A corner has ruled that gross failures amounting to neglect on the part of a mental health nurse working for the Humber Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust contributed PC Sharon Houfe’s suicide in April 2017.
PC Houfe, 43, was a well-respected police officer who worked closely with minority groups in Hull, most notably with the LGBT+ community. She was awarded an MBE in the 2014 honours list for her work tackling hate crime.
In 2015, PC Houfe was diagnosed with fibromyalgia which led to her taking time off work. PC Houfe then suffered with a progressive depressive illness and the coroner agreed that there were a number of missed opportunities by Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust to help her.
In the days leading up to her death PC Houfe was seen three times on four days and had contact with the Trust’s mental health team eight times in six days. A catalogue of missed opportunities were highlighted including PC Houfe not being referred to a psychiatrist or the Trust’s crisis team.
Experts told the inquest that had this happened it was extremely likely that PC Houfe’s would have been prevented from taking her own life.
Professor Paul Marks said in his ruling that “poor clinical judgments” meant Ms Houfe’s case was not passed on to psychiatric doctors. He added: “I have little doubt that if either or all of these missed opportunities had been taken Miss Houfe would have received effective treatment and would not have taken her own life.”
He observed that one member of the nursing team had not carried out a planned assessment of Ms Houfe and only met her briefly in a corridor to advise her that an assessment was unnecessary. In giving evidence colleagues described that nurse’s actions as ‘lazy’ and motivated by a desire to avoid work.
The coroner concluded that Mr Baker’s submission on the issue of neglect was: “accepted in its entirety which states that Mr Fratson’s actions could be categorised as a complete dereliction of duty owed to a vulnerable at-risk individual rather than an error of clinical judgment
In a statement, the trust’s medical director Dr John Byrne said: “It is clear from the inquest findings that we missed opportunities to intervene and support Sharon.
“This is a matter of deep regret for not just the organisation but also the staff involved…I wish to acknowledge the incredible dignity which the family have displayed throughout the inquest process, in particular the way they have reached out to our staff”.