Tom Bristow of the Eastern Daily Press reports:
The last time Sheila Preston saw her son alive was Christmas 2014.
Almost two years later, two police officers knocked on her door at 1.30am at her home in Mendham on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.
They had come to tell her Leo had been found dead in his Norwich flat.
Mrs Preston said paranoia from his schizophrenia worsened after Christmas 2014 and he cut off contact with his family.
“It was a terrible shock when he died,” she said. “I wanted to keep him safe. I wanted to care for my son. He was 39 but to me he was still a boy who had not been able to live his life how he really wanted to.
“I think Leo could have been saved. I’m so angry.”
She said the decline in his condition coincided with the aftermath of the “radical redesign” at the region’s mental health service, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which saw beds and staff numbers cut.
Mrs Preston said data protection meant she could not get any information about Leo’s treatment or condition after he disengaged from the family.
“I don’t think people always have the mental capacity when they are unstable with paranoia to decide,” she said. “Why should I have to wait until he died to find out what was happening? It is ridiculous.”
“Leo was the most loving, educated, polite caring, intelligent person I knew,” Mrs Preston said. “He was a lovely person, a selfless son, a son that I was proud of.
“He used to tell me, ‘when you are old I will come and look after you’. He would text me every day saying ‘I love you mum’.”
Since then she has involved herself in the region’s mental health services and has spoken out as a governor at the NSFT about bed and staff cuts.
“When Leo became ill it took over my life,” Mrs Preston said. “My involvement in the Trust was not only trying to get the best services for Leo but for the many thousands of people out there like Leo.”
The family is unsure when he was last seen by anyone from the NSFT as the last record they have of contact is September 2016, two months before his death.
“For me this has not ended with Leo’s death. It makes me all the more determined to do all that I can. He is just one of many.”
Dr Jane Sayer, director of nursing, quality and patient safety at the NSFT, said: “We cannot comment on individual cases; however, our thoughts are very much with the family of Leo Jacobs and we have met with them to offer our most sincere condolences.
“We take the death of anyone who has accessed our services very seriously, are carrying out a thorough investigation and await the outcome of the inquest.”
Of course Jane Sayer can comment on individual cases. She just chooses not to.
‘Seriously enough’ to pull the curtains on the rising number of deaths at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) for years after we raised the issue with Jane Sayer at the NSFT Board meeting in Swaffham in 2014.
‘Seriously enough’ to remove the embarrassing number of unexpected deaths from the NSFT Annual Report 2015-16.
‘Seriously enough’ not to publish the rising number of unexpected deaths, even though NSFT’s Chair promised to do so.
If the ‘condolences’ were ‘sincere’, the Chief Executive of NSFT, Michael Scott, would not have appeared on behalf of the Board on BBC Panorama and told 3.5 million viewers that NSFT has enough money to deliver decent mental health services.
RIP Leo and all the other Leos.
We’re all so sorry for your loss, Sheila and Alex. And for all the hundreds of other Sheilas in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Enough is enough. No more deaths. No more people burying their own children.
Click on the image below to read the article in full on the EDP website: