Family wins battle as Minister changes hospital strategy for psychiatric patients

THE family of suicide victim Steven McAdam has succeeded in having hospital admission rules changed after he tragically took his own life in February 2004.

Mr McAdam (43) committed suicide by driving his car into the sea at Donaghadee Harbour after being told there were no beds available for him at Craigavon Area Hospital or at any psychiatric unit in Northern Ireland.

The ex-footballer, who came originally from Portadown and laterally lived in Bangor, was given an appointment at Ards Hospital five days after he and his family tried to have him admitted to Craigavon - but two days later he ended it all.

Last week his family met Health Minister Michael McGimpsey who acknowledged the death of father-of-two Steven was unacceptable and vowed his Department would do all in its power to prevent the same thing happening to anyone else.

Measures to be introduced include the use of beds vacated by patients on temporary home leave and the putting up of emergencies beds, as well as an improved provincewide network.

As well as Mr McGimpsey, the Department of Health was represented by top officers Linda Brown and Maura Briscoe. And on the McAdam side were brother Paul, sister-in-law Cathy and Dr Arthur Cassidy, psychologist and suicide treatment expert.

A statement from the family afterwards said: "The Minister gave his assurance that when all beds are occupied, or approaching maximum occupancy, a senior doctor will make the best use of all available options with current in-patients to allow for potential emergency admissions.

"Tragically, this utilisation policy was not enforced at the time of Steven's diagnosis but will allow for the flexibility with future emergency psychiatric admissions.

concerns

"The family has always conveyed serious concerns throughout, regarding the clinical decision making of the professionals involved in Steven's case, and there appeared to be both an inability and reluctance to answer pertinent questions posed by the coroner, Mr. John Leckey at the recent inquest.

"Arthur Cassidy was able to challenge several points that were recorded on Steven's notes which he felt clearly indicated the necessity of a bed. The Minister and his officials were reluctant to engage in this discussion, as a legal case is pending.

"While we fully appreciate the importance of so many other issues around the whole area of suicide prevention and mental health illness, we have to say this – when a person presents in their most vulnerable state, as Steven McAdam did on February 19, 2004, and was turned away, there cannot be any excuse for this action.

"However, overall, the family felt that the meeting with the Minister was productive and progressive. The Minister said the reassurance is there, that mental health provision will improve in the short and long term."

The family added, "The family appreciate all the support they have received from family members, friends and members of the public. Also thanks to Arthur Cassidy for his help and support leading up to the meeting with the Minister and accompanying us to the meeting."