Nurses at Blackpool mental health unit did each other's hair as man prepared to take his own life

Bren McFarlane Credit: LancsLive/MEN

A mother has broken down in tears as she watched CCTV footage of mental health nurses doing each other's hair and checking their phones while her son prepared to take his own life.Bren McFarlane had waited three weeks for a bed on a mental health unit to become available after a psychiatrist had requested an urgent placement at a 'place of safety'.

On October 24th last year, Bren was admitted to The Harbour in Blackpool when a bed became available.

It is a 154 bed mental health hospital which provides care and treatment for adults who cannot be safely treated at home. 

The psychiatrist who assessed Bren at his home in Accrington deemed that he was a "risk to himself".

The 20-year-old had a history of self-harm and suicide attempts. He was classified as Level 3 in terms of risk.

The jury hearing the inquest into his death have been shown CCTV footage from inside Bren's room as well as the nurses' station room which has a window to allow for regular observations.

Jurors heard that although Bren's personal belongings had been recorded on his admission to The Harbour, he had managed to keep an item which was not logged.

The court was told that for a period of 20 minutes, during which no observations of Bren were made, he used this item to create another which he later used in his en-suite bathroom to take his own life.Over a one-hour period, between 9.30am and 10.29am when Bren was found unresponsive, staff spent two minutes and 54 seconds observing him.

Bren's mum Gail Rawlinson, who was watching the footage for the first time, broke down as the clip showed one nurse doing a colleague's hair and a nurse using her mobile phone.At 9.35am, one minute after Bren began to create the item he used to take his own life, the footage shows one nurse sitting on a desk and scrolling through her phone. At 9.38am another nurse spends several minutes doing her colleague's hair.At 10.16am, Bren went into his bathroom and was found there, unresponsive, at 10.29am.

He was resuscitated and taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital but treatment was withdrawn when doctors discovered he had suffered a brain stem death due to a lack of oxygen.

Bren, who died on October 29, was posthumously awarded the Order of St John which honours donors and their families who donate their organs to save and improve the lives of others.

The Harbour mental health unit - police were called in to investigate events surrounding Bren McFarlane's death Credit: LancsLive/MEN

An officer from Blackpool Police, Detective Inspector Steven Montgomery was given the task of investigating the circumstances surrounding Bren's death.

Detective Inspector Montgomery confirmed that Bren had not been searched on arrival at The Harbour.The barrister representing Bren's family at the inquest, Laura Nash, asked DI Montgomery if he knew what websites or apps had been accessed by the nurse who was seen on her phone. He suggested "social media" but this has not been confirmed.

The psychiatrist who assessed Bren on several occasions in October, and who requested an urgent bed at a mental health unit, was asked to comment on whether his three-week wait for a placement is common.

"It does happen frequently," the doctor said."It is mostly with male patients; it's easier to find a bed for female patients. It's a very common occurrence."The psychiatrist said that prior to his admission to The Harbour, Bren had been exhibiting symptoms of psychosis, had not been eating or drinking and was displaying signs of paranoia and impulsivity.

Bren, who had previously been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, also had a history of suicide attempts, and staff at the supported accommodation where he lived had seen a meat cleaver in his room.The inquest, which is due to last five days, continues.