Woman kills herself while waitingfor appointment with mental health services

A woman who repeatedly went to see her doctors about depression killed herself while waiting for an appointment with mental health services.

Carol Willcox, 56, had a history of anxiety, stress and depression and had twice been referred to the East Northants Community Mental Health Crisis Team at Rushden Hospital.

At the inquest into her death in Kettering on Thursday, it emerged she hung herself at her home in Upper Park Avenue, Rushden, in March – three weeks into a month-long wait for a follow-up appointment with the crisis team.

Dr Georgina Bennett, then of the Rushden Medical Centre, said: "I couldn't say how she was presenting at that time, but from her history I'd have thought they may have seen her sooner. I saw Mrs Willcox on Christmas Eve when she was struggling to cope and sleep."

Mrs Willcox saw several GPs in 2009, suffering from depression and anxiety related to giving up her job and home in Hertfordshire.

She went to Rushden Medical Centre on Christmas Eve 2009, then on January 4 called the surgery many times saying she was unsure of her medication and had thought about drowning herself.

She was seen by the crisis team on January 6 but was discharged 13 days later because her stress was related to practical housing problems.

She was referred back to the team on March 5 when she started cutting her wrists but was not given a follow-up appointment until April 6. She hung herself on March 31.

In a written statement, her daughter Tara Willcox said: "She was let down by the medical professionals when she needed help. With more support this incident could have been prevented."

Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Anne Pember said: "Mrs Willcox clearly had mental health problems and she went to a doctor for support. I find it regrettable that she was not seen and offered an appointment until after she died."

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust spokesman Bridget Peet said: "We're very sorry Ms Willcox doesn't feel we gave her mother the support she needed. We've carried out an investigation to ensure we learn all possible lessons that can help us to prevent similar tragedies.

"We'd be very happy to discuss this with Ms Willcox and to reassure her we're taking all necessary action to guarantee the effectiveness of our services and the safety of our patients."