Mental health worker called patient ‘a waste of space’

Staff member at Antelope House called Hannah Groves ‘a waste of space’ before she took her own life

A MENTAL health worker described a woman as a “waste of space” in a foul mouthed outburst just hours before the woman took her own life, an inquest heard.

Hannah Groves wanted treatment at a specialist mental health unit in Southampton after saying she wanted to kill herself but she was told there was no space.

She had been arrested by police under the Mental Health Act but was sent home after staff from Antelope House decided not to assess her.

The inquest was told how a mental health team worker had told the police detention officer that he knew Hannah and described her as a “f***ing waste of space” and a “time waster”.

hannah groves 0498Tragically Hannah, 20, was found dead at her mum’s home in Southampton hours later.

Her family believes the promising student would still be alive if her mental illness had been taken seriously.

The inquest in Southampton heard how Hannah suddenly suffered a severe bout of depression in the fortnight before she was found hanged.

Before this the foreign language student had never displayed any sign of mental illness. But in the week before her death she tried to take her life on several occasions, the inquest heard.

Detective Sergeant Matt Taylor told Southampton Coroner’s Court that an examination of Hannah’s computer found she had searched the Internet with phrases such as “no emotions”, “disassociated identity disorder”, depersonalisation and “no feeling”.

He said other searches included “why the brain stops functioning”, “causes of mental disorder” and “dropping out of university”.

Hannah 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.

During the week before her death on October 22 last year, following repeated bids to take her own life, she was assessed as being fine to return home.

The inquest heard that Hannah had gone to Southampton General Hospital’s accident and emergency (A&E) department on October 19 after two suicide attempts in three days.

Trainee GP Dr Hannah Yates described her patient as being “clear in expressing that she could not see any way out other than suicide” and that she was explaining herself rationally.

Dr Yates then had a telephone conversation with mental health nurse Hannah Muscroft- Bloomfield in which she highlighted a number of “red flag” issues about what had happened during the day.

She said that the initial advice she was given was that Hannah should be discharged without an assessment having undergone a number of them in recent days already.

Dr Yates said she felt “uncomfortable” with the decision and asked for it to be expressed in writing and faxed to her department.

But following a second conversation it was agreed that an assessment would be made that night, she told the inquest.

Giving evidence, Ms Muscroft-Bloomfield said she and colleague had gone to A&E and they felt “there was not a significant problem” with Hannah and that it was “reasonable” for her to go home.

She said the conversation with Dr Yates was merely “talking through possibilities”.

She admitted to swearing after a heated telephone conversation with Hannah’s mother, Mandy Park, over where her daughter should stay that night and conceded that Hannah had heard what she said while lying in her hospital bed.

However, she denied hearing Hannah referred to as a “waste of time” and an “attention seeker” and said she was “extremely surprised and shocked” to hear the allegation.

Earlier GP Dr Susan Robinson, who saw Hannah at Regents Park Surgery after she had tried to commit suicide, told the inquest she had wanted help.

She said: “In my opinion she was not somebody who needed to be sectioned. She was accepting help. In my view she was seeking attention, but not attention seeking.”

Hannah was eventually arrested in the early hours of October 22 after making threats to kill herself and her mother, the inquest was told.

PC David Maidment visited Hannah’s home in Elms Drive and said Hannah explained she wanted to go to Antelope House for treatment. But officers were informed there was no room at Antelope House.

PC Maidment said he explained Hannah could be arrested under the Mental Health Act after she refused to go to the A&E department to be checked over.

She was taken into custody at Southampton Central police station where Christopher Taylor, an approved medical practitioner, was stationed for the day. It was here it was claimed a detention officer Ross Blackwood allegedly heard a member of the mental health team describe Hannah as a “f***ing waste of space”, the inquest heard.

At the inquest, solicitor Nick Fairweather asked Mr Taylor: “Someone in the team had described her as an effing waste of space. Did you hear anyone use phrases akin to that? Are you surprised to hear that?”

Mr Taylor said: “I am disgusted.”

The inquest heard Mr Taylor did not fill out a progress note on Hannah’s assessment in custody until the day after she died and failed to enter that she had taken her own life.

Mr Fairweather said: “By the time you completed this form you knew that Hannah was dead. Why is that not mentioned in the form?”

Mr Taylor replied: “Because I am basing the time on when I did the assessment. It’s an error on my part not to record it.”

Giving evidence, Dr Thomas Schlich, lead consultant psychiatrist based at Antelope House, expressed his abhorrence at claims a mental health worker used derogatory language to describe Hannah.

He said: “I was not aware of this. There is no place for someone working in mental health who makes comments in those kinds of settings.”

Coroner Keith Wiseman adjourned the inquest until August 15 when he will deliver his verdict.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Southern daily Echo.