Health experts give evidence at Luke Bitmead inquest
A COTSWOLD author who took an overdose was able to discharge himself from hospital- only to leap to his death hours later from a multi-storey car park, an inquest has heard.
Luke Bitmead, of Southrop, near Lechlade was found dead on October 27, 2006, at the foot of Brunel West, a multi-storey car park in Swindon. The 34-year-old was the author of White Summer.
He was admitted to Great Western Hospital, Swindon three days prior to his death after taking an overdose of paracetamol. He had attempted an overdose back in 1998 and in 2004 he went through a period of self-harm.
But after being there for less than 72 hours, staff at GWH later helped Luke remove his drip and monitoring equipment before allowing him to leave - dressed only in his pyjamas - in the early hours of October 27.
He was then taken by taxi to the Swindon car park where he jumped to his death.
Today the inquest heard evidence from Elaine Hanson, Luke’s mother. She expressed concern that Luke received just one hour of care from a mental health nurse following his stay in hospital.
The inquest, at Trowbridge Town Council, heard how Luke’s family were concerned staff did not detain him under the Mental Health Act, despite knowing his history of clinical depression.
Luke was interviewed by Celia Moore, a mental health nurse, but Mrs Hanson said she felt "important questions" were overlooked such as family history of mental health problems, Luke’s personal history and whether he had suicidal thoughts.
Celia Moore, the mental health nurse who assessed Luke, told the inquest it was not her job to detain patients, rather assess the circumstances surrounding the hospital admission.
She said: "Luke told me that his book had been published and he was thrilled about that and his moods were high. But two months prior to him coming to hospital the high had worn off and he started to feel nervous and anxious about book signings.
"I think he thought the book being published would make him feel better about himself but he was starting to realise it had not made everything okay.
"I was in no doubt the overdose was a serious suicide attempt."
She added that her and Luke had a good rapport and she felt he appreciated the chance to discuss his problems.
"Luke was very clear he would accept treatment for his mental illness once he was at home with his family. I got the impression suicide was Luke’s back-up plan.
"I sincerely believed that he would go home with his very supportive family and receive help.
"There was lots of hope.
"If he said he was leaving to go kill himself we could have sectioned him. But that’s not what he said.
Sugata Nag, a consultant in the Emergency department at GWH, signed the self-discharge form.
"I felt Luke had full mental capacity and so I could not force him to accept treatment. He had to agree himself.
"I told Luke the potential health consequences of his self-discharge.
"He didn’t give me the impression he was going to commit suicide."
Mental health experts were due to give evidence during the five-day inquest.