A 'FAMILY MAN' and managing director of a South Lakeland catering equipment business died by suicide at his company's offices, an inquest heard.

The hearing was told 46-year-old Leigh Howard had suffered a rapid deterioration in his mental health during the final weeks of his life.

He was found dead by police at Moss End Business Village, near Crooklands, the headquarters of Lakes Catering Maintenance, on April 25, 2021.

Wife Elaine paid tribute to her husband, who lived in Kendal, calling the father-of-two a 'great dad' and 'just lovely'. The couple were together for more than two decades.

Immediately after Mr Howard's death, the team at Lakes Catering Maintenance issued a statement saying their boss had been a 'gentle and conscientious character' who was 'diligent and thorough, with a keen eye for detail in all aspects of his life and work'.

“Dependable and loyal, Leigh would move mountains for those who needed his help, and we already miss him dearly,” they said.

Much of the discussion at Cockermouth Coroner's Court centred around the discharge of Mr Howard from a home treatment mental health team shortly before he died - specifically, the fact that a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting did not take place immediately prior to this.

Robert Cohen, assistant coroner for Cumbria, said the inquest was the second he had faced that day in which a failure to hold an MDT meeting on the part of the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) had arisen as an issue.

The inquest heard steps had been taken by LSCFT since Mr Howard's death with regard to MTD meetings. Among these, a newly-employed consultant psychiatrist is now providing 'more oversight'.

The hearing was told Mr Howard's mental state had appeared to improve during the time he was with the home treatment team. It was said, however, that he was probably presenting as better than he was.

His family agreed with this, with Mrs Howard expressing the belief, after the inquest, that an MDT meeting would have been unlikely to change the outcome, because her husband appeared outwardly to be getting better.

Concluding, Mr Cohen said: "It is overwhelmingly clear to me that Mr Howard was a much-loved friend and family member and somebody who leaves a huge hole in the lives of those who loved him."

He said he had 'narrowly' been persuaded that it was not necessary to issue a report to prevent future deaths.

However, he warned he would specifically highlight the MDT meetings issue with his colleagues and that there would be questions for the trust to answer in future if the problem persisted.

Mr Cohen ruled Mr Howard's death was suicide.

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