Family are calling for a mental health investigation in Essex to include mother’s death

A man whose mother killed herself after going without an NHS psychiatric appointment for three months has said it is wrong that a public inquiry will not investigate her death and others like hers.

The Lampard inquiry is investigating the deaths of almost 2,000 mental health patients in Essex since 2000, but Andrea Waddington’s will not be included because it occurred in February, after the inquiry’s chosen cut-off date of late last year. Additionally, Waddington, who was 59 when she died, is ineligible because she was being treated in the community.

Her son James, 29, said the exclusion made no sense. “The outpatient experience is just as bad, if not worse,” he said. “And although she died outside this period, the difficulties in her treatment journey were evident over the last year, so it is still within the period.”

He also said he was told there would be no beds available even if she were sectioned.

James said his mother was circumcised in 2012, put on an antidepressant and was doing well until early last year, when her own mother became ill. He said her mental health went downhill after a doctor responded by changing her medication, with the type and dose changing frequently over the following months.

When she started having suicidal thoughts, a mental health crisis team started visiting but then stopped, he said. James estimated that his mother had five psychiatrist appointments a year, three of which were by telephone.

Last October, a psychiatrist told Waddington they were leaving the area, and the next appointment, which was on the phone, wasn’t until Feb. 2, when another psychiatrist said they were also leaving, James said. Two days later his father found her dead in the loft.

“You have a period of three months where you had no help from the NHS and yet her thoughts were still the same,” James said. “No one was involved during that period from October to February. The mental health team could have stepped in and said, ‘Okay, since you don’t have a psychiatrist, we’ll resume visits.’ There was actually nothing – just a void.

“When I put myself in my mother’s mind, she’s been waiting all this time, you finally get a phone call and the person basically just tells you (they’re leaving).”

He said that before his mother became unwell last year, she was “very bubbly” and enjoyed gardening, yoga and playing the piano. “I expected another 30 years with her,” he said.

Priya Singh, a senior associate at Hodge Jones & Allen who is representing the family, said there were many others in the same boat. “They have valuable evidence to share and the (inquiry) chair should urgently address the position regarding such families,” she said.

Ann Sheridan, an executive nurse at the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, said their thoughts were with the Waddingtons and “we are continually striving to improve the care we provide to people with often complex needs. We will of course take into account any recommendations from a future study.”

A spokesperson for the inquiry said there was “unfortunately” a “need for an end date”, and that including all community care would “significantly extend the scope beyond the core purpose of the inquiry, which is to investigate patient deaths”.

They expressed their condolences over the death of his mother and added: “We urge Mr Waddington (and anyone involved) to contact the investigation, either himself or through his legal representatives .”