Mental health patients flee unit

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TEN per cent of patients admitted to mental health units in Wigan borough have escaped over the past two years.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Five Boroughs NHS partnership, revealed the full extent of patients absconding from units across Wigan and Leigh.

In total, 81 patients of the 798 admitted have escaped from units run by the Five Boroughs Mental Health Trust in the past two years.

Of the 81 people who absconded, 26 were caught by police, six were discharged, three were returned by a relative, nine returned by staff and the remainder returned of their own accord.

The news comes after a coroner criticised the trust following the death of a Wigan man who escaped from a supposedly secure unit last year, and was found hanged a few hours later.

Mark Higgins, 22, was found in woodland on February 1 last year, hours after he fled from the Brooker Centre in Runcorn, after there was no room for him at Leigh Infirmary.

An inquest into his death at Warrington Coroner’s Court heard he was the second person in two years to have escaped through a window, before taking their own life.

Mr Higgins, of Church Street, Golborne, had been sectioned under the mental health act after suffering from psychotic episodes and had been sent to the Brooker Centre, as there was not enough room for him at Leigh Infirmary. He broke out of the centre through a window, and three hours later a dog walker found him hanged.

A spokesman for Five Boroughs said: “The security measures put in place for in-patients include risk assessments, which consider the physical environment, the observation levels and access to activities on in-patient wards.

“In the past 12 months the trust has carried out a review across all acute in-patient wards, led by a multi-disciplinary team of directors, lead clinicians, risk management and estates.

“As part of this review the rrust has made improvements to the physical security of premises and has introduced a range of initiatives to engage service users during agreed periods of leave and reviewed existing trust policies.

“In addition, we have increased access to psychological therapies and introduced more activity workers on our wards to deliver a broader range of activities to our patients.

“As a result of all these changes, the trust has seen a 35% decrease in patient absconds during 2011/2012.”