Mentally ill mum '˜fit to go home'

A senior nurse practitioner who discharged a mentally ill woman from hospital has defended his decision, despite the mum hanging herself two days later.

Monday, 7th March 2016, 9:19 am
Updated Monday, 7th March 2016, 10:21 am
Bolton Coroner's Court. Picture courtesy of Google

An inquest into the death of Helen England continued for a third day, with evidence from Gary Atherton, senior nurse practitioner at 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust, who assessed the 38-year-old after she cut her arm and wrist.

He told the hearing, at Bolton Coroner’s Court, that Ms England, of Lowton, was admitted to Wigan Infirmary on December 22 2013. He had looked at the hospital’s electronic records and gathered that she had been under a community treatment order for bipolar following the death of her husband in 1999. She had been last been admitted to psychiatric hospital in November and discharged on December 13.

As she was feeling drowsy, he did not assess her but understood she would be discharged the next day and sent to Whiston Hospital for surgery on her arm on December 24. As a result, her community support worker would speak to her the following day at her home.

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He said: “I did not carry out a full assessment but suggested she was admitted under orthopaedic overnight. The next day I had a chat with Helen and she said she was frustrated and upset about everything. There were a few factors, such it was it Christmas and her children were being cared for and her partner was in hospital.

“She said it was not a suicide attempt and it was a moment of madness. She was regretful.”

However, Ms England, a former civil servant, remained at Wigan Infirmary, to have her surgery there and the appointment with her community support worker was cancelled.

Mr Atherton spoke to Ms England on December 24 and deemed that she was fit enough to go home.

He said: “She explained that her cutting her wrist was not a suicide attempt and that it was a cry for help.

“She said she didn’t need to stay in hospital and would stay with her mum on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. She was not expressing suicidal ideation and she was not psychotic. I am confident in my judgement and assessment.

“I had to make a decision on how Helen presented to me at the time.”

He added that the community psychiatric team that had been supporting Ms England would see her on December 27.

But Ms England’s mum, Celia Anscough, expressed concerns to Mr Atherton over her being discharged, as this was the first time Helen had deliberately harmed herself. She said: “If she had been sectioned she would have got the help she needed.”

But Mr Atherton insisted: “Deliberate self harm does not necessarily mean a suicide attempt.”

Two days after her release, Ms England was found hanged at her home. She had left notes expressing her intention to kill herself. Senior coroner Jennifer Leeming is expected to reach a verdict today.