Tragic death fall of Whittington patient who fled from A&E
Inquest is told how 27-year-old's mother tried to stop son who was monitored by CCTV
19 May, 2017 — By Koos Couvée
A YOUNG father suffering from psychosis died after throwing himself off a building, hours after absconding from Whittington Hospital – despite security being told he was not to leave, an inquest has heard.
Dominic White, 27, had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act but ran away from the Archway hospital while waiting to be transferred to a privately-run secure mental hospital in Stevenage on November 9 last year.
Security were said to have been monitoring CCTV of the cubicle Mr White was in with members of his family but only spotted he was trying to leave the building when it was too late, the court heard. Due to staff shortages, there was no nurse available to monitor Mr White.
In dramatic CCTV footage shown to the jury at the St Pancras inquest, Mr White’s mother Lynne is seen desperately trying to stop her son running away, before he breaks free from her grasp and runs down Highgate Hill.
A police search launched afterwards failed to find him. Mr White’s body was discovered at an electricity substation in Stock Orchard Crescent, Holloway, the following day.
The inquest jury heard that on the morning of November 9, Mr White had agreed to be taken to hospital by ambulance after emergency services were called to his home in Crouch End.
In a statement, PC Christopher Davies said: “Dominic said he could see demons and had attempted to jump out the living room window. He said he heard demons in the loft and jumped into the loft.”
Mr White starting suffering mental health problems in 2011, when he returned to London after the relationship with his partner, with whom he had a young son and who lived in Iceland, broke down, the court heard.
He had been diagnosed with severe depression with psychotic symptoms and bipolar disorder and was admitted to a mental health unit in 2014 and 2015.
In a statement read to the jury, Ms White said her son had been “stable” since April 2015 and had been working full time as a security guard, but had become “sad and quiet” when his six-year-old son went back to Iceland in August 2016 following a visit to London.
In early November, Mr White started suffering from a lack of sleep and had been showing signs of psychosis after taking cocaine.
On November 7, Mr White attended the Whittington emergency unit with his mother, who had grown deeply concerned about her son. But doctors decided that, although some of his behaviour was “odd”, he was coherent and allowed him to go home.
As her son’s behaviour worsened, Ms White phoned Haringey’s crisis team but did not get an appointment. She was referred to the support and recovery team, which could only offer an appointment for November 14.
In a statement read out by coroner Mary Hassell, Ms White said: “I felt that my concerns had been dismissed by [Whittington] A&E and the crisis team.”
The jury heard that on arriving at the hospital on November 9, doctors quickly decided to detain Mr White under the Mental Health Act.
Psychiatrist Dr Rajiv Shah told the inquest: “He appeared very tired at the time. He was not orientated, and asked his brother to convey some information. It was clear he was responding to psychotic experiences and was putting himself at risk. The family could not cope.”
After he was sectioned, Mr White waited to be transferred to a private hospital in Stevenage because Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust had no beds available. He was allowed to go to a nearby McDonald’s restaurant with his mother around 6pm, the court heard.
Giving evidence yesterday (Thursday), Patience Davis, the nurse in charge of the A&E unit, said: “It was deemed safe for the patient to go to McDonald’s. A mental health nurse had not wanted him to go but felt it was his mother’s wish.”
Coroner Mary Hassell replied: “That was not the evidence Ms White gave.”
Ms Davis then added: “In six years [working at Whittington] I’ve never had [a sectioned patient] leave so I was surprised.”
Mr White returned with his mother shortly afterwards. But minutes later, he again left the cubicle and started walking out of the hospital. Ms White was unable to stop her son from running away.
Ms Hassell asked Ms Davis: “You said you would expect security guards to stop Dominic from leaving. Did you think: ‘Why did they not prevent him from leaving?’”
Ms Davis added: “I think it was the fact he had already left the building with his mum. It’s not like he was struggling or fighting.
“The agreement was for Dominic to be monitored by CCTV. That never stopped. Everybody seemed comfortable. He was cooperative and calm, not agitated. I felt that the level of monitoring by CCTV was sufficient.”
Paying tribute to her son, Ms White said: “His friends were his friends from his schooldays. He maintained all those friendships and as a family we are proud that he did that even when he struggled.”
The cause of Mr White’s death was given as multiple injuries.
The inquest continues.