Mental health centre under fire for ‘neglect’

A MENTAL health unit covering the Rye area has been criticised after staff were accused of neglecting a woman who committed suicide.

Poor patient care at Woodlands mental health unit contributed to the death of a woman described by social workers and medical professionals as a “high suicide risk”, an inquest heard.

Susannah Anley, 34, from Crowhurst, died at the unit, on the Conquest Hospital site, on April 26, 2008, the day after she had been admitted.

Questions were also raised at the inquest as to how she came by the materials to take her own life, and why after her death she was found to be wearing a belt, when the instruction had been given to remove such items for her personal safety.

Her husband Mark Anley criticised the East Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the unit.

He said: “On the day she was admitted she was obviously very distressed, but when I phoned her the next morning she seemed reasonably well. However, when I arrived later that afternoon I saw an ambulance outside.

“When I went inside a staff nurse led me straight into a room and broke the news that Susannah was dead. “From the beginning the Trust seemed to have no explanation for what had happened and I was appalled at how they dealt with the whole situation.

No charges were brought following a police investigation, however the trust admitted liability and made a written apology to Mr Anley.

Woodlands was closed in 2009, so a thorough investigation could take place following Mrs Anley’s death, and that of two other patients John Blair, and Sergeant Richard Bexhell.

It reopened in 2010, following a £500,000 refurbishment, and other wide-ranging improvements.

Mental health bosses have admitted that “errors were made” in relation to the care received by Susannah Anley.

Dr Tim Ojo, executive medical director for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were deeply saddened by the tragic death and continue to extend our deepest, heartfelt sympathy to her family.

“We accept that errors were made and checks that should have been carried out were not. We have apologised unreservedly to Susannah’s family.

“In our hospitals we are committed to providing a safe environment and treatment for people who are so mentally ill that they can only be cared for in hospitals. We take this responsibility very seriously.

“In the exceptional cases when people in our care harm themselves, we are determined to do all we can to learn from those events and put measures in place to prevent them happening again.

“Following Susannah’s death, we looked in detail at what happened. We have already made changes to the way we care for patients across Sussex Partnership, based on what we have learnt so far from this tragic incident. We believe the way we work today is an example of best practice in mental healthcare.”

After deliberating for almost two hours the jury reached a unanimous verdict of death by misadventure, contributed to by neglect.