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Campaigner seeks answers after his mentally ill brother died alone in filthy Ipswich flat

13:31 21 January 2016

Brothers David and Steve Martin pictured in 1971

Brothers David and Steve Martin pictured in 1971

Archant

More than a year after Steve Martin learned his mentally ill brother had died alone and amid filth and squalor, his quest for answers goes on.

David Martin, who was found dead in his Ipswich flat in September 2014.David Martin, who was found dead in his Ipswich flat in September 2014.

“A really good bloke, who’d do anything for a mate.”

That’s how Steve Martin would like to remember his older brother David.

But instead, the over-riding memory he has is one of feeling horror that the 52-year-old had been left to die in such awful conditions.

Some 16 months on he still feels there are a stack of unanswered questions over the care his brother received and his subsequent death, and until that happens he feels unable to mourn his loss. He hopes an inquest, to take place on an unconfirmed date, will reveal the full facts.

“Normally, when a loved one dies, you have the funeral and then you move on,” said Steve. “I can’t do that. There’s a part of me that wants to stay angry and upset until someone has been held to account.

“In many ways it would be easier for the family to keep it all quiet – there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health disorders – but this needs to come out into the open otherwise more people will die unnecessarily.”

David was discovered dead amid squalid conditions in his flat on September 11, 2014 – four days after his 52nd birthday. Pneumonia was listed as the cause of death.

At the time, he had been receiving care from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, having been diagnosed with complex mental health issues, including bipolar manic depression, schizo-affective disorder and schizophrenia, which he had lived with since his early adult years. He also suffered from a number of physical disabilities affecting his stomach and mobility.

The NSFT has offered its “sincerest condolences” to the family but said it had “fully investigated” the care it provided David, which it claims was relevant to his mental health needs.

David Martin, pictured when he was at high schoolDavid Martin, pictured when he was at high school

Steve had been appointed David’s next of kin more than 20 years earlier after a serious episode in which he attempted to kill their mother prevented further contact with the wider family.

He regularly visited his brother to check on his welfare, even after moving to Norwich and starting a young family of his own, and said the care initially provided by the Trust’s outreach teams was “highly skilled”, praising their work to keep David’s condition manageable and inform him of any developments.

But he has criticised changes prior to David’s death, which resulted from funding cuts.

The funding for David’s flat to be cleaned, previously paid for by Suffolk County Council, was also cut, despite untidiness being linked to his mental ill health.

Steve said a messy environment was often a precursor to his brother suffering a serious mental episode and he was angry that the cuts to cleaning had been agreed without informing him.

When visiting David’s flat after his death, Steve said it had not been cleaned for six weeks; it was damp, there was no hot water and his bedroom window had been broken.

He said a care worker had visited just days before David’s death and had taken photographs of the mess, but had not taken any further action.

“How can you visit someone who is disabled, both physically and mentally, and leave them in an environment like that?” he asked. “I don’t get it – I just don’t get it at all.”

Steve also learned his brother had taken amphetamines the weekend before his death, which he said should have presented another warning.

The messy Ipswich flat in which David Martin was found dead in September 2014The messy Ipswich flat in which David Martin was found dead in September 2014

He said David’s care plan had a strategy for reacting to such triggers, which should have been enacted.

Following his brother’s death, Steve says he was left feeling remorseful and questioned whether there was more he could do.

He has been working with the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which he says has opened his eyes to the effect of financial cuts across the services.

“I’ve become convinced there must be more people like David out there,” he said. “In my opinion, the administration at the NSFT have got rid of the infrastructure by sacking skilled members of staff and left themselves without the resources to deliver the care that it’s their responsibility to deliver.”

Steve, 50, who now lives in Grantham, Lincolnshire, has submitted an official complaint to the Trust, but claims its response ignored key issues to do with the condition of David’s flat and the competency of his care co-ordinator. “They need to be held to account,” he added.

The EADT launched its Mental Health Watch campaign last year to seek better services in the region. If you have an mental health issue that needs investigating, email andrew.hirst@archant.co.uk.

Steve Martin describes what his brother meant to him

The messy Ipswich flat in which David Martin was found dead in September 2014The messy Ipswich flat in which David Martin was found dead in September 2014

“The thing that most people missed about David was that he was just a really good bloke; he’d do anything for a mate and wouldn’t put up with anything like animal cruelty, racism or bullying.

“He’d stick up for the little guy and had friends stay with him, long term, that had serious disabilities and illness so he could care for them.

“He was a poet and an artist and was incredibly intelligent.

“His knowledge of history and current affairs had him able to debate with the best of them. He was loved by his family. His nephew and nieces were charmed by his roguish mischief and entertained by his ability to mock his own siblings and conspire with the children.

“In his world he was a warrior and a hero. His episodes threw him into the role of saving the world and defending the innocent. He never let his fear stop him, his disabilities alter him or society shape his thinking.”

Trust says it investigated claims

Alison Armstrong, Director of Operations (Suffolk) Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We fully understand the family’s distress following the death of David Martin in September 2014 and express our sincerest condolences.

