Josh Sahota's father tells Suffolk Coroner's Court his son's death at Wedgwood House in Bury St Edmunds 'could have been prevented'
The father of a man who was found dead in a mental health unit just weeks after he drove his car off a bridge has told an inquest his son's death could have been prevented.
Josh Sahota, 25, was found dead in his room by staff at the Wedgwood House mental health unit in Bury St Edmunds on September 19, 2019, with a plastic bag around his head, Suffolk Coroner’s Court heard today.
Malkeet Sahota, his father, told the inquest he and his family had been left utterly devastated by his son's death.
"There are days where I have felt that I cannot go on. The grief and anger I feel are overwhelming. I would give anything to have Josh back with us," he told the court.
“He had his whole life ahead of him and I truly believe that if he had received proper care and treatment whilst at Wedgwood House, he would still be here with us now, thriving and enjoying life. The grief I feel never stops.”
He added: “I am convinced that Josh’s death was entirely preventable.”
He told the court of his concerns about the Hardwick Lane mental health unit, and said that clinicians at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust ‘failed to get to know Josh on anything other than a superficial level’.
Among the issues he highlighted included his feeling his son was not properly risk assessed given the extremely violent attempt at self harm, questioned why one on one observations were not continued when he was admitted to Wedgwood House, and asked why plastic bags were allowed to be brought into the hospital.
Lynette Fordham, his mother, told the court about her ‘charming, witty and helpful’ computer programmer son, and said: “He had so much potential and life to live, but he was badly let down by the medical system."
The inquest heard he had never had a psychotic episode before August 2019, and evidence of his state of mind emerged while he was on holiday in Lanzarote with his father and brothers Max and Nathan.
The court was told he suddenly became paranoid about his security after he had overheard a mixed race couple making racist comments while abroad.
He was reassured by his father but, the inquest heard, he spent the night pacing the hotel room he was sharing with his brother Max, checking the doors, and was extremely worried somebody was going to hurt him. On August 2 they had arrived back to their house in Kennet's Danehill Road.
"When we got home, everyone was tired from the travelling that morning. I asked Josh if he was okay and he said he was. I felt reassured and went to take a shower. When I came back downstairs, Max looked worried. He said that Josh had gone off in the car to check on the house at his mum’s and when Max had said that he would go with him, Josh had not let him," the court was told.
Later that evening Mr Sahota drove his Vauxhall Corsa off of the A11 bridge, just outside Newmarket, and it plunged onto the A14 below.
Pc Robert March was the first officer at the scene, and told the inquest at first he thought it was a fatal incident because of how crushed up the car was.
Hannah Coote, who rushed to help him after the crash, told the court he told her three times he had driven the car off the bridge deliberately.
Mr Sahota was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where he received treatment for his injuries which included partial collapse of his lungs, a fractured pelvis, and several rib fractures.
But Johnathan Morton, a consultant surgeon at the hospital, told the inquest the injuries he sustained didn’t reflect the magnitude of the crash he had just experienced.
After his stay at the Cambridge hospital, where mental health nurses had said he had a significant degree of paranoia and had at one point tried to open the window of the room he was in, he was transferred to Wedgwood House on August 9.
The inquest heard Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's mental health service had been rated as inadequate.
At the unit, on the West Suffolk Hospital site but run by a separate organisation, he was allowed to take plastic bags containing his clothes into the hospital.
The inquest heard staff checked what was in the bags, and stopped a house plant being taken in, before filling the bags up again and handing them over.
Mr Sahota’s father said his son had lost a lot of weight during his time in the ward, and his usual routines disappeared.
And at times Mr Sahota feared for his security, the court was told, after being approached by residents of the hospital.
On September 9 he was found in his room by hospital staff with a plastic bag over his head at 5.07pm. Hospital staff tried to resuscitate him but at 5.45 they declared him dead.
Today a jury of five men and five women were sworn in and began to listen to the evidence at the Ipswich-based court.
They were told by Suffolk’s senior coroner Nigel Parsley that the inquest into Mr Sahota’s death was likely to last between five and six days.
He told the jury the inquest would be examining many areas including the quality of care, the cause of his death, and how the plastic bag had got into his room.
The inquest continues.