Vulnerable man died after taking overdose of prescription medication

A CORONER has expressed concern over the storage of drugs in hostel accommodation after a vulnerable man took an overdose of prescription medication.

Richard Phillip White died after taking more than 100 anti-sickness tablets and seven sleeping pills, all prescribed by a doctor, while living at the Hope House hostel, in Grange Road, Darlington.

Mr White, 26, who had a history of taking overdoses as a cry for help, quickly told hostel staff what he had done but died a short time later on June 9 last year at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

An inquest heard that confusion between GP Anita Butts and Hope House support worker Dennis Brown, about whether the medication she prescribed for Mr White would be locked away, led to him taking possession of dozens of pills.

Dr Butts and Mr White’s mother, Jennifer, both said they had understood all of the prescribed medication would be locked away, given his mental health issues and history of overdosing, but Mr Brown said he believed only the sleeping tablets should be locked away.

After hearing it was hostel policy that residents kept their own medication unless there were exceptional circumstances, Dr Butts said: “If I had known that was the system I would have possibly given him less of the anti-sickness drug.”

Yvonne Beattie, service manager for 700 Club, which runs Hope House, said: “It’s very rare that we are asked to keep drugs locked up. Clients would not be able to tell doctors that we always lock up medication.”

Mrs Beattie also described a conversation she had with Mr White shortly after he had taken the overdose.

She said: “He said he had taken some tablets and had been really stupid.

“I told him the ambulance was on the way and I’d see him to play pool the next day, he was joking about beating me. As far as he was concerned he would be back to normal the next day.”

Mr White’s mother added: “I don’t blame anyone at Hope House. I don’t believe he wanted to kill himself. It just happened that the tablets he took were too strong for him.”

Recording a conclusion of misadventure, coroner Crispin Oliver said he was concerned at the ‘mismatched belief’ of Dr Butts and Mr Brown about the medication and would consider writing to the relevant authorities about ways to avoid a similar tragedy.

In a statement, 700 Club chief executive John Elliston said: “To ensure that there is no misunderstanding in relation to medication in future, we will be issuing notices to all doctors surgeries within Darlington that the 700 Club will not be holding any medication for clients.

“This is a tragic accident and we send our deepest sympathies to the family.”

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