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By Paul Ainsworth

QUESTIONS have been raised over why a family whose loved one was threatening suicide was sent to a facility in the Holyland, and not straight to hospital.

The family, who hail from North Belfast and who do not wish to be identified, have criticised the decision to send the father of three, in his 40s, to the Home Treatment House based in Sandhurst Road.

The Belfast Health Trust describe the facility as  “less restrictive and a more homely environment” than a hospital. However the family say they were “shocked” at the conditions, and refused to leave him there overnight.

The man was eventually admitted to Lagan Valley Hospital for treatment at the insistence of his family who said his case was “totally unsuitable” for the terraced Home Treatment House.

The man’s sister explained: “The situation with my brother was deteriorating rapidly, so we requested he receive emergency care in Lagan Valley, but we didn’t fall into their catchment area.”

“We were eventually contacted by the Trust who told us they had secured a bed in Sandhurst Road but we had no idea what it was like, and when we arrived we were not comfortable with what we saw.

“We just didn’t want to leave my brother there as he had taken medication and we thought that when he came around he would simply walk out.

“It wasn’t what we felt we needed as our situation was a lot more serious than we believe the young staff there could have coped with. We were shocked as it felt more like a backpacker’s hostel and in the end we took our brother out.”

The family went straight to Lagan Valley, where after discussion, the man was admitted for two nights and is now recovering.

Phil McTaggart of Belfast suicide prevention organisation PIPS Programmes said that the concerns of families in crisis should be taken on board by the Trust, with more information on their facilities available.

“Families should be consulted every step of the way, and their concerns listened to,” he said.

“Theirs was an emergency that required immediate hospital treatment. I’d like to know more about how these cases are assessed, and if the Sandhurst facility would have been suitable.

“I’m delighted that this place does exist, however, but I hope it is being recommended for the right patients, while those who feel the need for immediate hospital treatment can get that.”

A Belfast Heath Trust spokesperson said they did not comment on the care and treatment of individuals but explained the role of the Holyland facility.

“The Home Treatment House is a six bedded house located in a residential area of Belfast where individuals can avail of treatment in a less restrictive and more homely environment than hospital.

“It is staffed by a multidisciplinary team with clinical input from the Belfast Home Treatment Team. A place in the Home Treatment House will be offered following a clinical assessment. Not all individuals may wish to avail of the facility and in such cases hospital admission, where clinically indicated, will be facilitated.”

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