Tragic death of paramedics prompts family to demand better support

The family of a senior paramedic who committed suicide has urged the District Ambulance Secretariat to do more to support its long-serving staff.

Nick Lee, of Ovington, near Watton, died in December 2021 after being recently promoted by the East England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) to the position of Lead Operations Manager in West Norfolk.

After investigating his death in Norwich, members of his family spoke of being proud of the achievement, but called on the fund to re-evaluate the support it provides to its employees – especially those who have served for an extended period of time.

Mr Lee, then 46, had been part of the Trust since 2003 and rose through the ranks to a senior position, his service described as “exemplary”.

Eastern Daily Press: Nick Lee, pictured with his mother, Annie OverNick Lee, pictured with his mother Annie Over (Photo: The Lee Family)

But his family believes that his constant exposure to the tragedy he experienced through his role took a toll on him – eventually leading to his death.

In a statement issued after the hearing, his family said: “Nick gave his life to help others and we are all very proud of his commitment to both the military and the ambulance services.

“Sadly, many years of witnessing suffering and death affected Nick’s mental health and led him down a tragic path.

Nick held a high position in the ambulance service, but daily exposure to extremely unpleasant situations did not numb him against the suffering of others, but brought with him even more suffering.

“We don’t want Nick’s death to be in vain and we urge the Ambulance Service to re-evaluate how they support their staff at all levels.

“It is imperative that those with years of service receive as much, if not more, support than those just starting out.

“Nick will be remembered as an honorable man who served his country, helped save thousands of lives, and as the best husband, father, son and brother we could possibly hope for.”

Eastern Daily Press: Nick Lee, with son Tom, wife Michelle and daughter MeganNick Lee with his son Tom, his wife Michelle and daughter Megan (Photo: The Lee Family)

The inquest heard how his daughter Megan Lee, who served in the army on tours of Ireland and Bosnia, heard him mumble in the middle of the night about the number of bodies he had seen.

The night before he drank whiskey, as he often did on nights when he had no work, and when Megan heard him wandering downstairs, she didn’t think much of it.

But the next morning, his wife Michelle tragically finds him hanging in their garage.

In a statement read out to the court on her behalf, Ms. Lee said: “He was a loving husband and father to his two children. He loved spending time playing golf and cooking for his friends and family.”

“He had a very difficult job for the confidence of the ambulance he loved and he excelled at.

“This has put additional pressure on him and the Covid pandemic has made that even more difficult and made it very difficult for him to stop working.”

Eastern Daily Press: Paramedic Nick Lee has been honoredParamedic Nick Lee Honored (Photo: Submitted by the Lee family)

An EEAST spokesperson said: “Nick has been a highly respected fellow and has worked at EEAST in West Norfolk for 18 years, and we are all deeply saddened by his loss. Our thoughts continue with Nick’s family and those close to him in the Middle East and elsewhere.

“Following Nick’s unexpected death, we have commissioned an independent internal investigation so we can understand the circumstances that led to this, any business factors associated with his death and what more we can do to support employees who are achieving the challenging and challenging role.”

“We have a range of support in place for our employees, including confidential counseling services, a wellbeing center that provides rapid assessment and access to local mental health services, as well as specific support for any colleagues who have experienced traumatic incidents.”

After his death, a family friend made a fundraiser in his memory which raised nearly £14,000.

  • If you need help and support, call NHS 111 and select option 2 or Samaritans on 116123. Both services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple and Android devices.

Family grief in conclusion – and why it matters

Yvonne Blake, a forensic physician for the Norfolk District, provided an anecdotal conclusion that Mr. Lee had committed suicide – but he did not pass a verdict.

His sister Sarah Lee said: “As a family, we are a little frustrated with the ruling.

“Nick was a smart guy and made a decision that was treated as a mistake.

“The only solace we felt as a family was knowing that he made his decision and is now at peace, but it now looks as if his death would be an unacknowledged statistic.”

When investigators conclude that someone intentionally took their own life, their death contributes to the annual suicide statistics. They are then used to help shape mental health services and the amount of funding allocated to them.

However, if the pathologist did not reach this conclusion, it would not be included in this data set.

Forensic practitioners can draw conclusions about suicide only when they are certain that the person not only took action to end his life, but that he did so with a full understanding of the consequences of his actions.

Critics say this threshold skews suicide statistics, meaning that the mental health issues associated with it are not fully reflected.

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