Widow of Richard Bexhell sues health trust

THE widow of sergeant Richard Bexhell is taking legal action against Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust following her husband’s inquest.

Lynette Bexhell, of Highview Close, fought back tears as she heard the jury return a verdict of suicide at Eastbourne town hall following a four-day hearing.

The court heard there had been a series of failures relating to her husband’s care at the Woodlands Unit in The Ridge during the Bank Holiday weekend of August 2009.

No risk assessment or separate care plan was made and referral papers had not been read by the team admitting him to the unit.

Sgt Bexhell was found hanging by a belt less than 24 hours after he went into the unit.

Mrs Bexhell now plans to take the trust to court for damages for clinical negligence.

Paul Sankey, the solicitor representing the family, said: “I can confirm that we are in the process of preparing legal action against the trust for damages for clinical negligence.”

The evidence of two key witnesses at the inquest is now expected to come under close scrutiny.

Psychiatrist Dr Abdul Dar and staff nurse Peter Owusu-Mensah were part of the admitting team who dealt with Sgt Bexhell on his arrival at the unit.

The inquest heard how both men failed to carry out a risk assessment on Sgt Bexhell before he was admitted.

Dr Dar will now face more questions from trust management relating to his conduct.

Owusu-Mensah was dismissed by the Trust and will face a hearing before the Nursing and Midwifery Council in May.

Speaking to the Observer after the inquest, Helen Greatorex, executive director of nursing and quality at the Trust said: “As a result of the evidence that Dr Dar gave to the inquest, we are revisiting the evidence he gave to our internal investigation. We will consider it in comparison to what he said in the inquest.

“What was said in the inquest was of significant concern to us.

“He acknowledged in court, having not recognised that with us before, that he had failed to read two medical assessments for detention under the Mental Health Act. We are taking further action.

“Peter Owusu-Mensa was dismissed and I reported him to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

“The final thing the jury said was important, that the correct level of observation was in place.

“They have highlighted a number of failures, so forms were not completed, clinical assessments not considered, care plan not drawn up - that’s completely unacceptable.

“It was unacceptable then and it’s unacceptable now - that’s why nurse Owusu-Mensah was dismissed.

“There is no excuse, no rationale, there is no reason for those errors to have been made.

“We have wanted to meet with Mrs Bexhell and have offered that option. We apologised unreservedly. What happened was an absolute tragedy.”