A senior nurse died after he started taking Ketamine to cope with the stress of working long hours at an NHS hospital, an inquest heard. Jay Murdoch, 34, had been signed off work for up to six months because of anxiety and depression but was asked to come back to work early due to staff shortages. He worked an extra five hours each shift and would take the powerful horse tranquiliser at home to 'switch off' after a long day.
Mr Murdoch, from Manchester, told his partner: 'You would all be better off without me' after attending a wedding reception and was later found unresponsive on his sofa. He had suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to his place of work at Manchester Royal Infirmary but died six days later despite efforts to revive him.
Police investigated whether the tragedy was a 'deliberate or accidental overdose' but toxicology tests were unable to establish whether the drugs caused his death.
Mr Murdoch - originally from Glasgow - had been assigned to the 62 bed Emergency Surgical Trauma Unit at the hospital where he said he was 'proud to be a nurse'. He would post updates on his Twitter page about staff success stories and advances in medical treatment.
But his partner Gareth Chapman, a company manager, told the Manchester hearing: 'Jay spent a lot of hours working and in late 2016 he was off for four to six months with stress, depression and anxiety. He got a return to work date but the hospital were short staffed so asked him to come back earlier. They agreed a phased return but he was still working an extra five hours each shift, He was still very stressed and was asking for support all the time but never received any. On the 24th of March I had been working and was due to finish at 8.30pm and Jay was waiting outside my work for me which was unusual for him. I could see that he had taken something and he was acting very strange.
Jay Murdoch (pictured), originally from Glasgow, would take ketamine to 'switch off' following a long day at work
'I was still managing a team and told him to go and wait outside. I quickly finished and we got a taxi back home. I asked him about what he had taken but he wouldn't tell me. Once we got back home he was pretty much normal again. On the Saturday evening we went to a wedding reception and had a lovely evening before going on to a party. Recreational drugs were consumed in the form of two bumps of cocaine and we had a two gram bag of Ketamine but that wasn't finished.
'I wasn't aware of Jay taking anything else and he would have taken his medication before we left for the wedding. Jay would take Ketamine as a coping mechanism to switch off from work quickly. We got home about 8am on the Sunday - the taxi driver had to help me get Jay into the taxi because he was in a similar state to how he had been outside my work. This was unusual for Jay as he had quite a high tolerance. I asked him if he had taken anything else but he didn't respond. Just after I booked the taxi he went to the toilet and when he returned he was in a state. We were having a discussion about his work situation and Jay said: "You would all be better off without me".
'This was unusual for Jay and I told him if his job was upsetting him so much that he needed to look for a different one. We watched TV and I cooked for him and he took his prescription medication. During Sunday night he came into the bedroom and almost fell on me. He was snoring very heavily and I nudged him and he went back to lay back on the sofa. On the Monday morning I had Jay's bleeper going off. I got up properly around 11.30am and I was unable to wake Jay. I ran to my neighbour who is a nurse who came round and I phoned for an ambulance. Jay was always against suicide. A couple of months before we stopped someone jumping from a bridge and we knew a few people who had made attempts - he didn't believe in it at all.'
His mother, Janet Murdoch, said: 'I had last spoken to Jay on the Sunday which was the day after they had been to the wedding. It was Mother's Day and Jay had sent me flowers and chocolates. I phoned him and we had a normal conversation. He seemed fine he just said he was tired. He had been working near enough till 9pm everyday so he was tired. Jay was a fantastic son and very confident young man. In the last couple of years he wasn't as chatty as he normally had been. His position meant that he had taken on a lot of responsibility but he absolutely loved being a nurse, that was his life. He did have problems with anxiety and found it difficult to switch off but it wasn't something I was overly concerned about at the time. It took a long time to get him to see a GP because he didn't like the stigma that came with it. He was taking medication and had been offered counselling but I don't think he took this up.'
Director of nursing at the Manchester Hospitals Foundation Trust, Susanne Langley said: 'Jay returned to work on the 27th of January on a phased return and I would liaise with the head of nursing at the time to check things were in place.
'A ward was being re-opened after an infection broke out. I went to check if things were okay and she raised concerns it wasn't going as well as expected. I spoke to Jay who was very agitated and it was difficult to have a conversation so I asked if he would continue talking in my office. During the conversation Jay said he had been working really hard - this was during his phased return which we wouldn't expect of anybody. There was some difficulties with Jay being asked to leave work but was staying. I had a conversation with the director of nursing because we were concerned he was showing the same behaviour he had been before he went on leave so we referred him to occupational health.'
Dr Julie Evans, a toxicologist, said tests were carried out on blood samples taken from Mr Murdoch two days after his admission to hospital and whilst there was no ketamine or cocaine in his system, there were traces of the painkillers Temazepam, Diazepam and the sedative Chlordiazepoxide.
She added: 'I cannot determine whether the level of drugs were excessive due to the time delay and therefore cannot provide a medical cause of death.'
Recording an open conclusion, Coroner Zak Golombeck said: 'The deceased died on the 2nd of April 2017 at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
'He had suffered a cardiac arrest on the 27th of March and as a result suffered a severe brain injury. He had taken prescription medication and illicit drugs however, the cause of the cardiac arrest is unknown.'
By Abe Hawken | Mailonline
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