Wednesday, February 6, 2002
Suicide patient 'neglected'
A CORONER has said failings in a psychiatric unit led to the death of a 35-year-old Tring woman.
At an inquest on Monday coroner Richard Hulett recorded an open verdict into the death of Belinda Reynolds, who was found hanging by shoelaces in a toilet at the Tindal Centre in Aylesbury on her birthday, April 14 last year.
"Her death was contributed to by neglect," Mr Hulett said. "There were failings that led to that outcome - Belinda was deteriorating and becoming more of a risk to herself."
Miss Reynolds, who was originally from Tring and later lived in Aylesbury. had been admitted to the psychiatric unit as a voluntary patient on March 5 last year.
The inquest heard she had handed in to staff some of her belongings, including a pair of shoelaces and a Swiss army knife.
Staff Nurse Emma Petrie explained these belongings could, on request, routinely be handed back by staff unless they had suspicions the items would be used by a patient to harm themselves.
On the day she died, her 35th birthday. Miss Reynolds had spent the day celebrating with friends, family and fellow patients. At about 9pm she asked staff for the laces to go outside for a cigarette.
Nurse Petrie told the inquest: "I made a decision on the basis of what had happened that day." And she added: "I explained to her that they needed to be brought back the moment she had finished."
But she did not return the laces and just after 10 pm announced to a group of patients in the ward smoking room that she was going to go and commit suicide. About 10 minutes later staff were alerted by patients that Miss Reynolds had spent a long time in the toilet.
They discovered her hanging by the laces from a door handle. She died despite attempts to revive her.
Her mother Helen Reynolds told the inquest in Aylesbury: "I still find it incredible and unacceptable that she should be able to take her own life in a hospital that was supposed to be, for her, some form of asylum, at a time when there was nobody to assist her.
"She placed herself in their care because she needed it, and she felt that this kind of incident would not happen as a result, like it might if she was at home."
The coroner also said he had doubts Miss Reynolds intended to take her own life. He felt it was more likely she was having trouble expressing her feelings about other stressful events in her life and perhaps it was a cry for help.
A statement from Miss Reynolds' parents, Chris and Helen, said she had been a "useful working member of society" who had taken on voluntary and charity work when her health broke down. "She and others like her deserve a caring and supportive service which can deal with their individual situation in the best possible way when they become ill."