Family of suicide victim criticise doctors for failing to spot depression

THE family of a father-of-three who took his own life just five weeks after an initial suicide attempt have criticised health staff for failing to intervene.

Kevin Malik of Hawthorne Way, St Ives hung himself in October last year. He had attempted suicide the previous month and was discharged from hospital diagnosed with ‘mild’ depression two weeks later.

The 53-year-old had attempted suicide in the early 90s during a three-year bout of depression. But his GP, who Mr Malik saw 13 times before his death, failed to pick up on his psychological problems because of incomplete medical records.

Instead Mr Malik was prescribed painkillers, which he then used, along with over-the-counter drugs, to try to take his own life. After that attempt failed he was referred for counselling but killed himself before the sessions could be arranged.

Speaking at an inquest held in Huntingdon last week, Mr Malik’s widow Elizabeth said the family had had to battle for help.

She said: “Someone as ill as Kevin shouldn’t have been expected to put his own treatment in place. There was nothing more he could have done to make them see how bad things were.

“The opportunity to safeguard him was totally lost. Anyone with Kevin’s history would have known he shouldn’t have been given so much medication.

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“I cannot understand why the fact that Kevin was suffering from the same problems as 20 years ago was missed.”

His father-in-law John Mills added: “The treatment he received 20 years ago was far better than the treatment now.”

Mr Malik first visited his GP, Dr Christopher Griffiths at the Old Exchange Surgery in St Ives, at the end of April complaining of testicular pain.

He was given an all-clear from an ultrasound scan, but returned complaining of loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, headaches and blurred vision. He was then prescribed painkillers and underwent a brain scan.

Dr Griffiths said it was only when Mrs Malik phoned the surgery that details of her husband’s mental health history came to light. Dr Griffiths told the inquest the surgery was re-assessing its electronic summary of case notes for patients with depression.

He said: “When a middle-aged man presents with a range of physical symptoms, it is important to rule out physical causes of these symptoms. I addressed each of these presentations as appropriately as I could.

“If the electronic record had said there had been a previous attempt of suicide that would have been an important piece of information.”

On August 31, Mr Malik was rushed to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow having taken an overdose.

A psychiatrist at the hospital said Mr Malik was suffering from mild depression, and referred him to Cambridgeshire’s community health team.

Psychiatrist Dr Swathi Theegala who assessed Mr Malik at the Newtown Centre in Huntingdon told the inquest he seemed ‘co-operative’ and didn’t come across as severely depressed.

A letter inviting him for counselling was not received until over a week later. On October 5, Mr Malik left home to visit a friend. His body was found hanging in a garage in Green Leys, St Ives.

An internal investigation conducted by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust said staff had acted appropriately, and added it was routine to send non-urgent letters second-class.

South and West Cambridgeshire coroner David Morris recorded a verdict that Mr Malik had taken his own life while suffering from a depressive illness and when the risk of imminent self-harm hadn’t been evidenced or recognised.