Alex Turner: parents of young man found dead on railway in Salford criticise health trust failings

An inquest heard the 24-year-old had forewarned staff at a mental health trust that he would jump in front of a train if he was discharged.

Alex Turner. Credit: family handout.Alex Turner. Credit: family handout.
Alex Turner. Credit: family handout.

The parents of a young man found dead on train tracks near Salford are calling for lessons to be learned after an inquest found failings by a mental health trust contributed to his death.

Alex Turner, 24, from Chorley, went missing from the Eagleton Ward of Salford Royal Hospital’s Meadowbrook Unit, on 5 December, 2019. His body was found near Eccles station the next morning.

The inquest was told Alex had been diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder shortly after being admitted as a voluntary inpatient to North Manchester General Hospital’s Safire unit on 24 November.

An inquest in Bolton was told that Alex told staff that he heard a voice in his head telling him to kill himself, and his father raised concerns that Alex had said he would jump in front of a train if he was discharged.

Despite this, the court heard that Alex was discharged without his family being told on 28 November and was sent in a taxi to the local housing office. Within hours, Alex was admitted to the Eagleton Ward after council staff called an ambulance due to concerns that Alex would take his own life.

In the inquest, assistant coroner Catherine Cundy read out a series of failings admitted by Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), including that there had been “a failure to formulate a comprehensive discharge care plan for Mr Turner’s discharge from SAFIRE Unit” and “a failure to fully involve and engage Mr Turner’s father in the discharge.”

The two-week inquest concluded: “Alexander James Turner took his own life in part because the risk of him doing so was not fully recognised and appropriate steps were not taken to manage the risk of him doing so. His suicide was contributed to by neglect.”

Parents say they feel ‘let down’

Alex’s mother, Andrea Turner, said: “Suicide awareness and suicide prevention are words you hear all the time these days. Young adults are especially encouraged to speak out and get help.

“Ironically, our son couldn’t have been more vocal about being suicidal and needing help, and he was even vocal about how and where he was intending to end his life. Despite him being so vocal, he still lost his life.

“As parents, we had no training in how to keep Alex safe, no processes or procedures or manuals to follow. All we could do was to trust that the professionals knew what they were doing. Nearly two years after Alex’s death we still can’t get our heads around how badly those same professionals let him down.”

Gus Silverman, the specialist inquest lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who represented Alex’s family alongside Kirsty Brimelow QC, said after the hearing: “It’s hard to imagine what else Alex needed to do in order for his risk of suicide to be taken seriously and for a proper plan to be put in place to keep him safe.”

What has the trust said in response?

Gill Green, director of Nursing and Governance at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), said: “Our deepest condolences go out to Alex’s family, friends and all who cared for him at this sad time.

“As an organisation, we are committed to learning from these incidents. We have undertaken work to thoroughly understand the circumstances surrounding it and from this, we have developed a comprehensive set of recommendations and actions – against which we have made significant progress - to prevent any similar incidents in the future.

“However, we fully accept the findings of the Coroner, and recognise there is further work to be done. This will be actioned as a top priority.”