"Incompetence and negligence led to the death of my son"

About: Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust / Adult mental health

(as a relative),

I believe that incompetence, negligence, and lack of communication with relatives (carers) and GP over a period of nearly 5 years, resulted in my son (aged 29) taking his own life while suffering from schizophrenia. Actions by some practitioners were counter-productive, in my view, and served to work against best outcome.

I was exasperated by the internal investigation, which left my questions and concerns unanswered. In my view it did not address the failings of systems and individuals concerned, as far as I could tell. I felt that the official complaints procedure was slow, poorly executed, and the result not fit for purpose. For instance, in the clear-cut mishandled situations it appeared to me that staff suspensions were called-for, to highlight the blatant - and simple - failings in interaction, recording, following-up, and following through with care.

I am so embittered that in my view just a little effort and diligence by people in the Trust (BSMHT), and by the GPs involved, could have saved our loved son from suicide, but they appear to have little real comprehension of their failings - and still less of Customer Service: the concept of that is alien.

I have had to request an independent review by the Parliamentary Ombudsman for Health to look into failings by this Trust, and my son's GP who, in effect, was responsible for managing this case. Incompetence and simple human negligence prevailed, in my opinion; and my son, after years of efforts to keep fit and motivated, slid into a terrible depressive state in which he thought only he had the answer. We so miss him.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

We recognise that a suicide in the family is a distressing occurrence and we do our best to support and work with families with regard to the outcome of internal investigations, the Coroners verdict and the impact of such a loss. We also understand that if families are not satisfied with our services and our response that they are entitled to seek an external opinion and resolution through the Ombudsman’s office.

The management of suicidal risk and self harming behaviour is a high priority for our trust and we are committed to reducing the prevalence of suicide in our communities. In recent years the numbers of suicides per year have reduced and whilst we have been unable to eliminate the risk entirely we understand that our suicide rates are below the national and regional averages.

Response from

Dear 'Heartbroken', I read your story and wanted to express my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. Mind is in accord with the Department of Health statement that "Each suicide represents both an individual tragedy and a loss to society." I wonder if you have heard of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide? They are an organisation that can offer you support, including dealing with the Ombudsman review that you have requested. This group will also help you to take time to grieve; as you are working so hard to try and get answers to your questions you could neglect to take time to look after yourself and your need to mourn a son lost in the prime of his life. I wish you all the very best, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind.
  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful

Update posted by Heartbroken (a relative)

I'm so glad to hear that local suicide rates are below national averages - that's really comforting; and how hollow. But it does not explain why I feel we have had the lies and denials of complete and obvious negligence from GP and psychiatrist alike.

I'm not really interested in their empty mission statements and self-assessed achievement (own rules apply). The fact is they will never admit to their serious failings and as a result they will never tackle them.

I am grateful for the further comment and support from Paul Farmer. But "Each suicide represents both an individual tragedy and a loss to society" - may not apply in Solihull, where we only help those who want to help themselves - so that rules out anyone without the insight to understand their illness: if they wont play, we wont. That's what happens here in my view.

I urge all those reading this, and receiving the same facile answers and rebuffs, to speak out before it's too late in their case - they will surely regret not having forced the issue when it is too late.

I'm very sorry to have to be so negative on our experiences with the services we (haven't) received, but that's how it's been for us - and the continuing stress goes on at their perpetuation. The penny hasn't dropped yet and we know others suffer the same way - every day - but it can't just be in Solihull, can it?