Inquiries announced into patients who attacked social care staff

The North East Strategic Health Authority has announced independent inquiries into the care of two mental health patients who separately attacked social care staff in the region, one of whom died.

One of the probes will centre on Ronald Dixon, who pleaded guilty last October to the manslaughter – on grounds of diminished responsibility – of Sunderland mental health worker Ashley Ewing, and was detained indefinitely at Rampton secure hospital, Nottinghamshire.

Dixon, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, stabbed Ewing to death in May 2006 after she had visited his flat in South Tyneside alone.

Attempted murder of social worker

The second inquiry will concern Graham Burton, who was imprisoned indefinitely in June 2007 for the attempted murder of a female social worker.

They will examine and make recommendations on the care and treatment both men were receiving at the time of the attacks, the suitability of care and clinical and professional judgements.

Each panel includes a barrister, two medical staff and a social care representative. Dixon’s panel includes Hartlepool Council director of adult and community services Nicola Bailey; the former head of safeguarding at Sunderland Council, Barbara Williams, will sit on the Burton inquiry. 

DH record under scrutiny

The news comes with the Department of Health’s record on tackling violence against social care staff under renewed scrutiny, after Lancashire community support worker Philip Ellison was stabbed to death on a visit to a supported living scheme for adults with low-risk mental health problems in April.

Community Care revealed that the DH had failed to act on key recommendations from an action plan drawn up in 2001 by an expert task force on violence against social care staff. These included the inspection of care providers on staff safety.

Lancashire Council is carrying out an internal review into Ellison’s death. Robert Searle, 51, of Glebe Close, Preston, has been charged with his murder.

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