The Bucks Herald

Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Front Page Feature


'Our Daughter should have lived'

Tindal Centre criticised after tragic death and vows to change systems.

Group warns of rise in suicide attempts

The parents of a woman who hanged herself at an Aylesbury hospital say her death could have been avoided if she had received better care.

Chris and Helen Reynolds say the Tindal Centre let down their daughter when she needed its help most.

The mental health charity Mind and an Aylesbury support group said policies in dealing with patients needed to be investigated.

The Chief executive of Bucks Mental Health Trust said yesterday (Tuesday) a review had been carried out and improvements had been made.

Miss Reynolds, of Chiltern Street, Aylesbury, was found hanged from her shoelaces in a toilet at the hospital on her 35th birthday, on April 14 last year.

At Miss Reynolds' inquest on Monday, Bucks County Coroner Richard Hulett criticised the centre's care and recorded an open verdict contributed to by neglect.

He said Miss Reynolds' death had been contributed to by failing to pick up on her deteriorating condition and her increasing problems.

He added: "There is sufficient evidence here to say that the system is not working and it has failed."

It had been revealed during the inquest that Miss Reynolds was given the shoelaces with which she hanged herself by nursing staff just over an hour before her death. Just two days earlier she had been found by staff making an attempt on her life with the same pair of laces.

After the hearing, in a joint statement, Mr and Mrs Reynolds, of Buckingham Road, Tring, said: "While Belinda often spoke of suicide when she was a patient, there was strong evidence that she had planned to be found before serious harm had been done, but sadly she was not.

"Belinda's tragic death, which we are sure could have been avoided with better care, is a devastating blow to the family.

"It is about time that the NHS woke up to the fact that providing inadequate or inappropriate treatment can make psychiatric patients worse. Belinda was let down when she most needed help."

They added: "Belinda was a useful working member of society. When her health first broke down she worked voluntarily for the community and charities until she was well enough to return to work again, then continued to work in her free time."

She was involved with several Aylesbury Vale dog charities, and was besotted with her two pets, Franci, a cross breed, and Kayleigh, a Labrador cross.

Chief executive of mental health charity Mind, Richard Brook, said lessons needed to be learned from Miss Reynolds' death.

He said: "This case raises serious questions about the adequacy of risk assessment procedures in psychiatric hospitals and highlights the need for significant progress to be made in reducing inpatient suicides."

Celia Evershead, secretary of Phoenix, an Aylesbury support group for people with mental health problems, agreed.

She said: "While not blaming an individual for the sad death of Belinda, we are pleased we have the chance for Bucks Mental Health Trust to look once again at its policies and procedures for looking at people with severe mental health problems.

"There have been several suicides and attempted suicides in the Tindal Centre over the past four years and this is something that urgently needs to be addressed."

Bucks Mental Health Trust Chief Executive Keith Nieland said the Reynolds family had been invited to make a formal complaint.

"We will do all we can to resolve any issues, with an independently-lead review, subject to the family's agreement."

The trust had already carried out its own review, and improvements had already been made in terms of patient records, the monitoring of crisis admissions, and the reporting of discharges from the unit.

[Plus picture of Belinda with Kayleagh and of the Tindal Centre.]

[Note - we never used the headline quote - although we agree with it.]