‘More could have been done to save my Sheila’

Shelia Bone
Shelia Bone

THE angry mother of a schizophrenic woman who was found hanging in a mental health hospital believes more could have been done to save her.

A three-day inquest was held into the death of troubled mum Sheila Bone, 41, who was found hanging from her dressing gown cord in her bedroom, at Sandwell Park, in Hartlepool.

It was around an hour after her frantic husband called staff to tell them Sheila had rang him and threatened to take her own life that day. He asked them to keep a close eye on her.

But the coroner yesterday found that Sandwell Park’s system for checking on patients did not fail or contribute to Sheila’s death.

Her anguished mum, Maureen Englishby, told the hearing she felt there had been “grave mistakes” at the mental health unit.

Maureen said she believed the hanging was really a “cry for help”, adding: “Deep down, she wanted to live for her son.”

Sheila’s husband Raymond also spoke out after it emerged that her allocated nurse had been in a 45-minute meeting when he rang the Lancaster Road unit with his concerns.

He told the inquest: “Had that meeting been interrupted, the circumstances might have been different.”

Tony Eastwood, Teesside deputy coroner, returned a narrative verdict when he said he could not be sure Sheila intended to kill herself as her mental illness meant she was prone to quick mood changes.

Speaking after the verdict, mum Maureen said: “They (staff) should have been watching her, they told us they were watching her.

“My opinion now is that more could have been done to save Sheila.

“I’m still bitter about everything that’s happened.”

After being told of the suicide threat at about noon, a healthcare assistant spoke to Sheila and asked if she had any active plans to kill herself but was told she had “nothing to do it with”.

She was admitted to Sandwell Park, run by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, on April 1, 2009, suffering from paranoid delusions.

On April 9, she returned home for a week’s trial but her condition worsened during the night and she agreed to go back the next day.

Sheila, a married mum-of-one of Inglefield, Hartlepool, was seen by a senior nurse and put on hourly observations.

She was last seen alive at 12.50pm, but at around 1.10pm was found hanging.

Mr Eastwood said Sandwell Park’s system of observing and interacting with patients was the best way to assess their mental state and help them.

He said: “I consider that the systems did not contribute to Mrs Bone’s death.

“When that information (Mr Bone’s phone call) was relayed there was further appropriate taken decisions on the management of Mrs Bone but it was not perceived there was any immediate threat to her life and as a consequence I’m not satisfied there has been any failing of the systems.”

Sheila was rushed to hospital but suffered irreversible brain damage, and died of pneumonia 20 days later.

Maureen said she wasn’t even told Sheila had been found hanging in her room until she rang Sandwell Park 55 minutes after the incident.

“She had only gone back in that morning so I thought I would give her time to settle in and let her husband visit her.

“I called at 1.55pm to say I was on my way and they told me that she had hung herself and was on her way to hospital.

“If I hadn’t have called when were they planning to tell me? I can’t describe how that felt,” she said.

“I would never want to re-live that.”

A spokesperson for the health trust said: “We understand the devastating impact this must have had on Mrs Bone’s family and our thoughts and sympathy are with them at this difficult time.

“Although we are reassured by the coroner’s remarks it is also important to learn lessons from what happened and, as a result of our own investigation into this tragic death, we have made some changes to the way we work.”