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Brian Long from Gillingham took his own life shortly after doctors visit

A family has raised concerns about the care their dad received in the days leading up to his suicide.

Brian Long was discovered by his wife in the bathroom of their house in Gillingham on November 20 last year.

The 58-year-old father-of-two had been suffering from anxiety, and was prescribed a drug to treat his symptoms earlier the same month.

Brian Long(14906347)
Brian Long(14906347)

While awaiting a review of his medication, planned for four weeks after Mr Long was prescribed Sertraline, he began suffering from an odd feeling in his tongue, tight jaw and difficultly with his speech.

At an inquest held at Archbishop’s Palace, Maidstone, on Monday, the calls Mr Long made to the NHS 111 service on November 17 were played in court.

He asked whether he ought to stop taking his medication, was assessed over the phone and referred to Medway on Call Care (MedOCC) for an appointment the same night. He did not attend.

Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone (13688842)
Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone (13688842)

Two days later, Mr Long attended Woodlands Family Practice in Woodlands Road, Gillingham, with his wife Julie, reporting the same symptoms.

Dr Padma Kumar Kulathoor, giving evidence, explained to coroner Katrina Hepburn and Mr Long’s family that on the day of the consultation, he assessed Mr Long’s physical symptoms, looking for signs of a possible stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (mini stroke).

Dr Kumar concluded there was no risk of stroke, put his symptoms down to the effects of the Sertraline and scheduled a review for two days later.

At the inquest, Mr Long’s 29-year-old daughter Sophie quizzed Dr Kumar, referring to the leaflet which came with her dad’s medication which she said made reference to suicidal thoughts and the obligation of the patient to report if they were on any other medication.

Mr Long was also taking medication for a hernia.

She also asked why no mental health examination was made and why her father wasn’t seen in private, when he might have opened up.

Dr Kumar replied: “If I had an inclination of self harm, of suicidal crisis, we would refer them to the crisis team.”

Dr Naveen Rishi, complaints lead at Woodlands Family Practice, explained a check had been carried out to make sure the drugs Mr Long was on for the hernia would not interfere with the Sertraline.

"Myself and my family are beyond devastated with the end of my dad’s life... we are in complete shock and would whole-heartedly not want anyone to go through this" - Sophie Long

Family members had a meeting with GPs at the surgery two days after Mr Long’s death and raised concerns then.

Toxicology reports found that Mr Long had a therapeutic level of Sertraline in his system, and the cause of death was given as asphyxiation and suicidal hanging.

In a statement read out by the coroner, Miss Long said: “On the journey home that day, my dad said to my mum, ‘No one helps, do they?’

“Myself and my family are beyond devastated with the end of my dad’s life.

“We are in complete shock and would whole-heartedly not want anyone to go through this.”

Miss Long referred the family’s complaints to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman who said in a statement: “We do not uphold the complaint. We find that the care provided to Mr Long was in line with practices.”

She wrote back to the ombudsman in the hope of an appeal.

Ms Hepburn returned a verdict of suicide and said: “The evidence I have from the ombudsman is that the GPs acted within NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines.

“In my view, there were services available to him that he did utilise.

“These are tragic circumstances that he found himself in, where he felt he had to take these actions.

“There’s nothing to find that there’s a risk of future death that I would have to report to the chief coroner.”

Speaking after the inquest, Sophie Long said: “Brian was a loved, hard-working father, husband, son, brother and grandad.

“He loved sharing his knowledge and was always happy to help anyone without hesitation.

“He never complained or had a bad word to say about anyone, a true gent through and through.

“His tragic ending of a battle with an unseen illness has left us devastated and desperate to raise awareness to other families and especially men; it is so important to talk and it’s okay not to feel okay.”

The family is hosting a charity football match on Sunday, August 11, at 2pm at Star Meadow Sports Club, Darland Avenue, Gillingham.

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time.

For more information on why we cover inquests, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway


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