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'Missed opportunities' to help Waverton pensioner

Published date: 20 March 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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OPPORTUNITIES to help were missed by mental health staff before a pensioner drowned in the Shropshire Union Canal, a coroner was told.

Rosemary Little, 78, of Eggbridge Lane, Waverton, committed suicide on September 16 after she spiralled back into the depression she had first suffered in 1978.

A Chester inquest heard eye witnesses saw Mrs Little in an agitated state walking towards the canal in the morning of September 16.

Cheshire deputy coroner Dr Janet Napier concluded Mrs Little had taken her own life while “the balance of her mind was disturbed”.

An inquest hearing on January 6 was adjourned so evidence of Mrs Little’s mental state in the months leading up to her death could be gathered. Yesterday a resumed inquest heard that although the general standard of Mrs Little’s care was good, opportunities to tell her family about the deteroriation of her mental state were missed.

The inquest, held at West Cheshire Magistrates Court, heard Mrs Little’s mental health problems began in 1978 when she was admitted to hospital after an overdose and began treatment for depression and pyschosis. She received electro shock therapy six times in 1978 but was back in hospital after two more attempts on her own life in 1980.

Psychiatrist Dr Hisham Gaballa, told the inquest Mrs Little had received further shock treatments in 1985 and 1986 but stressed techniques had changed significantly since then.

Dr Gaballa said Mrs Little next came into contact with the mental health teams in 2006 when she was diagnosed with major depression but she was discharged in 2008 after successful drug therapy treatment.

The inquest was told Mrs Little was taken to the Countess of Chester Hospital Accident and Emergency department on July 26 after a neighbour called her son, Alex Little, to tell him she was refusing to get out of bed and was in a low mood. Doctors agreed she could be treated for her depression at home.

Catherine Antrobus, a community mental health nurse at Bowmere Hospital on the Countess of Chester Health Park, said Mrs Little was visited twice a day by mental health professionals and her mood fluctuated on a regular basis.from being very low to being more engaging.

Mrs Antrobus, one of the nurses who treated Mrs Little, said after a short time on anti-depressant medication only, Mrs Little began to show signs of pyschosis.

Anti-psychotic medication was started on September 5 and the patient seemed to improve.

Her last visit to Waverton was on September 16  when she was met by police who told her Mrs Little’s body had been found in the canal.

A few days before Mrs Little’s death, nurses found a note from their patient saying goodbye to her family. When the nurses asked Mrs Little about the note. she said she had written it because “people were going to take her away”, adding she had no thoughts of suicide.

Mrs Little’s daughter, Sarah Hendley, told the coroner that if the family had been kept fully informed they might have been able to persuade her mother to go into hospital for treatment.

The coroner concluded Mrs Little committed suicide by drowning.

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