Questions have been asked of the communication between various health departments after a 50-year-old man took his own life at Beachy Head.
Paul Hutchings’ body was found at the bottom of cliffs on April 3, 2014. He had been suffering from insomnia, depression and anxiety and was receiving treatment from a number of facilities in Eastbourne and Hastings.
At an inquest into his death, held at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, October 30, his family told how they felt he had been let down by the health services.
Mr Hutchings, who lived at Haslam Crescent had been battling insomnia and depression for a number of years. He had been trying various different sets of medication but nothing seemed to work and he was laid off from his job as a driver for St Michael’s Hospice.
After being sectioned under the mental health act in 2012 for trying to drown himself, his condition began to worsen again at the start of 2014 as he went through many ‘emotional and social difficulties’.
He was referred to Cavendish House, an adult mental health centre in Hastings, which after an assessment referred him to the crisis team. Despite the referral, the crisis team passed him back into the care of Cavendish House as they felt his depression was due to insomnia and not mental illness.
Mr Hutchings built up a rapport with psychiatrist Dr Sohail Bakhsh and saw him on a regular basis. Dr Bakhsh told the inquest he could tell Mr Hutchings was severely depressed but this information was never acknowledged by other health departments.
Mr Hutchings was sectioned under the mental health again on February 26, 2014 after police officers found him at Beachy Head. However, after a psychiatric assessment, he was deemed to be of full mental capacity and it was decided he didn’t need to be detained as he agreed to co-operate with health staff moving forward.
In the days leading up to his death, Mr Hutchings was taken to hospital complaining of chest pains. He asked to see Dr Bakhsh but the psychiatrist was on leave. Instead, Mr Hutchings was offered the chance to speak with a duty nurse but declined.
Barbora Hutchings, Paul’s wife, told the inquest how he was his usual unhappy, depressed self on April 2 and the next day, she received a text saying he was going to end it all. His car, and later his body, were found at Beachy Head later that day.
A special investigation into Mr Hutchings’ care was carried out by the East Sussex NHS Healthcare Trust and it was found that communication between the general health and mental health departments was not as good as it could have been.
Coroner Alan Craze felt Mr Hutchings had made a call for help in his final days and more should have been done to give him access to psychiatric help.
However, he also understood the difficulty of helping someone not willing to help themselves and where Mr Hutchings was very reluctant with his medicine and only willing to see Dr Bakhsh, little could be done when Dr Bakhsh was absent.
Mr Craze recorded a conclusion that Paul Hutchings took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed.