Somerset

Chard woman's hanging death 'was avoidable'

Family of Nicola Locke
Image caption Mrs Locke's family said they believed her death could have been prevented.

The family of a woman who committed suicide in a Somerset psychiatric hospital ward have said they believe her death could have been prevented.

Nicola Locke, 44, of Chard, was found hanged at Summerlands Hospital in Yeovil on 9 August 2009.

She had been committed to the hospital after having attempted to kill herself three times in one week.

The coroner at the inquest in Wells said there had been no neglect on the part of the NHS trust.

The hearing was told Mrs Locke had developed psychosis and severe depression after becoming concerned about relatives' serious health problems.

Her family had asked for a dressing gown cord to be removed days before she hanged herself with it.

Coroner Tony Williams recorded a verdict of suicide.

'Deep regret'

But he said he would write to the health authority to ask what procedures had been put in place to ensure such a tragedy could not happen again.

Mr Williams told the hearing there needed to be gross failure to provide basic medical attention for neglect to be found.

He said he was satisfied by Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's argument that even with the dressing gown cord removed, Mrs Locke would still have had access to other forms of ligatures.

The trust had also argued that a balance between the patient's treatment and allowing them to keep their possessions was needed.

Following the verdict, trust spokesman Paul Courtney said it "deeply regretted" Mrs Locke's death.

He said: "We pride ourselves in a high quality and safe service and take very seriously any adverse event, in particular the death of a patient.

"We cannot disclose details relating to the care of individual patients; however we have conducted our own internal serious untoward event review and have already learned lessons from Mrs Locke's death which have led to a number of actions to improve the safety of our inpatient wards."

Speaking outside the hearing Mrs Locke's sister Deborah Bond said: "We are pleased to learn the NHS trust has changed their policies and the coroner is writing to them to ensure this.

"Hopefully other families will not have to suffer the tragedy we have."

The hearing was told Mrs Locke's mother Eileen Bethell and Mrs Bond had questioned nurses over the appropriateness of the dressing gown cord.

Mrs Bond added: "We are still disappointed; we obviously didn't want to lose Nic.

"I would have hoped common sense would have prevailed and they would have listened to what I asked them to do."

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