Hospital suicide concern

A DONCASTER hospital has come under fire after a patient with a history of suicide attempts suffocated himself by putting a plastic bag over his head.

"Serious concerns" were expressed by a coroner that paranoid schizophrenic Simon Newman was provided with an NHS bin liner in his room at St Catherine's Hospital, Balby.

Mr Newman, who had previously cut his wrist and throat, and thrown himself from a window, died from heart failure due to oxygen starvation after placing the bin liner over his head.

Staff on Brodsworth Ward at St Catherine's only realised something was wrong when the 42-year-old failed to emerge from his room to receive his medication.

A nurse found his door locked and when she looked through the viewing window she could see him lying on the bed with a bag over his head.

Neil Baxter, senior staff nurse, said they gave Mr Newman chest compressions to try and revive him.

He said a bin with a liner was provided in each room and was the subject of individual assessment. He said: "Obviously you can't remove all the risk from every situation. We assess patients daily for suicidal thoughts."

The Doncaster inquest was told Mr Newman, a former railwayman, had cut his wrist and his throat in May last year, as well as throwing himself out of a window.

Detectives called to the hospital after Mr Newman's death on August 3 established the door had been locked from the inside and there were no suspicious circumstances.

Mr Newman, of Leicester Avenue, Intake, suffered from paranoia that other people "would do nasty things and torture him" and these were constant fears.

He had asked to go home from Brodsworth Ward on July 23 last year and Deputy Coroner Fred Curtis expressed surprise that he was discharged when his paranoid fears had not gone away.

At the beginning of August he admitted himself back to the ward and Mr Curtis said he was always at risk of some form of self harm given his history, although he had not threatened to commit suicide.

He said: "Some time between 6pm and 6.25pm on August 3 he had placed a bag upon his head and tied his hands behind his back to give tightness around the wrists that would not allow free movement. The bag that was over his head was sourced within the hospital by Mr Newman either by retaining a bag in his bin or removing a bag from elsewhere.

"I express very serious concern and surprise that bags should be available. In everyday life we constantly see warnings about the dangers of plastic bags if they are placed on the head.

"I express surprise that the danger of plastic bags had not been recognised on the wards at the hospital. I understand there is now a tighter regime in respect of plastic bags.


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Latest sport It does seem to me to be an obvious danger that has now been more fully addressed and I am thankful that is the case.”

Mr Curtis said it was impossible to reach a verdict of suicide because there was not enough evidence to suggest that Mr Newman’s mental health was such that he could form that intention, although he had died by his own hand.

He recorded a narrative verdict that Mr Newman had a long history of psychiatric illness and died after placing a plastic bag over his head, that it was more likely than not that this was an act designed to draw attention to him seeking residence in a secure unit where he would be safest from his fears.

After the inquest a spokesman for Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to extend our condolences to Mr Newman’s family and loved ones following his untimely death last year while in the care of the Trust.

“The circumstances of Mr Newman’s death have been thoroughly investigated by the trust and as a result the use of plastic bags in rooms allocated to service users was reviewed. Plastic bin liners are now no longer used in any area of the ward which is accessible to service users without supervision.

“The trust has not received an official complaint from Mr Newman’s family but our complaints department staff are willing to talk with them at any time and can be contacted on 01302 796201.”