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Manchester Arena attack: Bereaved stepfather shocked by mental health aftercare

Crowds look at the floral tributes after a minute’s silence in St Ann’s Square, Manchester, to remember the victims of the terror attack in 2017 (Ben Birchall/PA)
Crowds look at the floral tributes after a minute’s silence in St Ann’s Square, Manchester, to remember the victims of the terror attack in 2017 (Ben Birchall/PA)

A GP whose stepson died in the Manchester Arena attack has recalled “screaming” in his car over the frustration of being unable to access timely mental health aftercare for his family.

Dr Stuart Murray, whose stepson Martyn Hett was among the 22 people killed by a suicide bomber on May 22 2017, said he also felt embarrassed by the service as an NHS doctor of 30 years.

New Year honours list 2022
Martyn Hett who was among the 22 killed in the Manchester Arena terror attack (Greater Manchester Police)

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ahead of the five-year anniversary of the attack, Dr Murray recalled the trauma of the weeks following his stepson’s death.

He said: “Our early experience was – there was a moment in the car when I was shouting and screaming and saying ‘how ridiculous this is that I’m having to pay privately to get the help for family members’.

“There was a guilt feeling that I was saying that, because they just needed the help, but thinking about how other people might be managing, and feeling embarrassed as a working GP, that this is the reality of the situation.”

Dr Stuart Murray and wife Figen Murray
Dr Stuart Murray and wife Figen Murray (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Dr Murray added: “I think we were quite shocked that holes exist still after the many attacks that have occurred in the access and provision of mental health services.

“What it means is that people aren’t getting timely treatment that they should do, and that they’re suffering for weeks and months – sometimes years – before they can get the help they need.

“What we’re asking for is a simple thing that they (people affected by terror attacks) can not only be seen and triaged, but when they need the help, that they get that treatment within six weeks.”

Royals attend Glade of Light Memorial
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the official opening of the memorial to those who died in the bombing – the Glade of Light Memorial in Manchester city centre – on May 10 (Jon Super/PA)

Dr Murray called for the Government to create a plan to ensure that people affected by terror attacks would be prioritised for mental health treatment instead of subjected to a “postcode lottery” and a long, general waiting list.

The GP is among those in the Survivors Against Terror group who have written a report calling for survivors of terrorism to have an initial assessment within three weeks and to begin receiving treatment within six.

His stepson Mr Hett was a social media manager and Coronation Street superfan – and the cast of the show paid tribute to him and others killed in the bombing during Friday’s ITV show.

Show rivals Gail Rodwell, played by Helen Worth, and Eileen Grimshaw, played by Sue Cleaver, placed bouquets on a memorial bench in a community garden at the soap’s home in Trafford.

Meanwhile Freya Lewis, 19, who learned to walk again after suffering multiple injuries, fractures and burns at the bombing five years ago, has raised more than £67,000 for the hospital which saved her life.

Miss Lewis, who used a wheelchair for three months and whose best friend Nell Jones, then 14, was killed in the attack, told BBC North West Tonight: “I have changed in more ways than you can imagine.

“I am grateful for the outlook I have in life as I had to learn at 14 years old that you really only do live once.

NHS Heroes Awards – London
Freya Lewis was recognised with the 2018 Young Fundraiser Award at the NHS Heroes Awards at the Hilton Hotel in London (Ian West/PA)

“Things can change in one night so just be grateful for those around you.”

On Sunday the teenager, from Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, is running the Greater Manchester Run 10k, her second charity run in the city.

The run will kick off with a minute’s applause to mark the anniversary of the bombing.

Remembrance services will also take place at the Glade of Light Memorial in the city centre, while bells at the nearby Manchester Cathedral will toll at 10.31pm, marking the time of the attack.

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