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Bipolar sufferer ‘should have been treated in hospital’
THE family of a woman who died after suffering self-inflicted burns in her flat said she should have been treated for depression in hospital.
Anne Southwood, 65, suffered 45 per cent burns to her upper body after setting her sofa alight with a lighter on September 29 last year, just months after the death of her daughter from cancer.
An inquest, which concluded on Wednesday, heard she received grafts and transfusions at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, but died on November 19.
Mrs Southwood was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1974 and suffered cycles of ‘high and low’ moods.
On September 25 care worker Demelza Evernden found her distressed and anxious in her flat and she was taken to Hahnemann House day hospital, where the Dorset HealthCare crisis team determined that she should be treated at home.
Her family claim this decision left her without the support she needed before the fire, as over the next few days she made numerous requests to the crisis team and her family pleading to be admitted to St Ann’s Hospital in Poole, where she would have been “safe”.
At the inquest crisis team manager Dr Geoffrey Searle said: “It was unclear whether her depression resulted from her disorder or her daughter’s death.
“The risk of her taking her own life was not enough for admittance to hospital, she was not a suicide risk.
“She agreed to accept crisis team care, and this was reviewed daily.
“She was responding to the care and her death came as a big shock to us.”
He added: “There is always enthusiasm for any policy which is both money saving and what patients’ want, and crisis home treatment fits and seems to work pretty well.”
Dorset Coroner Sherriff Payne recorded a narrative verdict, stating that Mrs Southwood died of peritonitis resulting from her burns, with bronchial pneumonia contributing, after a fire she started for unknown reasons, ruling out suicide.
Her son said afterwards: “Obviously in an ideal world she would have been treated in hospital.
“But we are living in a world where people have to save money.
“I was happy with the verdict but I think more could have been said about the failings, as we see it, of the crisis team.”
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