A CORONER has delivered a damning assessment of a mental health service’s actions in the days before a young Hampshire woman took her own life.
The risk to the safety of Hannah Groves was “not adequately identified” in the run-up to her tragic death, Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman said this morning.
The 20-year-old had requested treatment at a mental health unit in Southampton after making several attempts to take her own life in the week before she died.
But an inquest earlier this year heard how, having made threats both to her own life and that of her mother, Hannah could not be taken for mental health act assessment at the specialist Antelope House in the early hours of October 22 last year.
Hannah was found dead hours later at her mum’s home in Elms Drive, Southampton.
Her family believe the promising languages student would still be alive if her problems had been taken seriously.
The exact nature of Hannah’s condition at the time remains unclear as she had never displayed signs of mental illness before.
But police officers investigating the tragedy found that just days before the tragedy she had searched the internet with phrases such as “no emotions”, “disassociated identity disorder” and “no feeling”.
She had moved back to her mum’s home in Shirley after switching from the University of Kent to the University of Southampton to be near her boyfriend but the inquest heard she had been struggling with her studies.
As previously reported, it is alleged that, on the morning of her death, a member of the mental health team described Hannah as an “effing waste of time” and “an attention seeker” during a telephone conversation with Hampshire Constabulary detention officer Ross Blackwood, who later reported the matter to a police officer.
This morning, Keith Wiseman said this was said by someone who had never met Hannah and that the view “derived from others within the mental health team who did not know Hannah”.
He added that these words could “hardly be described as compassionate”.
Mr Wiseman told the court that Hannah’s condition had come to the “significant attention” of the mental health services during the week before her death.
But he added the increasing risk to her safety was “not adequately identified nor were sufficient measures taken to provide the assistance her mother needed to protect her from the kind of harm that occurred.”
He said members of the ambulance service, A&E staff and police “all found her behaviour very concerning indeed” on the issue of risk to life.
Mr Wiseman delivered a narrative verdict, finding that Hannah had died of self-asphyxiation with a ligature while she was alone briefly in her family home. He also concluded that she was in a “very disturbed state of mind” and her intentions were unclear when the tragedy occurred.
He said all he could “reasonably expect” was that Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust carried out the recommendations that had been made in a Critical Incident Report of the tragedy.
He added that he was expecting an update from senior staff in January as to progress being made but that “issues such as funding and the availability of suitable personnel are way beyond my control”.
Offering his condolences to Hannah’s mum Mandy Park, who battled back tears throughout the hearing this morning, Mr Wiseman said she must have endured “an experience of nightmarish proportions”.
Southern Health NHS Foundation issued its “sincere apologies” to the family admitting Hannah’s death may have been prevented if things had been done differently.
A spokesperson said: “It is of the utmost importance that we, as an organisation, learn from this experience and ensure that similar incidents are avoided in the future wherever possible.
“As a result, we have put in place a number of changes including: Working more closely with relatives and carers to ensure their concerns are actively considered as part of care-planning and risk assessment Ensuring our staff have further training in risk assessments and how to support people in a crisis in a flexible way that can respond to risks more effectively Increased the level of psychological support available to people using our services Improved the way care is coordinated between individuals and teams and across shift patterns “We fully accept the coroner’s verdict, which supports our own conclusions.
“Miss Groves should have received more intensive support in the community which was more responsive to the concerns raised by her family.
“We are confident that with the transformations made during the last nine months we are better able to support people during a crisis in a way that keeps them safe and increases their chances of recovery and independence.”
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Daily Echo.