Steve Martin has been seeking answers over his brother's deathSteve Martin has been seeking answers over his brother's death

“In response to the family’s concerns, we have fully investigated the care and services provided to Mr Martin in the period leading up to his death. We have spoken with his family on a number of occasions to share the outcome of our investigation and listened to their concerns.

“Our Trust supported Mr Martin to have the independence he wished to maintain, by providing him with services appropriate to his mental health needs by experienced staff, who had known him for many years.

“Mr Martin was visited at his home at least once a week and - after the restructure of our services in 2013 - more frequently when additional support was required. This often included accompanying Mr Martin to GP appointments regarding his physical care or helping him with transport to attend them.

“On a number of occasions, our staff encouraged Mr Martin to consider moving into mental health supported housing but he declined as he wished to remain in his own home, close to friends and neighbours. He did agree to have periods of respite in supported housing for short breaks during the year which our staff supported him with.”

Asked about the cuts to cleaning, she added: “Mr Martin was notified that Suffolk County Council would cease to pay for the cleaning of his flat and he agreed to pay for this service out of his benefits. Our staff arranged, and attended, a meeting with the cleaning services manager to support him in putting these arrangements in place. However, Mr Martin later discontinued this service and told our staff that he had made alternative arrangements with a friend.

“Our staff worked with him to support him caring for his flat by looking at options regarding cleaning and upkeep, while maintaining his independence with decision making.

“Our investigation did find that his brother’s contact details were not on Mr Martin’s care plan, although these details were included elsewhere in his electronic patient record. This is a shortcoming that our Trust has previously apologised for. From the information Mr Martin had provided our staff, it appeared that he was in contact with his brother.

“Mr Martin continued to receive a service that was appropriate to his needs, including continuing to work with staff that had known him for several years. The role of the care coordinator is in addition to other roles to ensure Mr Martin care remained relevant to his mental health needs.”

9 comments

  • as might be expected, the usual suspects 'trot' out their political axe grinding. Do they want us to believe that suicides among people who are emotionally disturbed are the Tories fault? It never ever happens when we have a Labour govt then? If there is any personal responsibility for this tragedy I would guess it's a lot closer to home than someone at Westminster. The East Suffolk Mental Health Trust is not under special measures for nothing. The post by Darius Lazaitis seems to me to get closest to the nub of the problem,

    Report this comment

    Gobby

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

  • Alison Armstrong needs to go back into training if she thinks "agreeing" with a patient with serious mental health issues actually means he will have the capability to carry these tasks out. He has lost mental capability Alison, how do you not get this! It would be like an excuse from a head of a trust saying a patient had serious arterial damage because it was agreed between the patient and the nurse that he would insert an IV drip himself. How do these people get these jobs? Probably just a bean counter put in that role to push through the savage cuts taking place across the country. When we have people put into cells because there are no mental hospital beds something is wrong. Imagine the uproar if a heart attack patient was taken to a police cell because there was no space.

    Report this comment

    redhotitfc

    Friday, January 22, 2016

  • Amsterdam you're an idiot. If errors have been made an investigation needs to take place to find out exactly what happened so it hopefully won't happen to another family. I take it you have no experience in mental health and their services whatsoever. All your comment does is make you sound like an idiotic heartless troll.

    Report this comment

    redhotitfc

    Friday, January 22, 2016

  • "Investigating"

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Friday, January 22, 2016

  • So the family did all they could? Did they? Is it them and those who controlled the resources that carry any blame rather than those who sought to do their best within the terms they were given? Wasting time and resources investing the blindingly obvious doesnt help anyone.

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Friday, January 22, 2016

  • Outreach helped me a lot. They are people I would like to thank. Apart that everything else is screwed and unprofessional. Marine House is waste of time and nerves. I was there and the only professional who actually helped me was Dr Winton. All others just caused me great distress. I mean one employee who works at Marine House done my health review after seeing me for 15 minutes. IS THIS professional service? Disgraceful and sad. All the best to family who lost their spouse because of professional mess. Sadly professionalso do not take responsibility and instead guiding to their guidelines. No sensibility and no common sense.

    Report this comment

    Darius Lazaitis

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • It seems like a failure of housing services. Clearly this poor chap should have been in Supported Housing, not dumped in a flat and left to fend for himself. The current government are actively dismantling adult social care with some services facing cuts of up to 40%, or short term contracts that leave these (often charitable) organisations unable to raise funds elsewhere ( from grants and trusts etc) due to not being able to make commitments on outcomes and service delivery.

    Report this comment

    Sentinel Red

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • Assuming those photographs were taken when they said they were, then they are definite warning signs that this man was very unwell. I get the impression that the Trust aren't too bothered. Mental health care in East Anglia needs a massive overhaul.

    Report this comment

    Suffolk Exile

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

  • Good luck to the man. These so called 'services' are not fit for purpose and furthermore, they simply don't care. It is just a reflection of Britain today.... Every man for himself!

    Report this comment

    Happy

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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