Teenager who attempted to take own life ‘doesn’t meet criteria’ to be sectioned

PUBLISHED: 05:30 04 December 2018 | UPDATED: 07:04 04 December 2018

A Stowmarket mother is speaking out over her family's experience with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Picture: ARCHANT

A Stowmarket mother is speaking out over her family's experience with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Picture: ARCHANT


A distraught mother has described Suffolk’s mental health service as “farcical” and claims it is failing families after her daughter attempted to take her own life – but was not sectioned.

Philipa Teixeira, from Stowmarket, criticised the way the crisis-hit Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) has dealt with her 18-year-old daughter’s case, in the same week a watchdog uncovered a litany of failings at the trust.

Last Monday, just two days before the Care Quality Commission judged NSFT ‘inadequate’ for a third time, Ms Teixeira came home to find her daughter attempting to hang herself.

She alerted paramedics and gave her a rescue breath, and once the teenager had been revived she was taken to West Suffolk Hospital.

After a two-and-a-half hour wait she discharged herself – and the next morning, her mother phoned NSFT’s crisis team.

The teenager, who is not being named, was assessed when Ms Teixeira took her to see the community team – after being told staff were “too busy in meetings” to talk to her by phone.

This came as last week’s CQC report raised concerns about the lack of access to mental health services.

NSFT's chief nurse Diane Hull Picture: DAVID REESNSFT's chief nurse Diane Hull Picture: DAVID REES

And, despite the seriousness of her daughter’s mental state, she was not sectioned under the Mental Health Act as she ‘did not fit the criteria’.

“The decision to not section her left me totally flabbergasted,” said Ms Teixeira, who lodged a formal complaint with NSFT about her daughter’s ongoing treatment in August but is yet to receive a final response.

“Her safety was my main concern.

“But apparently, she didn’t fit the criteria to be sectioned.

“In my opinion, deciding not to section someone who has actively tried to take their own life, and has no regrets, is like signing their death certificate.”

When she raised concerns with an approved mental health professional, the 47-year-old said he agreed with her.

“I was saying to him the system isn’t fit for purpose and he said ‘I can’t disagree’,” she added. “That speaks volumes.”

Now NSFT is in special measures for a third time, Ms Teixeira has warned enough is enough.

She added: “I really don’t know how I deal with this situation.

“The system is failing families. It’s farcical.

“People need to realise what we’re going through. We can’t be the only family.”

Ms Teixeira’s daughter has been in and out of inpatient care since she was about 16, receiving treatment at units in Lowestoft and Chelmsford.

Headquarters of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Picture: JAMES BASSHeadquarters of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Picture: JAMES BASS

More recently, between February and May this year, she was moved to a unit in Bury near Manchester – more than 200 miles away.

She turned 18 in July, moving from adolescent to adult care, and medics transferred her from Colchester to Woodlands at Ipswich Hospital.

Yet the teenager was discharged just three days after arriving, her mother claims.

After that, she started to engage with NSFT’s community team.

But in August, she attempted a sixth overdose and was taken to West Suffolk Hospital.

Doctors sectioned her, and sent her back to Woodlands.

But once there, it was decided the 18-year-old did not need to be sectioned and she was released again, her mother claims.

“She started to improve slightly but it wasn’t long before it got worse, around October half term.”

On November 1 police called Ms Teixeira to say they had found her daughter in a distressed state near a bridge in Ipswich.

Officers sectioned her, and she was then assessed by NSFT doctors at Woodlands – who, the 47-year-old claims, decided she did not need to be sectioned after all.

The teenager’s mental health continued to decline up until the incident on Monday.

“On Monday I knew she wasn’t right,” she said.

The Woodlands mental health unit at Ipswich Hospital Picture: ARCHANTThe Woodlands mental health unit at Ipswich Hospital Picture: ARCHANT

“I can’t sleep because all I can see is the image I came home to.”

Ms Teixeira said she is yet to hear from the 18-year-old’s care coordinator, despite her pledging to call after Monday’s incident.

An NSFT community team member visited the family on Thursday and informed them about the Patient Liaison Advice Service.

How did NSFT bosses respond?

Chief nurse Diane Hull spoke to Ms Teixeira on Friday, after the trust was approached by this newspaper.

She said: “We are committed to working with service users and carers, and we apologise if Ms Teixeira feels that she and her daughter have not received the sort of service that we would want, and need, to provide.

“I have spoken to Ms Teixeira by phone and have arranged to meet her face-to-face next week/this week.

“I have also talked to the team who are involved in her daughter’s care and have been assured that both Ms Teixeira and her daughter have been seen on a regular basis.”

Trust chiefs confirmed they were investigating a formal complaint from Ms Teixeira.

Bosses have written to her this week, and aim to respond by December 21.

What does sectioning mean and when does it happen?

When someone is sectioned, they are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.

There are different types of sections, each with different rules.

The length of time someone is kept there depends on which section they are detained under.

As bosses from mental health charity Mind explain, someone may be sectioned if concerns are raised about that person’s mental health.

Someone should only be sectioned if:

• They need to be assessed and treated for a mental health problem urgently

• Their health would be at serious risk of getting worse if they did not get treatment quickly

• Their safety or someone else’s would be at serious risk if they did not get treatment quickly

• Their doctor thinks they need to be assessed and treated in hospital, for example, if they need to be monitored very regularly because they have to take new or very powerful medication.

Before someone can be lawfully sectioned, they will need to be assessed by health professionals to make sure it is necessary.

• Anyone affected by the issues raised above can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website.

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