Nurse says Norwich mental health patient who strangled herself was not at risk of suicide

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 staff nurse at Hellesdon Hospital denied a patient who strangled herself was at immediate risk of suicide although she had repeatedly said she wanted to die.

Lorraine Youngs, 35, was admitted to the Rollesby ward intensive care unit on March 23 last year having taken an overdose.

The second day of a jury inquest into her death heard a risk assessment was not completed for six hours and Miss Youngs was 'guarded' when asked about self harm.

That day nurse Helen Andrews had started a week working at the ward, where she does the 'occasional bank shift'; moving from her regular ward to fill staffing gaps.

'A risk assessment still needed to be done at the handover and I volunteered,' she told the court.

'That is to establish the risks around self harm, suicide, drug and alcohol misuse. Ordinarily we would sit down with the patient to discuss their risks, but due to Lorraine's presentation that morning, it wasn't possible to have those discussions.

'Between doing risk assessments I would be doing medication and helping other patients.'

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The court also heard how Miss Youngs had been 'presenting as abusive and aggressive,' so was put in seclusion and 'maxed-out' on medication. 'At the time I did not feel she would harm herself or was in immediate risk of killing herself,' Miss Andrews added.

'If I did I probably would have increased observations.'

Miss Andrews's risk assessment was found to have been copied in large parts from the 'clerking in' assessment of Katherine Bietzk, a third year core psychiatry trainee.

'I get a snapshot of what I see at the time,' she said. 'The document Helen Andrews completed is the official risk assessment and is a dynamic document as staff get to know the patient.'

Asked how Miss Youngs presented, she added: 'She told me she did not know what was real and what was not. She did mention a couple of times wanting to die, but she would not elaborate.

'She presented to me as a risk of harm to others, and she did not express any suicide plans to me. She was more chaotic than depressed.'

The first day of the inquest had heard how, on March 24, staff members had left Miss Youngs alone for six to eight minutes while going to prepare medication.

She was eventually found in what staff called 'a hiding place' for patients. Her care plan involved four hourly observations at the time.

Clinical team leader Charlotte Loades said it was 'the right decision' to have left Miss Youngs unattended.

Members of staff performed CPR and paramedics found a heartbeat, but Miss Youngs died on March 26.

The inquest continues.

If you are in need of counselling, the Samaritans can be reached by dialling 116123