“Rushed” release of Chesterfield man from mental health ward “contributed” to his death

The “rushed” decision to release a 23-year-old Chesterfield man from a mental health ward “contributed to his death” – which came two days later after taking heroin, an inquest heard.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 9:04 pm

Alasdair Conlon - described as “the sweetest, kindest person you could ever want to meet” - was given “section leave” to his Whittington Moor flat on July 7, 2017 by a locum psychiatrist.

The authorisation came despite the hospital’s lead psychiatrist Dr Rashid Akhtar voicing “concerns” about Alasdair returning to his home where he was found dead two days later on on July 9.

This afternoon a jury found crucial documents “were not checked or reviewed” prior to “accomplished musician” Alasdair’s release.

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Alasdair Conlan pictured here with family at a wedding

It emerged during evidence from hospital staff that the views of Alastair’s parents – who thought he was “not safe” on his own at his flat – had not been sought prior to the decision being taken, contrary to section leave policy.

Jurors were told today how locum psychiatrist Dr Raheel Aziz authorised “section leave” during a morning ward meeting on July 7 and “troubled soul” Alasdair was released the same day.

Dr Akhtar - who normally had responsibility for the ward - was on sick leave on the day of the meeting.

David Hurn, a senior manager at Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, told in his evidence how the morning meetings were “not for major decisions such as granting leave”.

However Dr Aziz described being informed by staff that Alasdair was to be “discharged” to his flat the following week - so weekend leave “should be considered”.

Coroner Peter Nieto told jurors section leave policy required that loved ones be contacted prior to authorisation - however this was not done.

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The disastrous decision came despite hospital psychiatrist Dr Akhtar telling mum Jennifer Conlon he had “concerns” about Alasdair returning to his flat during another ward meeting three days before.

Mrs Conlon told the inquest: “I agreed that it wasn’t safe there on his own in that flat.”

However, five days later on July 9 the mum-of-three received a phone call from a nurse at the ward asking where Alasdair was.

Alasdair was discovered the same day by father Martin - who rushed to his son’s home to check on him after wife Jennifer told him: “I’ve got this feeling something’s not right.”

Martin found the 23-year-old in the bedroom of his Chesterfield flat.

The distraught father “pulled his son to the floor”, starting CPR, however it was sadly too late - Alasdair was pronounced dead by paramedics, having taken a cocktail of “multiple substances”.

He had been detained under the Mental Health Act to the Hartington Ward at Chesterfield Royal Hospital in April 2017 due to “increasing concerns” over “substance misuse” and “lack of self-care”.

Alasdair had been diagnosed with suspected schizophrenia following a long struggle with anxiety and depression.

Mrs Conlon told how “highly intelligent” Alasdair, diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome aged just 13, would “research solutions” to the condition - “escalating” his anxiety.

Jurors heard “isolated” Alasdair - no longer attending school - “devoted his energy to self-diagnosis” - “taking substances which he hoped might improve his condition”.

Prior to being sectioned DJ, pianist and surfing lover Alasdair had been “informally admitted” to hospital in 2015 after asking his parents to help buy items he could use to take his own life.

A jury heard Alasdair used cannabis and the “darknet” to self-medicate.

Mrs Conlon said her son’s “lack of self-care” resulted in his “not cleaning himself properly” and his “chaotic” living environment - describing his flat as “infested with fruit flies”.

Jurors concluded he had used heroin “recreationally” or "as an attempt to self-medicate” but “not to cause himself harm”.

Coroner Peter Nieto said Alasdair died of mixed drug toxicity while the jury gave a verdict of death by misadventure.

When the conclusion was read out Alasdair’s mother was comforted by family as she wept.

Describing Alasdair during the inquest she said: “He was the sweetest, kindest person you could ever want to meet.”

She said: “He was a very troubled soul but was really caring and really sweet - he had the most amazing sense of humour. He could light up a room with his smile.”

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