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Husband whose wife hanged herself frozen out of care plan

by Access Legal

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A Wolverhampton policeman whose wife hanged herself at a city hospital claims he was 'frozen out' of her treatment for psychosis.

Kevin Colley said he was excluded from his wife Karen's care management plan, and not told anything about how to look after her.

She hanged herself using her own belt while a voluntary patient at Penn Hospital, run by Wolverhampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT), and now the subject of patient safety fears.

Mr Colley believes his wife's death three years ago, aged 46, could have been prevented if he had been fully involved in her treatment.

In the months leading up to her death, Mrs Colley - who has a teenage daughter by a previous marriage - had used knives to cut herself, claimed her husband was secretly filming her and her daughter, and lived in a chaotic 'den' in a back bedroom of their home in Tettenhall.

Mrs Colley was diagnosed as having Parkinson's Disease between 2002 and 2004, and was prescribed drugs to treat it. Some sufferers, like Mrs Colley, can experience side-effects, including paranoid psychosis. This in turn can be treated with other drugs.

Mr Colley, who serves with West Midlands Police, believes his wife was not treated properly, and said he wants to bring people's attention to her case, after the PCT was ordered to review its mental health services.

Concerns about patients' safety at Penn Hospital were raised in 2007 as a result of high levels of suicides among patients.

Mr Colley said: "In all the time from the onset of Karen's psychosis until her death, I was not told anything about her condition, what would happen to her, or what to do. I was completely in the dark.

"Penn Hospital is a functioning establishment, and there are people with families and relatives in there, and I feel they should be made fully aware of its shortcomings.

"Karen was a home care patient allowed to come and go as she pleased, but she was a danger to herself, to me, and to her daughter when she was at home, but I was given no advice whatsoever about how to care for her or what to do.

"Specialists and other staff at the hospital were continually obstructive, and whenever I asked about Karen and her condition, they would always claim they couldn't tell me anything due to patient confidentiality." - Kevin Colley, Tettenhall

"Specialists and other staff at the hospital were continually obstructive, and whenever I asked about Karen and her condition, they would always claim they couldn't tell me anything due to patient confidentiality. I couldn't get any information about how to cope with Karen."

Mrs Colley, who had always taken great pride in her appearance, and who had a Masters degree in business studies, was 'living in chaos'.

Mr Colley, who was married to her for eight years, said: "I had to remove knives and tools from the house, because she was self-harming and taking things apart. She lived in one room of the house, which was like a teenager's, only twice as bad. It was heartbreaking to witness her demise."

An attempt to section Mrs Colley under the Mental Health Act failed, and no further attempts were made. Mr Colley believes his wife would still be alive today if sectioning had succeeded.

"I'm so angry, because I've lost a wife, Karen's daughter's lost her mother, and it was avoidable. It's known that drugs used to treat the effects of Parkinson's Disease can lead to psychosis, but that in turn is treatable and manageable.

"It would have been bad enough losing her, but to lose her in such a way, and seeing how she was in the months before her death means her memory is now tainted, but I feel I have to highlight what happened, for her, and in her memory."

Mrs Colley was readmitted to Penn Hospital as a voluntary patient in early summer 2006, and moved between there and home until her death later that year.

She had taken from her all the personal items she might use to self-harm, including several belts, and was told she could only have them back if the self-harming stopped. When Mrs Colley requested a belt back, because she had lost weight and needed to keep her trousers up, she was given it.

She was found dead at the hospital on 8 November 2006, having hanged herself using the belt.

"While she gave a plausible reason for wanting the belt back, she should not have been given it", said Mr Colley, "because she had not stopped self-harming, which the hospital said must stop first."

In response to the order for the PCT to reform its mental health care services, he said: "If someone is determined to kill themselves it's difficult to stop them, but when they are in a place that's meant to be caring for them, you'd think a better job would be done of preventing it happening.

"Something's lacking somewhere, as this spate of suicides shows; including my wife's."

Kathryn Turner, clinical negligence specialist at Access Legal from Shoosmiths, is representing Mr Colley in a claim he has filed against the PCT.

She said: "At the inquest it was apparent that more emphasis was put on deciding whether staff should even talk to Mr Colley, than on recording what he had to tell them about his wife's condition to help with her treatment.

"He knew her better than anyone. What he could have told staff would have revealed that his wife was still suffering delusions. Sadly no one took the trouble to ask him what he knew. When he tried to volunteer information he was met with red tape.

"Records were incomplete, and changes in risk status were poorly recorded. Despite this, the PCT portrayed their care of Mrs Colley as satisfactory. The discovery of more widespread concerns about standards in Penn Hospital calls that assessment further into question.

"Taking information from a caring close relative ought to be a given rather than portrayed as a threat to patient confidentiality."

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