Hospital defends decision to leave patient who then strangled herself unattended

Hellesdon Hospital, the home of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith

Hellesdon Hospital, the home of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

A manager at a mental heath hospital in Norwich has defended a decision to briefly leave a patient who then strangled herself unattended.

Lorraine Youngs, who lived at Foulgers Opening in the city, was admitted to Hellesdon Hospital, run by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, on March 23 last year after taking an overdose of alcohol, drugs and prescription medication.

The 35-year-old, originally from Southery, near Downham Market, had a history of mental health problems and had battled with anorexia, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

At yesterday's jury inquest, Norwich coroner's court heard how on the following day Miss Youngs refused to take her medication and became hostile and distressed.

Charlotte Loades, a clinical team leader at the hospital, said: 'Lorraine had become quite rude and abusive and we were aware that there may be a risk to members of staff.'

Mrs Loades and a colleague decided to instead administer the medication by injection, and left to prepare it.

She estimated they were away for six to eight minutes before it was ready.

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But the inquest heard how, after looking in her bedroom and the activity room, they found Miss Youngs had strangled herself in a room on her own.

When asked whether a member of staff should have stayed with her, Mrs Loades defended their actions.

'I think that we made the right decision - I was confident with our decision,' she said. 'We needed two people to prepare the medication. We look at service users as a whole - we look at what is proportionate and what risks there are.

'We were aware she was a risk of suicide but that this was by overdose, not ligature.

'I believed our presence was making her more and more agitated and having someone with her in the room may done so more and may have put staff at risk as well.'

Members of staff then attempted to resuscitate Miss Youngs and a paramedic who arrived on scene said he felt a heartbeat.

However, in a statement read aloud, Miss Youngs' mother Angela said her daughter never regained consciousness and died on March 26.

The inquest is expected to continue until Wednesday.

Following guidelines issued by The Samaritans, we have left out certain details heard at the inquest.

You can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.