Anorexic UEA student, 19, failed by medics, says report

Averil Hart died from anorexia after health teams failed to care for her properly. Photo: Supplied

Averil Hart died from anorexia after health teams failed to care for her properly. Photo: Supplied - Credit: Supplied

A 19-year-old student at the University of East Anglia died from anorexia after health teams failed to care for her properly, according to a report from the Patients' Association.

Averil Hart had spent 10 months in hospital near her home in Colchester, but had gone to the UEA to study English and creative writing last year.

Two NHS teams failed to care for her properly, the report claims. Neither communicated with each other or performed regular health checks despite the fact she was at high risk of a relapse.

Ms Hart, a student at the University of East Anglia, was discharged into the care of the Norfolk community eating disorders team and the university primary care team.

The care co-ordinator assigned to her was a junior trainee with no practical experience of anorexia, says the report, and proper checks were not carried out on Ms Hart's weight or blood.

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Ms Hart was found unconscious on the floor of her student flat kitchen by a cleaner and was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, but was later transferred to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, where notes suggest her blood sugar was not properly monitored. She died on December 15.

Officials from the N&N have apologised. The University of East Anglia medical service said it could not comment on individual cases 'because of our duty of confidentiality'.

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The student's parents, Nicholas and Imogen Hart, said they felt that the N&N had little experience of how to deal with a critically-ill anorexic and that staff had allowed her to fall on the ward, which caused a head injury, and hospital staff expected her to feed herself from a food trolley.

They criticised UEA medical service and Norfolk community eating disorder service after leaving the student for three weeks until her first check-up. They added that their daughter was supposed to be weighed weekly, but that only happened on three occasions in the ten weeks she was at the Norwich university.

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: 'We offer our sincere condolences to Averil's family for their sad and tragic loss. Averil was cared for by a consultant who specialises in clinical nutrition and was seen by this consultant within an hour of admittance to hospital and received all the support, treatment and specialist care appropriate for a patient with anorexia nervosa who was very unwell.

'The consultant responsible for Averil's care decided that she needed to be transferred into the care of Addenbrooke's Hospital because of a particular complication connected to her condition in which Addenbrooke's specialises as one of six centres in England.'

A spokesman from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Norfolk Community Eating Disorders team, added: 'The death of Averil Hart was tragic and we have sent our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. A formal investigation has been carried out involving all relevant health organisations and submitted to the North Norfolk CCG along with an action plan to ensure that lessons can be learned from this case.

'Actions from the investigation were implemented some time ago. They include ensuring care plans remain as robust as possible and ensuring our most complex cases are dealt by our most senior and experienced staff. A further review is planned to ensure that the steps we have taken are working. We have arranged a meeting with Averil's family and they will be invited to help us audit the changes to our service.'

Have you got a health story? Contact Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email

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