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HOW WAS SHE ALLOWED TO HANG?; Family fury over hospital suicide.

Byline: JOHN HALL

A SUICIDAL woman hanged herself after being left unchecked for more than eight hours in a North Wales hospital. Eileen Davies, 72, was found hanging in a ward, containing two other people, at Wrexham Maelor Hospital on May 1.

An inquest was yesterday told she was not on suicide watch despite previous attempts to kill herself and having a history of depression.

After the hearing one her four sons,Robert said: ``Our mum should have been alive today. We now know that she was not checked from late at night until nearly eight o'clock next morning''.

He said their solicitor had written to the hospital asking why she was not closely watched.

``They knew she was at risk because she had attempted suicide previously.''

The inquest heard that staff had not been told to keep Mrs Davies under special observation.

Recording a verdict of suicide,Assistant North East Coroner Kirit Champaneria said: ``This is an extremely sad case. She had a history of depression and had made previous suicide attempts.

``A consultant psychiatrist had reported that Mrs Davies, of Southsea, Wrexham, had taken small overdoses of tablets but they were thought not to be of serious intent -more as cries for help.''

On the morning of May 1, a care assistant went into the four-bed ward,pulled back the bed curtains and found her slumped forward on the floor, strangled by a pair of tights tied from the bed head and around her neck.

The coroner told the family: ``There may have been issues between staff and the family but this is not a matter I can deal with. I know it has been difficult for you. I regret there is nothing I can say that will make it less difficult.''

Mr Davies,of Brynteg,Wrexham, told the inquest his mother became depressed following her divorce and was treated over several years, eventually leading to spells in the elderly mentally infirm unit at the hospital. On one occasion she signed herself out of hospital but realised it was a mistake and asked to go in again and was placed on the Gwenfro ward.

He added: ``She didn't want to go there because she had problems with staff there in the past because they shouted at her. She was told there had been a change of staff, so she would be happy. We thought there was a high risk of self harm and they would keep an eye on her.''

``She told us that when she had panic attacks during the night she would go and ask staff for help but they would shout at her and tell her to go back to bed,''he said. ``She was sound of mind and there was no reason for her to lie. She knew she had to stay there but she was not happy with the way she was being treated.

``While on the ward she said she would hang herself from the rail around the bed. She has made threats like that before and we thought she would be well cared for and wouldn't be able to do it.''

He added that some staff were caring and helpful.

In a statement read by the coroner, staff nurse Margaret Austin said she gave Mrs Davies her medicine around 10pm and sleeping tablets which she could take around midnight.

``My routine is to walk around the ward every half hour and listen at the door of the bedroom. This was to save disturbing the patients unnecessarily. Everything appeared normal and there were no unusual noises. There was no reason to enter the ward.''

CAPTION(S):

Mrs Eileen Davies
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 18, 2003
Words:607
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