Hospital ward errors contributed to death

A SERIES of hospital errors contributed to the death of a depressed woman who was receiving care at a psychiatric ward.

Pearl Bannigan, 42, died on September 20 last year after jumping from the top of the multi-storey car park at the Newlands centre in Kettering.

She had walked unnoticed from Lowick House, a psychiatric ward at St Mary's Hospital in Kettering, where she was being treated, despite staff being aware she had said she wanted to kill herself three days earlier.

An eight-member jury returned a unanimous verdict at Corby yesterday of suicide while suffering from depression.

The jury also recorded a number of contributory factors to the verdict, which could have "prevented her death".

These were: A lack of understanding by staff of various procedures which were already inadequate; poor communication between staff at all levels made worse by the lack of a primary key worker (a nurse in charge of looking after Mrs Bannigan's care); there was no formal diagnosis or risk assessment for Mrs Bannigan; the premises at Lowick House was unsuitable and there was a lack of sufficient adequately trained staff.

At the start of the hearing the Northamptonshire Heartlands Trust – the authority in charge of mental health services in the county – admitted liability for Mrs Bannigan's death and apologised to the family.

After the verdict, solicitor Tom Osborne read a statement on behalf of the Bannigan family.

It said: "The family are grateful to the trust for accepting the many failings that led to the death."

He said Mrs Bannigan's husband Donal would now try to rebuild his life and that of his two sons, hopeful that no other family would have to endure what they had been through over the last 15 months.

Mrs Bannigan, of Richmond Road Corby, was admitted to the London Road hospital after taking an overdose in July.

At the end of the hearing coroner Anne Pember said she would be reporting the verdict to the Secretary of State for Health.