THE sister of a “well-known and loved” firefighter who took his own life says he struggled to get an appointment due to failings in the health system.

Bryan Jenkins, a reserve with Ledbury Fire Brigade who had received an award for bravery while in service, took his own life in January after battling with bi-polar for decades. He was 59. 

His sister Angela Dudley-Warde said he had been “desperate” for a face-to-face appointment at Ledbury Health Partnership (LHP), the organisation that runs GP services in the town, but that he had failed to get one.

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“It is not going to bring him back and we cannot point the finger at any one individual but we can most definitely point the finger at the system and the GP practice,” she said.

“In the opinion of Bryan’s family and friends he was failed. He went under the radar and was not given the right level of support, particularly from September to December when he was constantly helping for help and guidance.

“All he got was telephone responses and a pharmacist that changed his medication without addressing the GP practice based on online research over what he should or shouldn’t be taking.

“They could have seen him, it wasn’t in a lockdown period. There were opportunities to see him face to face and they didn’t.

“I’m his sister but anyone could see from his eyes and body language where he was at. They would have known far better if they had seen him at the practice.

“He kept saying to me ‘no one will see me’. I tried to get an appointment to go with him but you always get blocked, they say they cannot share information.

“We didn’t expect him to feel so desperate that he would take his own life. The tragedy is looking back after the event and thinking about what could or should have happened.

“People knew he had bi-polar, he had been diagnosed at the age of 19 and the practice had that on record for years.

“He was not someone who liked to acknowledge he had this illness so they knew he would be unlikely to come forward and talk unless he was really desperate. He was desperate and they just ignored it.

“There were no follow-ups or mentoring. They need to share a sense of responsibility for this.”

Bryan won a regional award for his talents as a plumbing and heating engineer and was given a guard of honour at Ledbury Fire Station prior to his funeral.

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“He was so well known and loved in Ledbury, everyone knew him for his helpful nature and kindness,” added Mrs Dudley-Warde who believes a buddy system to help alert experts should be in place for those suffering with mental illness.

“If there was a system where a friend or relative could be registered for patients to raise concerns then the need for follow-ups could be raised,” she said.

“This is something that should be in place across the country. We have had this tragedy and all we can do is try to protect other people who are not getting the support they need.”

Practice manager John Huggins declined to field questions on LHP's protocols that would relate to matters such as these.

A joint statement from LHP and NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire CCG read:“While we wouldn’t comment on any individual case, we would emphasise that GP practices across Herefordshire have continued to deliver care to their patients throughout the Covid-19 pandemic according to national guidelines, while also delivering the vaccination programme around the county.

"In March this year more than half of all GP appointments were face-to-face and more than 55 per cent of all patients being booked for an appointment are seen within one day, with urgent same day appointments available for those patients who need them.”

An inquest on May 24 into Mr Jenkins' death recorded a verdict that he took his own life.