Birmingham & Black Country

Secure Birmingham hospital exit 'was left unlocked'

A "fundamental failure" in care allowed a man with severe schizophrenia to walk out of a supposedly secure hospital in Birmingham, an inquest has heard.

Steven Murray, 26, was found dead in his flat in Erdington on 1 December 2009, the day after he walked out of Highcroft psychiatric hospital.

He left through a door which had been locked shut but was faulty.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust said it was the trust's fault he had been able to walk out by himself.

Mr Murray had been sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act for his own safety after he stopped taking his medication, the hearing at Birmingham Coroner's Court was told.

Temporary repair

In the week of his death he absconded twice from the hospital's secure George Ward in Slade Road, Erdington.

The last time he absconded the kitchen door was meant to have been repaired, so that it locked properly, to keep sectioned patients like Mr Murray inside.

George Ward's manager Hilary Chauhan, from the trust, said that minutes before Mr Murray escaped, a contract maintenance man had informed her he had carried out a temporary repair on the door lock using magnets.

She told the inquest: "He had just finished working on the door and came into the office to tell me the door was secure. Domestic then advised us that he [Mr Murray] had gone through the kitchen door. He walked through after the maintenance man said it was fixed."

Ms Chauhan was asked by the Murray family's solicitor if it was "a fundamental failure to allow him to walk through a door that wasn't secure".

She replied: "Yes it was."

The inquest continues.

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