EDP: Mother of Norwich patient says son with schizophrenia could have been saved and blasts mental health services

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’ to make lame excuses for years, avoiding the hard work of investigating and thinking about the reasons for the rise, while the number of deaths more than doubled.

‘Seriously enough’ to double expenditure on spin doctors, hoping that they could make up for the thirty per cent cut in real doctors.

‘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:




3 thoughts on “EDP: Mother of Norwich patient says son with schizophrenia could have been saved and blasts mental health services”

  1. I know first hand with my son the difficulties with mental health, just the simple questions asking for help? No body cares less,  once my son reached 18 I was left to get on with it, I have struggled with little help since.

    He is now 21 last year we suddenly had the sad news his dad died, he was the one told by the police, we were the ones left to inform everyone and left with his half brother to sort the funeral out, he is now an executor to sort his dad’s estate out. I asked after a few days to his social worker “what support can I get for him, he’s struggling, this is a massive shock, his dad was 59” I got no answer. My lovely son got sectioned in October last year for 27days. It was a horrendous time for me as his mum and his carer, I couldn’t drive so had to rely on my partner or sister to visit him. He was meant to have help in place on leaving the mental hospital in Norfolk. We had none, we had no report we have had nothing and still I ask simple questions and no body answers.

    We have an appointment on Monday, I’ve asked 2 people for the Drs email so I can just email my concerns, no one has answered . This happens so much, it’s frustrating to say the least, I’m at my wits end with mental health.

    He was due 20 days respite last year, we had none. This year I asked 3 weeks ago for  a 2 night break in 4 weeks time, nothing is sorted so I will probably have to take him with me, he doesn’t want to go, I’m visiting my nannas grave in Lincolnshire.

    Sheila Preston is a family friend and I met Leo several times, I feel that her case is so much like mine and I do not want Leo’s life for my son.Look at how bad the system let him down, now his poor mum and sister have to live with the loss of never seeing him again and it’s wrong, someone is responsible for Leo being left alone.

    Something has to be changed, people have to answer concerned mums texts or emails, even if it is just to say we are on the case and will be in touch in a couple of days, stop ignoring our crys for help, we are struggling.

    As a mum that is very hard at admit.

    R.I.P Leo Jacobs

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