Mental health patient died while on leave from hospital, inquest hears
PUBLISHED: 18:16 29 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:24 01 November 2018
A voluntary patient at a Suffolk mental health ward was found hanged just days after his first spell of unaccompanied leave, an inquest heard.
Matthew Arkle, 37, of Cumberland Avenue, Bury St Edmunds, died on April 6, 2017, while an informal patient at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust-run Wedgwood House at West Suffolk Hospital.
An inquest on Monday heard Mr Arkle, known to his family and friends as Matty, had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since he was aged 20, which doctors described as ‘treatment resistant’.
Consultant psychiatrist Siri-Ann Robling told the inquest that Mr Arkle heard voices in his head which told him to hurt himself and others, which could make him act aggressively.
Despite this, a statement from Dr Daniel Martin described him as a ‘very pleasant man who got on well with all the staff.”
Mr Arkle was admitted to Wedgwood House on February 17, 2017, after overdosing on prescription medication.
Over the next month he took two periods of accompanied leave from the hospital without incident so on March 23 staff authorised him to take an hour’s leave on his own.
However, questions were raised in the inquest whether this was the correct decision.
Barrister Hannah Noyce, instructed by Tees Law to represent Mr Arkle’s family, read out medical observations made by health staff in the days before Mr Arkle’s death.
She said that on March 29 medical notes recorded Mr Arkle was ‘having a bad day’ and that ‘the voices were bad’.
On March 31 Mr Arkle was taken on a day trip but it was noted he was feeling ‘anxious and experienced voices en route’.
On April 3, the day before he went missing, Mr Arkle’s medical notes said ‘Matthew is low in mood and his voices were bothering him’.
However, expert witness Professor Tony Elliot said Mr Arkle would have been difficult to assess as his mood was ‘variable’
He added the Trust would also not have been able to stop him leaving the hospital if it had wanted to.
Mr Arkle was reported missing to police when he did not return from his leave. A missing person’s appeal was launched but his body was found in Hardwick Heath, just east of the Hospital, on April 6.
The inquest, which is expected to last four days, continues.