Woman Set Herself On Fire After Leaving A Mental Health Unit

Irwin Mitchell Secure Admission For Failures In Care At The George Bryan Centre

19.07.2015

The devastated daughter of a woman who died after she set herself on fire when she left a mental health unit in Staffordshire has spoken out for the first time calling for drastic improvements in the UK’s mental health facilities.

Angela Rich, from Tamworth was an inpatient at The George Bryan Centre in July and August 2013. She had a long history of mental health problems and repeatedly told staff she had suicidal thoughts and self-harmed during her stay at the unit.

The 61-year-old left the hospital on 27th August 2013 after asking a nurse if she could do so also stating she wasn’t going to come back. It was only after she left The George Bryan Centre when a nurse asked a consultant whether she should have agreed to let her go and the consultant was content to let her go despite her recent suicidal behaviour. Angela was later seen on CCTV carrying a black petrol can and was found by a dog walker under a railway bridge in Bolehall on fire.

Her daughter Naomi Rich instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care Angela was given at The George Bryan Centre which is run by the South Staffordshire & Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to see if more could have been done to prevent her death.

The law firm has now secured a partial admission from the Trust, highlighting:

  • Further steps should have been taken to fully assess Angela before her discharge;
  • Failure to properly document the risk assessment when allowing Angela to leave the ward unescorted on the day of her death;
  • They admitted if they had taken further intervention, her death on that day may have been preventable.

Naomi has now received an undisclosed settlement from the South Staffordshire & Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

After she was found on fire, Angela was airlifted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital to be treated for her injuries but she had suffered extensive burns across her entire body. She died later that day from her severe injuries.

A Serious Incident Report was produced by the South Staffordshire & Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation following Angela’s death which included recommendations to:

  • Provide additional training to staff to help diagnose and treat patients with Personality Disorders and produce a strategy to manage this
  • Dedicated access to a Clinical Psychologist at the centre
  • Care plan and risk assessment should be put in place to reflect any changes to patients
  • Training to help staff develop treatment interventions particularly in relation to relapse planning and admission
  • Pre-leave risk assessments and post leave evaluation documents should be implemented.
Expert Opinion
“This is an incredibly tragic case where a woman died in horrific circumstances when she was an inpatient at The George Bryan Centre.

“During her stay at the mental health facility Angela repeatedly self-harmed, expressed suicidal thoughts, even telling staff that she wanted to set herself on fire.

“Angela suffered for much of her life with mental illness and should have had the help and support she needed to help stabilise her mental state. The necessary care was not provided in Angela’s case and she and her family have been severely let down.

“We are pleased we were able to investigate the care given to Angela with the NHS Trust and now secured a partial admission and settlement for Naomi. It is vital that the Trust learns lessons from the recommendations identified in the Serious Incident Report and improves standards of care so that other families do not lose their loved ones in such horrific circumstances again in the future.”
Tom Fletcher, Associate

Naomi,  43, from Lichfield, said: “As a doctor myself, a carer for my mother and also as a  patient at the same mental health trust as my mother ,  I have seen psychiatric care from several angles and have witnessed appalling care which I believe needs to change radically from within the NHS.

“The care my mother received at South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust was well below par and she should never have been able to leave the facility on the day she died as she had repeatedly expressed suicidal thoughts and tried to harm herself. Ensuring her safety and wellbeing was vital but instead she was able to leave the unit and hurt herself.

“I have been left devastated by the loss of my mother who was also my best friend. We lived together and were of great support to each other at times of ill health. She was a lovely lady and so popular with everyone she met.

“I feel that she was woefully let down by the people who cared for her and I hope that by speaking out about her death I will be able to raise awareness about the issues in mental health services in this country and that it will be finally addressed by the NHS to ensure that all patients received the care and support they need.”

If you or a loved one has suffered due to professional or clinical negligence from a mental health practitioner, or at worst your loved one has died, we can help you to claim compensation. Visit our Mental Health Negligence Claims page for more information.