THE rules have been changed at a York mental hospital after a patient took his own life while on overnight leave.

Carsten Armstrong, 26, of Hillbeck Grove in Heworth, died after being allowed to go home from Bootham Park Hospital, an inquest at New Earswick Folk Hall heard yesterday.

The inquest heard Mr Armstrong had a history of mental illness dating back to September 2008 when he was first admitted to Bootham Park and he had regular contact with mental health professionals thereafter.

On March 13 last year he took an overdose and was subsequently sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He continued to receive medical treatment and was admitted to Bootham on April 2.

His consultant psychiatrist, Dr Shona McIlrae, said Mr Armstrong had been released from his section on April 11 last year.

She said Mr Armstrong had requested to go home on overnight release on April 15, as was his right as an "informal patient", with a plan for him to return the next day, but he was found hanged at home that night.

Dr McIlrae said that she considered him a "low" suicide risk and at the time there was no system in place to contact the patient to check up on them.

Hospital records showed Mr Armstrong said he had lost his mobile phone before being discharged and that the contact number the hospital had for him was for the lost mobile.

Dr McIlrae said: "He was clearly on the road to recovery. He felt that he was making progress after the overdose. He wanted to move on and make plans for the future."

Neil McAdam, the service manager for inpatient services at the Leeds and York Hospital Trust, said: "Plans are now in place regarding mobile phones and we are looking at giving a business card to service users when they are out on leave so they will have the relevant information they need."

The inquest heard that Mr Armstrong's friend, Emma Johnstone spoke to him on the night of his death and became concerned for his welfare. As she lived in Leeds she asked another friend, Andrew Dean, to go round and check on him as he had a key to the house.

When he found Mr Armstrong, he was not breathing and CPR was attempted first by a neighbour, Robert Fletcher, and then paramedics, but to no avail.

The inquest heard that Mr Armstrong's mother, Elaine, was visiting her parents in Scotland at the time.

Acting senior coroner Jonathan Leach concluded Mr Armstrong's death was suicide.

He said: "At the time of Mr Armstrong's death there was no system for someone to be contacted by the hospital. It's not possible to say if such a system were in place, the outcome would have been different."