London - An electrician with Asperger’s killed himself after an NHS 111 call handler hung up on him because of his speech impediment, an inquest heard.
John Worthington, 32, had spent two years struggling to get help from mental health services and saw his GP 29 times in one year, the coroner was told.
He was eventually diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder and anxiety and was put on his doctor’s list of vulnerable patients. He was advised to contact 111 under a so-called admissions avoidance care plan, meant to reduce pressure on his local A&E department.
He rang four times on June 6 last year but advisers ‘did not communicate effectively, professionally or with appropriate warmth’, according to a report from IC24, the company that runs the helpline. Mr Worthington suffered from facial ticks that meant he often struggled to speak and during his second call, according to transcripts, he told the handler: ‘You’re terminating the call because you are not patient enough to listen to a speech impediment.’
During his third call, which he ended himself, he threatened to harm himself. And when he called a fourth time, he said that he was following through on his threat.
Paramedics and police were sent to his flat in Norwich and found him hanging.
He was rushed to Norfolk and Norwich Hospital but died more than two months later on August 11 after failing to recover from devastating brain injuries. His father Keith Murdoch told the Norwich hearing: ‘He liked to fix things and the one thing he couldn’t fix was himself.’ His mother Samantha Harrowven said after the inquest: ‘There were definite failings with the NHS 111 calls.’
Mr Worthington’s GP Dr Henry Jones, of the University of East Anglia Medical Centre, and hospital mental health teams both issued referrals for a psychological assessment in December 2016.
But an appointment was not available until May 10 last year and Mr Worthington, who was single and had no children, missed it. Another had been scheduled for June 21. Assistant coroner for Norfolk Johanna Thompson recorded a narrative conclusion. IC24 said lessons had been learnt and staff would get ‘robust’ training.