Missing mental health patients on the increase at Springfield Hospital in Tooting

Wandsworth Guardian: Springfield Hospital in Tooting Springfield Hospital in Tooting

Vulnerable mental health patients regularly go missing from hospital an investigation has discovered, with some not recovered for more than two weeks.

Figures obtained by the Wandsworth Guardian show more than 80 patients went missing from Springfield University Hospital in the past four years, compared with just three in 2009.

Wandsworth Guardian: Mark Ricketts

Mark Ricketts 

The investigation was prompted by the disappearance of patient Mark Ricketts, convicted of stabbing a stranger 20 times in 1994, for four days before the public were warned in March.

He was found on a bus in Lewisham by police, after media put out warnings.

Responding to the figures, director of nursing, Andrew Dean, said he could not account for the rise, which peaked in 2011 with 28 absconders.

He did emphasis many cases of patients being recorded missing is not due to an escape, but because they failed to report back to staff after periods of unescorted leave, organised as part of their rehabilitation.

The longest period a vulnerable patient went off the radar was 20 days while 14 people were missing for over a week.

Mr Dean, said: "If I had a member of family in the hospital who went missing, I would feel how most families feel.

"I would be really worried about it.

"But because I work here, I know the rigorous planning we do for people who go on unescorted leave.

"Part of our job is to reintegrate people back into society. First they go on escorted leave, then further down the line they can go out on their own.

"However, we are dealing with human beings. They sometimes do things we don’t expect, and sometimes they don’t stick to the promises they have made."

Before a patient is allowed on leave, a review is carried out to assess how likely they are to abscond.

It is hoped a new ‘multi-disciplinary procedure’ will reduce unauthorised absences.

He said: "A patient will be dealt with by a range of different staff members.

"We are now joining the dots. We wouldn’t have made a decision with the help of so much information before."

The hospital is divided into three acute wards, four forensic wards and departments for conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders.

Patients in the acute ward either check themselves into the hospital, or are referred by a mental health trust.

The forensic ward is for people considered dangerous to others, or who have a criminal conviction.

The hospital is building a 5.2 metre fence around the forensic ward, but there are no plans to secure the grounds in another way.

Springfield Hospital said no one has left a ward with a secured perimeter since 2011, when they started recording such instances.

Wandsworth Guardian: David Bradley CEO of South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust

David Bradley chief exec of South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust

Following the disappearance of Mr Ricketts, Tooting MP Sadiq Khan raised concerns about the blunder in a letter to the hospital’s CEO David Bradley.

Mr Bradley wrote back to the MP on April 3, stating he was on unsupervised leave and failed to return.

Mark Kemp, the victim of the Mr Ricketts' attack 20 years ago, said: "The place should no longer be able to take patients with criminal convictions.

"I didn’t even know he was missing, there could have been seeds of revenge and he could have come looking for me or my family.

"There’s no accountability in the hospital, when this sort of thing goes wrong there’s no one person you can complain to."

Wandsworth Guardian: Victim: Mark Kemp

Victim: Mark Kemp


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Comments (2)

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2:15pm Thu 24 Apr 14

KatLP89 says...

This is deeply deeply concerning.
The lack of care required for any one patient to escape shows gross negligence on the part of the trust and for one individual should be taken very seriously indeed, let alone 86.
Could you imagine if we were investigating this for a school?
Consider the consequences of a patient with a history of attempted suicide, or even a patient being treated for anorexia nervosa - this negligence could lead to death.

It's not just the figures of missing patients we should be concerned about, it is what is happening on the inside which paints an even grimmer picture.
If there is enough negligence to not notice 86 missing patients, what kind of behaviours are being missed on severely unwell patients?
Are patients being discharged when they are still at risk of suicide, before there is an adequate care plan in place, when they are still a risk to society, or when they still have physical health complications such as hearth arrythmias.

And there is even greater negligence on the patients unable to access care (another rant).
The times I have accessed the service for assessments for an eating disorder, not once has anyone checked me at security. The access at the unit was harder to get in than out (surely it should be the other way round), and I could freely wander the grounds.

Excuse the inappropriate pun, but the people who are mad are the ones running the place.
This is deeply deeply concerning. The lack of care required for any one patient to escape shows gross negligence on the part of the trust and for one individual should be taken very seriously indeed, let alone 86. Could you imagine if we were investigating this for a school? Consider the consequences of a patient with a history of attempted suicide, or even a patient being treated for anorexia nervosa - this negligence could lead to death. It's not just the figures of missing patients we should be concerned about, it is what is happening on the inside which paints an even grimmer picture. If there is enough negligence to not notice 86 missing patients, what kind of behaviours are being missed on severely unwell patients? Are patients being discharged when they are still at risk of suicide, before there is an adequate care plan in place, when they are still a risk to society, or when they still have physical health complications such as hearth arrythmias. And there is even greater negligence on the patients unable to access care (another rant). The times I have accessed the service for assessments for an eating disorder, not once has anyone checked me at security. The access at the unit was harder to get in than out (surely it should be the other way round), and I could freely wander the grounds. Excuse the inappropriate pun, but the people who are mad are the ones running the place. KatLP89
  • Score: 4

10:47pm Sat 26 Apr 14

independenthelpline says...

It seems a great injustice that the victims of attempted murder are treated with contempt and do not have equal rights to their would be murderers. Why are offenders rights placed before their victims? Could it be that those in power are secretly scared of them. They most certainly are not bothered about the victims and their rehabilitation of what they have suffered. It has apparently not crossed their minds what terrible damage is done emotionally let alone physically. How would they feel if their loved one was attacked and had their lives ruined by the ongoing emotional trauma which subsequently lead to a profound loss of quality of life and employment.
It seems a great injustice that the victims of attempted murder are treated with contempt and do not have equal rights to their would be murderers. Why are offenders rights placed before their victims? Could it be that those in power are secretly scared of them. They most certainly are not bothered about the victims and their rehabilitation of what they have suffered. It has apparently not crossed their minds what terrible damage is done emotionally let alone physically. How would they feel if their loved one was attacked and had their lives ruined by the ongoing emotional trauma which subsequently lead to a profound loss of quality of life and employment. independenthelpline
  • Score: 1

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