Tragic death could prompt policy change

Helen England
Helen England

The system of discharging a patient with mental health problems should be overhauled, a coroner has ruled after a Wigan woman’s suicide.

Jennifer Leeming voiced concerns at the end of an inquest into the death of Helen England, 38, who hanged herself two days after she was sent home from hospital after self-harming.

I am very proud of my daughter with all she went through with her illness. She was well loved. One great thing that has come from this is hopefully things will be improved on a national level

Celia Ainscough

And although she ruled that the decision to send her home after she deliberately injured herself and the fact there was no policy to liaise with her regular consultant was unlikely to have contributed to her death, Ms Leeming questioned why there was no such procedure.

She said: “There is currently no protocol in place where a doctor should be sought or consulted. I will draw the matter to the attention of 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust and to the Secretary of State for Health on a national basis.”

Ms Leeming also quizzed the 5 Boroughs Trust over its delay in the registered mental health nurse contacting the police following a call from Ms England’s mum, Celia Ainscough, on Boxing Day 2013. She said: “There appears to be a delay of 24 minutes, which still has not been explained. However, I do not have any evidence of this being a possible cause of death.”

Over the course of the four-day hearing at Bolton Coroner’s Court, evidence was given about Ms England’s struggle with bipolar effective disorder following the death of her husband in 1999, while she was seven months pregnant.

She endured a cycle of being in and out of hospital care.

On December 22, 2013 the former civil servant was admitted to Wigan Infirmary after she deliberately cut her arm and wrist. Despite concerns raised by her mum, senior nurse practitioner Gary Atherton discharged her on December 24, as Ms England said she didn’t intend to kill herself.

Ms England spent Christmas Day with family but returned to her Lowton home the next morning.

As she appeared to be agitated Mrs Ainscough called the mental health team. Her mental health worker, Helen Colleja could not get hold of her, so she called the police.

There was a further delay of 20 minutes as two officers were required to attend. They found her body.

An autopsy revealed she died as a result of hanging and Mrs Leeming recorded a verdict of suicide.

Mrs Ainscough said: “I am very proud of my daughter with all she went through with her illness. She was well loved. One great thing that has come from this is hopefully things will be improved on a national level.”