Observer Comment: Fatal harm can be done, certainly in less than 15 minutes

SERGEANT Richard Bexhell went into the Woodlands mental health unit looking for help and treatment. Within 24 hours he was dead.

The father-of-four was a loyal and dedicated servant to the Sussex Police force with 22 years of service.

He had only been promoted to sergeant shortly before he became unwell.

It is clear that he became ill in a very short space of time.

And within an even shorter space of time inside Woodlands he managed to hang himself.

He had been assessed as a medium risk of suicide and placed on a 15-minute observation watch.

What is hard to comprehend is how anyone who has suicidal thoughts and has openly said they want to kill themself can be placed on 15-minute watch.

It takes very little time for a patient to carry out fatal harm, certainly less than 15 minutes.

This seems to be basic common sense.

How many boxes need ticking or psychiatric and physical assessments take place to understand that a suicidal patient may need round-the-clock care and attention. One-to-one observation where staff can see a patient at all times and arms length observation were options available.

Two members of staff did not do the jobs they were supposed to at Woodlands. Psychiatrist Dr Abdul Dar is facing further investigation after some of his inquest evidence may have been new to bosses at Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust.

And staff nurse Peter Owusu-Mensah was dismissed for failing to adhere to proper procedures.

And the whole tragic episode can be answered by one single question asked by Coroner Alan Craze of the man in charge of the unit at the time, staff nurse Frank Waites: “If one-to-one or arms length observation had been adopted the probability is that he would still be alive today. Do you agree?

Mr Waites replied: “Yes.”


JERWOOD is finally getting ready to open its doors to the public (look out for our article coming later this week on the website).

There are some who thought the day would never come, and others who hoped it would not come, but many who are looking forward to exploring the gallery for themselves and basking in the glory that supporters hope it will bring to the town.

The admission charge is sure to be a talking point. While of course it would be great if it was free for everyone, the gallery is not receiving grants from the Arts Council, or local authority.

A charge of £2 for a local resident, less than the price of a pint, is not extortionate, considering that each visitor will not be returning every day, or even every week.