Coroner rules pensioner hanged himself due to Milton Keynes Hospital’s lack of ‘simple common sense and compassion’

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AT the age of 82, Arthur John Barker was a proud man who lived a simple but happy life.

That was before a total lack of ‘simple common sense and compassion’ from so-called city health experts caused the pensioner’s humble little world to crumple beyond salvation.

In March, Mr Barker, known as John, was found dead, hanging from his bedroom door with a home-made ligature around his neck.

Hours previously he had been discharged from Milton Keynes Hospital, where his departing words to the Registrar doctor were: “If you send me home I will hang myself.”

At an inquest on Friday Coronor Tom Osborne described Mr Barker’s inquest as the saddest case he had heard for years.

He heard how the retired civil servant, who spent his time growing vegetables on his allotment, riding his bicycle and chopping up wooden pallets to feed the log burner in his unheated stone cottage, had became worried at the beginning of March when his younger brother became ill and was unable to make his three times weekly visits to deliver the firewood pallets for many months to come.

Mr Barker told neighbours he was frightened about coping without support and would like to live in sheltered housing. His family arranged a visit from a mental health team member, who reported no immediate cause for concern.

On March 11, Mr Barker made an even clearer cry for help. He called a neighbour saying he had fallen over in his Calverton cottage and could not get up.

Neighbour Maggie Tolliday said: “John was indeed on the on floor but he had his head on a cushion, a blanket over him, his mobile phone in his hand and no apparant injuiries. He was taken to A and E, where his ‘low mood’ was recorded.”

Twenty four hours later doctors ordered his discharge – despite his warning to the Registrar – with a vague promise to the family about contacting social services and the mental health team.

Maggie said: “It was evening by the time he got home to a chilly, unmodernised cottage where the facilties were basic to say the least. We don’t think he even bothered to put the lights on that night – we think he went straight to his bedroom and hanged himself.”

Mr Osborne criticised the hospital for failings of its suicide risk recognition and discharge procedures.

“Although Mr Barker told the doctor he would hang himself if he were discharged, this was never passed to the discharge team.... The ‘see what we can do’ conversation with his family seems to have gone nowhere,” he said.

“Simple common sense and compassion demanded that someone should have done something.”

A hospital spokesman said: “Milton Keynes Hospital sends its sincere condolences to John Barker’s family.

“Discharge procedures have been changed to ensure we do everything possible to prevent such an incident happening again.”