Suicidal teenager refused help

A MENTALLY ill, suicidal Suffolk teenager was refused help from every NHS unit before being taken to the police station, it has been revealed.

A MENTALLY ill, suicidal teenager was refused help from every NHS unit before being taken to the police station, it has been revealed.

Documents revealed by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act show that the ambulance crew and police officers spent hours transporting the girl from different locations in an attempt to find an appropriate place where she could be cared for, but without success.

The BBC reports that in a memo, one of the paramedics who dealt with the incident, described it as a “clear system failure on the part of mental health services for children in Ipswich which caused distress and harm to the patient”.

The memo, written on March 5 this year, describes how an ambulance was called to help a 15-year-old girl who had gone into a local newspaper office. The girl was described as suicidal and suffering acutely paranoid delusions.

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The first hospital they took her to, believed to be the psychiatric hospital St Clement's, “declined to accept the patient as she was a juvenile”. The ambulance was then diverted to the local juvenile psychiatry facility and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service unit nearby, which both refused to accept the patient. Ipswich Hospital also said the patient could not be accepted there because she had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

A Suffolk Police custody log confirmed the girl was kept in the cells for six hours between 5pm and 11pm.

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The Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said it was unable to discuss the care of an individual service user without their consent.

In a statement it said: “The default place of safety as at 5 March 2009 for people in east Suffolk aged under 17 was the police station in Ipswich.

“All agencies should have been aware that this was where young people detained under Section 136 would be taken by the police.

“All agencies involved recognised that the arrangement was unsatisfactory and welcomed the development of a new S136 suite by Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust at the Wedgwood Unit in Bury St Edmunds.

“This opened earlier this year and is the current place of safety for all young people detained for assessment under S136.”

A spokesperson for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “While in a similar situation it would be the police, rather than the ambulance staff who would need to be aware of the arrangements in place, we can confirm that our operational staff are fully conversant with the action they should take in an incident involving any young people in Suffolk detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.”

Suffolk Police said: “Changes in the Mental Health Act now allows for someone suffering from a mental illness to be transferred from one place of safety to another where it is considered to be in the best interests of the person concerned and with the agreement of those agencies involved in providing the care.

“The time taken to refer someone to the most appropriate health care professional can be affected by a number of issues for example, the degree of intoxication affecting some members of a highly vulnerable group of people or the availability of "out of hours" support from other agencies.”

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