, died at Oldham Royal Infirmary three days after attempting to kill himself in May 2019, a Rochdale inquest jury has heard.

Sam, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, ran away while out on a walk to the shops. He was being escorted by a carer from Birch Hill Hospital’s Prospect Place facility in Wardle, where he had been a long-term patient under the Mental Health Act.

Sanm was discovered in a critical condition shortly later on Bank Farm Lane, about a mile-and-a-half from the hospital. Ambulance crews arrived quickly and started CPR and he was taken to the Royal Oldham Hospital but died three days later, on May 20.

Senior coroner for Manchester North Joanne Kearsley says Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Birch Hill Hospital, had already accepted a series of failures in the lead up to Sam’s death.

There was an absence of a risk management plan, and instead of just one member staff escorting him on a walk out of the hospital there should’ve been two.

There was a failure to liaise with his mother, Helen McHale, despite concerns raised by her at the risk to his safety following the death in the previous January of his younger brother Matthew.

When Sam left the facility, the carer should’ve had either a phone or radio to maintain contact with the hospital in case of an abscondment.

Although earlier complaints in 2018 by Helen over the care Sam was receiving were investigated and recommendations for improvements were made, they were not put into effect, Ms Kearsely was told by Clare Parker, the trust’s executive director of quality, nursing and healthcare professionals and deputy chief executive.

Ms Parker opened her evidence by saying: “I want to apologise to Sam’s family for the failings we have found in the investigation by Pennine Care. We have accepted six areas that at the time where there were failures and as a result of Sam’s case we’ve made amendments to our policies.”

Ms Parker said the quality of the nursing reports about Sam’s care – a key component informing how his nursing needs would be met – were ‘not of the standard the trust expected’.

Helen complained about a lack of communication between herself and the team caring for staff, and although it was recommended this would improve, it was not acted upon.

She also objected to the withdrawal of a ‘named nurse’ – a designated nurse who the family could liaise with. A named nurse is now part of the provision, Ms Parker said.

Helen earlier told the inquest Sam had been seriously injured in 2016 when he threw himself in front of a train and, as a result, had been detained in a psychiatric intensive care unit before being transferred to Prospect Place. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2017.

She said she believed medical staff were consistently ‘under-estimating the risk’ to her son.

“I was worried about how distressed he was, but I was also worried about him going out and the safety of the public,” she said.

“We agreed to weekly calls from the medical team, but they weren’t calling me. He didn’t take a shower in 2019, and his carers weren’t communicating with me. It was like talking to someone who doesn’t want to listen.”

See full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 26th October 2021

“I told them he wanted to die… and then he was sent home”: Young man found dead in park – one week after dad ‘warned hospital’, court hears

James Rice twice attended A&E with mental health concerns in the months before his death.

James’s father told Rochdale Coroners’ Court he had stayed with his 20-year-old son for five hours at Fairfield Hospital in Bury, but within an hour of leaving him in the hospital’s care, Mr Rice had already been sent home.

And one week later, his family received the heartbreaking visit from police officers about his death.

The court heard that Mr Rice’s family believed he may have had ADHD, and he was tested for it last year, but never had the result before his death.

A statement from his GP confirmed that Mr Rice had been referred to mental health services in November 2018 and reported the same issue again in May 2019.

He was prescribed medication last year, and this was believed to be working until earlier this year, when Mr Rice attended A&E on February 24.

Mr Rice was seen by Florence Makurira, who works in the mental health liaison team at Fairfield Hospital.

She told court that he had walked out on her during his assessment, before returning with his partner and talking about resolving ‘anger management issues’.

Mr Rice complained to his GP about his medication not working in April, and the dosage was increased, before raising the issue a month later when the prescription was switched.

He attended A&E twice in three days in May for injuries, before returning on May 17 after attempting an overdose.

Mr Rice’s father took him to hospital and told both the receptionist and a triage nurse that he believed his son should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, the court heard.

His dad stayed with him for five hours before leaving Mr Rice at the hospital, where he was again assessed by Ms Makurira.

She told court he was displaying a ‘fleeting suicidal ideation’ but had no signs of psychosis or acute depression, and was able to make his own decisions.

Ms Makurira said Mr Rice was deemed low risk to himself or others, and claimed he appeared ‘tranquil’.

