A nurse who burned himself to death near Kensington Palace had plummeted into depression because of the way a hospital trust handled a disciplinary investigation into his conduct, it was claimed in court.
Amin Abdullah, 41, set himself on fire yards from the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge early on February 9 after being sacked from Charing Cross hospital.
A pre-inquest hearing at Westminster coroner’s court heard allegations from his family’s barrister that the three months he spent under investigation caused the mental breakdown that led him to take his own life.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross, opened an investigation into Mr Abdullah’s conduct on September 15 last year after he became embroiled in a dispute involving a patient and another nurse.
The investigation concluded on October 22 but he had to wait a further six weeks for a disciplinary hearing. His dismissal for gross misconduct was confirmed on December 21.
Police were called around midnight on February 9 when Mr Abdullah failed to return to St Charles hospital, Ladbroke Grove, where he was being treated for depression. Officers later found him ablaze in a locked part of the palace grounds.
Caroline Cross, representing Mr Abdullah’s partner Terry Skitmore, told the court: “There is a clear causal link between the trust’s action and his depression and suicide. They caused his depression, they prolonged his depression, they exacerbated his depression.
“He had no previous mental health issues, but once the procedure started he was treated for depression in November. They exacerbated his depression by failing to comply with their own internal guidelines.”
She added: “The trust were aware at the time that this [investigation] was having a significant impact on his mental health.”
The court was told that Mr Abdullah and his support worker from the Royal College of Nursing had written to the trust to outline the effect of the investigation on his health.
Mr Abdullah wrote: “My mental stress has been so great worrying what is happening that I have had to have regular counselling by my RCN counsellor. My home life and family members are affected by my stress. I have also had to see my GP.”
His RCN representative told the trust: “I’m disappointed to hear that Mr Abdullah has not been communicated with, or provided with reasonable updates. The impact of this has been detrimental to his health.”
Neil McLaughlin, representing Imperial, said Mr Abdullah accepted he had acted incorrectly but was appealing against dismissal, believing it was too severe a sanction.
Coroner Dr Shirley Radclife said: “Clearly the process was taking its toll on his mental health. We will look at whether there was undue delay that may have exacerbated his mental distress, but not at the decision-making or whether it was a reasonable process to reach a conclusion of dismissal.”
The coroner asked for a report to be prepared for the full hearing by Lesley Powls, the then divisional head of nursing at Imperal, outlining the disciplinary process.
The court will also hear details of an internal review by the Met police’s directorate of professional standards into the actions of officers “on the evening that the events took place”.
An edited version of this report appeared in the Evening Standard on September 23.