04 March 2006

Independent probe into suicide of North Belfast teen is long overdue


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA probe has been ordered by Health Minister Shaun Woodward into the circumstances surrounding the death of North Belfast suicide victim Danny McCartan.
The decision to set up an independent review into the 18-year-old’s case has been welcomed by his parents, who have been fighting for such an inquiry since last October.
Shaun Woodward told Gerard and Carol McCartan of the development during a private visit to their Oldpark home on Tuesday night.
“We are pleased that this independent review is taking place, Gerard McCartan said.
“But we’ve fought long and hard for this. It’s no more than what Danny and others deserve.”
Danny took his life in April 2005 and his body was found in a derelict house close to the family home.
Right from the start, his parents questioned the amount of anti-depressants he was prescribed, the delays in appointments to see his psychiatrist and the lack of mental health facilities for young people.
In the nine months leading up to his death Danny was prescribed nearly 3,000 tablets in an effort to combat his depression and anxiety through a cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs and sleeping pills.
He had been self-harming for three years and had cut his face, legs, and arms with blades.
On the day he committed suicide he asked his Community Psychiatric nurse (CPN) whether he could go back into hospital. He was told that he couldn’t. Danny fled and that was the last time his parents saw him alive.
The couple lodged a ‘super complaint’ against the Mater Hospital, the North and West Belfast Trust and the South and East Belfast Trust, which runs the adult mental health facility Knockbraken, for what they described as a lack of care last June.
The Mater Hospital and North and the West Belfast Trust replied to their complaint three months later, admitting they would be undertaking urgent reviews of their procedures.
“The Mater Hospital is urgently reviewing its outpatient appointment system to ensure that appointments arranged by the consultant are booked accurately and within a reasonable time,” the hospital said in their letter to the McCartans.
The South and East Belfast Trust carried out their own investigation but did not acknowledge any fault in their treatment of Danny.
The McCartans wrote to the Convenor of Complaints at the Eastern Health and Social Services Board (EHSSB) on October 4 and November 11 asking for an independent review.
“The way this complaint has been handed has been a sham, it has caused us undue stress and it should never have happened. It was a total disgrace the way that the three trusts handled this complaint and it must not ever happen to anyone else,” Gerard McCartan said.
The Minister has now asked the EHSSB to commission the review.
"I have asked the Eastern Board to commission an independent review into the circumstances surrounding the death of Danny McCartan and the treatment and care offered to him by the Health and Social Care system,” Shaun Woodward said.
“The untimely death of Danny is a tragedy for his family. We need to establish whether lessons can be learnt so that such tragedies are avoided as far as possible in the future."
A spokesperson for the Department of Health insisted the review would be carried out entirely independent of the EHSSB.
North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton said the government needed to bridge the chronic gap in services.
“The lack of mental health resources for children and adolescents, particularly in Belfast where there is no child and adolescent psychiatrist, has already been clearly identified.
“While this independent review is welcome, more so if it identifies the chronic gaps in support for people moving between child and adolescent services to adult services, the fact is that many of the problems are well understood. What is required is resources, funding and a strategic response.”

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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