Coroner Criticises Psychiatric Unit

A psychiatric unit has been criticised by a coroner for its "sloppy and inadequate'' documentation in discharging a patient who took her own life just hours later.

Victoria Nye, 22, plunged 100ft from the balcony of her 13th floor flat in Dumbleton Towers, Southampton, in March last year.

Miss Nye had said she wanted to leave the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal South Hants Hospital and was allowed to do so because she was there voluntarily.

She had gone to the unit after throwing kittens from her flat and her father Graham was aware that the animal lover would be very upset when she fully understood what she had done.

Mr Nye told the inquest in Southampton he contacted staff to say she would be dead within hours of her release.

Miss Nye, who was described as a "very troubled girl'', was admitted two weeks before, but on March 3, she told consultant psychiatrist Dr Anders Ekelund during a ward round that she wanted to leave.

The hearing heard that the specialist did not believe Miss Nye was suffering from a mental illness after meeting her once and thought she had a personality disorder.

He said he was unable to stop her even though he did not want her to leave that day due to concerns over accommodation.

She then left, returned to her flat drunk and jumped.

But Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman said the medic had left himself open to accusations of a cover up over the exact circumstances of what happened because his record keeping was so bad, even if he was faced with a unplanned and sudden "difficult decision''.

He explained that proper documentation in the mental health field was not

"a procedural or peripheral matter... but compulsory requirements, otherwise the safety of a patient is going to be prejudiced''.

"The documentation to support the thought process leading to Victoria being allowed to leave hospital... is sloppy and inadequate.''

"If he (Mr Ekelund) was so concerned about her going, his failure to record these matters is significantly blameworthy.''

An internal investigation was also critical of the care of Miss Nye.

It said: "the care planning, risk assessment and care planning approach were inadequate and incomplete during Miss Nye's period in hospital.'' And there was also no evidence of a comprehensive discharge plan.

Recording a verdict of suicide while the balance of Miss Nye's mind was disturbed, Mr Wiseman said the case had been "troubling''.

"The image of her father frantically trying to tell whoever would listen over a period of 24 hours that his daughter would take her own life if released from hospital at that stage (and even accurately forecasting the method by which she would do it), is a graphic and distressing one.''