A 42 year old female from Burnley was recently found hanged in a side room within the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Police have confirmed the death is not suspicious and the case has been referred to the Coroner Office. The NHS Trust has not commented on the incident at present and it is likely that an internal investigation will be carried out in to the death.
It is unclear at present as to whether the patient was deemed a suicide risk when she arrived at the hospital, or whether she had any known psychiatric problems. It is concerning to note how something like this could have happened in such a busy department and if the patient was suffering from mental health problems she should have been closely monitored by staff for the duration of the time she was in the department.
The NHS Trust have only recently undertaken a review of their policies and procedures in place for mental health crisis care within its emergency departments and urgent care centres after an inspection care out by the Care Quality Commission revealed a number of concerns. A primary concern raised was the delays in dealing with patients who required an assessment and/or admission to mental health. It is unclear at present what time this patient arrived at the hospital and whether there were any delays in her care.
Dr Peter Byrne, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said emergency departments have policies in place to prevent self-harm and suicide, such as risk assessments of the physical environment to reduce potential ‘ligature points’.
He said: “If a patient comes in and expresses a desire to self-harm or commit suicide, then there are generally two levels of observation that could be used.
“In the first, the patient will be given a named nurse, but that staff member may well be tasked with other jobs as well. But those most at risk will have eye-level observation, where a nurse won’t let them out of their line of sight.
“But what’s really difficult, and where the nightmare scenario is, is where there’s no evidence that the patient is at risk of self harm.”
He said patients expressing a wish to self harm, or deemed to be at risk, should generally be given a mental health assessment within one hour.
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