MEDICAL staff responsible for looking after a psychiatric patient who died after fleeing their care labelled him a ‘moderate risk’ despite his fixation on taking his own life.
Father-of-two, Ryan Chapman, 29, of Broadwater, received treatment at Meadowfield Psychiatric Hospital in May of last year.
A week after he was admitted (May 21), Mr Chapman fled the hospital, in Arundel Road, and ran into the A27 where he was hit by a lorry.
On day two of the inquest into his death, coroner Penelope Schofield heard how, just 30 minutes after his initial assessment at Meadowfield, Mr Chapman told a nurse he felt like running onto the A27.
Charge nurse Margaret Bryant said: “When I interviewed him there was an emphasis on wanting to get better and be there for his children. I graded him as medium risk.
“I didn’t feel he would act on his thoughts. We did take him seriously, we were offering him a lot of support. We felt we were keeping him safe.”
She added that the fact Mr Chapman mentioned how he felt was positive as he was able to approach staff.
Mr Chapman was an informal patient which meant he was free to leave the hospital provided staff were aware of where he was going.
Despite this, a note was made on his hospital record that if he attempted to leave the hospital without an escort his safety should be considered given ‘his fixed belief he means to end his life.’
Mr Chapman was originally observed by a nurse every 15 minutes, however, this was reduced to every hour after staff felt his condition was ‘improving.’
Dr Mahraj Syed carried out Mr Chapman’s assessment following his referral to Meadowfield.
He said: “Ryan didn’t seem depressed to me, but he was fixated on suicide. I tried to reassure him but I couldn’t give him much of an answer on how we would help him because I hadn’t seen a case like this before.”
Dr Syed said because Mr Chapman mentioned so many ways of ending his life in quick succession he did not take him seriously.
The inquest heard how the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trus runs an ‘open door policy.’
Nurse Bryant said: “It’s so as not to deprive people of their liberty, they have the freedom to come and go. To have the door open is beneficial as it lets them have a feeling of independence.”
The inquest continues.