He was referred to a remote mental health service set up during the pandemic and told to expect a call within 24 hours – which was an assessment Mr Rice agreed with, Ms Makurira said.

Gordon Rice, alongside Mr Rice’s mother and grandmother who were also in attendance, shook their heads at Ms Makurira’s testimony and expressed their disbelief that he had been allowed to leave hospital so soon.

He said: “I told both of them – the receptionist and triage – that he wanted to die.

“And then within 30 minutes of me leaving hospital, he was sent home.”

Ms Makurira added: “There were no grounds to keep him in hospital. He did not meet the criteria of being in hospital.”

Margaret O’Neil, head of quality for mental health services in Bury at Pennine Care, conducted a review of Mr Rice’s case at Fairfield Hospital and found the trust’s response to have been ‘appropriate’.

She told the court that in February, Mr Rice had denied he had been self-harming and said his main issue was anger management, and said that on May 17 there were ‘no concerns with Jim’s capacity’.

She added: “There were no identified concerns [with the hospital’s actions]. The actions taken were in line with the expected standards.”

Full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 28th October 2021

‘He deserved a chance at life’: Parents and coroner slam Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust after man, 24, found dead on train tracks

The parents of a young man who killed himself on train tracks in Salford are calling for lessons to be learned after a coroner found that gross failings by a mental health trust contributed to his death.

Identified failures by mental health team include:

At the beginning of the inquest, GMMH admitted that while Alex was on Eagleton Ward there had been failures to:

Involve and engage Mr Turner’s father in risk formulation and risk management planning

Fully record information which was significant to risk assessment and management

Ensure that risk information gathered by [the trainee psychologist] was disseminated to staff on duty

Fully assess the escalating risk of Alex harming himself on December 5 and 6, 2019

Formulate a robust risk management plan to address the escalating risk on December 5 and 6, 2019

lex Turner, 24, from Chorley, went missing from the Eagleton Ward of Salford Royal Hospital’s Meadowbrook Unit, on December 5, 2019.

His body was found near Eccles station the next morning. 

The Bolton inquest was told Alex had been diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder shortly after being admitted as a voluntary inpatient to North Manchester General Hospital’s Safire unit on November 24 following multiple suicide attempts.

The warehouse worker had been a cannabis and cocaine user over a period of five years.

Alex told staff that he heard a voice in his head telling him to kill himself, and his father raised concerns of a similar nature if he was discharged.

Alex had repeatedly told staff that he would kill himself, the hearing was told.

Despite this, assistant coroner Catherine Cundy heard that Alex was discharged without his family being told on November 28.

Within hours, Alex was admitted to the Eagleton Ward after council staff called an ambulance due to concerns that Alex would take his own life.

At the beginning of the two-week inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court, Ms Cundy read out a series of failings admitted by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), including that there had been ‘a failure to formulate a comprehensive discharge care plan for Mr Turner’s discharge from SAFIRE Unit’ and ‘a failure to fully involve and engage Mr Turner’s father in the discharge’.

During his time on Eagleton Ward, Alex reported suicidal thoughts. On December 2, he told a consultant psychiatrist that he was hearing a voice in his head telling him ‘to go to the bridge’ and that ‘he was going to throw himself into a train but his girlfriend asked him not to’. Later that day, he told a nurse that he had ‘tried to jump off a bridge’ but had been stopped by his girlfriend.

According to medical records read out at the inquest, during a two-hour appointment with a student nurse on December 5 Alex ‘reported that he had suicidal ideation and he wanted to be put on a section as he was unable to keep himself safe in the community’. The court heard he became distressed and shouted that the devil was telling him to kill himself.

The inquest heard that GMMH telephoned Greater Manchester Police (GMP) shortly after midnight on December 6 when Alex failed to return to the ward.

Despite staff telling GMP that Alex, of Cross Kings Drive, Whittle le Woods, had previously attempted to climb over the Stott Lane railway bridge, it was not until 3.45am that GMP contacted British Transport Police (BTP).

A GMP search coordinator told the court that he expected that his colleagues would ask BTP to search the tracks within a 300 metre radius of the ward, which included the tracks under the Stott Lane bridge, but no such request was made.

The court heard that the BTP control room breached its own procedures by failing to ask what GMP wanted them to do, before grading the call as low risk requiring no further action. Shortly after 5am Alex’s body was found on train tracks under the Stott Lane bridge.

Full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 20th October 2021