Call For Trusts To Ensure Young People Do Not Fall Through The Cracks
The mother of a Leeds teenager who took her own life last year is urging the NHS to ensure young people do not ‘fall through the cracks’ when it comes to mental health support, after a report into her daughter’s case highlighted a range of failings.
Talented student Afrika Yearwood was in the process of completing her A-levels when she passed away aged 18 at Leeds General Infirmary towards the end of May 2018, four days after she had attempted to take her own life at her family home.
While an inquest into her death is set to take place in the spring, an investigation has already been undertaken into the contact that Afrika had with the Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
The subsequent report by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has gone on to highlight a series of failings in the support she received, including that referral pathways and national guidelines were ultimately not followed correctly.
It recommended that the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Leeds needs to review its pathway for those who are close to 18, while it was suggested that more efforts could have been made to ensure Afrika was seen by experts in a timely manner.
Following the findings, Afrika’s mother Beverley Yearwood, is now calling on NHS Trusts across the UK to work quickly to learn lessons from her daughter’s case and ensure the same problems are not repeated. She has also instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care that Afrika received.
Lauren Bullock, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office who is representing Beverley, said:
Expert Opinion“This is a truly tragic case in which we believe that an extremely bright and talented teenager simply did not receive the care and support she needed at an incredibly difficult time.
“While nothing will sadly change what has happened in this desperately sad case, the report into Afrika’s care suggests there are clear improvements which can be made to improve mental health support for those close to 18 and therefore moving from youth to adult services.
“We are determined to help her family not only gain justice regarding her case but also ensure that lessons are learned which will ultimately improve care.” Lauren Bullock - Solicitor
Afrika had been seeing a private therapist since December 2017 but had her first contact with mental health services in March 2018, one week before her 18th birthday. While she was seen by CAMHS for an assessment, the report into her care outlines how a summary letter was sent to her GP and her case was closed.
The report stated that the plan drawn by CAHMS following Afrika’s assessment in March was ‘ambiguous’ which ‘resulted in uncertainty of expectation of all involved.’ Ultimately, the report found that ‘it was not clear which, if any of the CAMHS pathways were being followed.’
In its conclusion the report highlighted the ‘lack of professional discussion’ between all the parties involved ‘led to insufficient gathering of information to make an informed clinical decision of what should and could have been the most appropriate care and intervention for Afrika at that time.’
Looking back on the issues, Beverley said: “The whole family remains devastated and traumatised by the loss of Afrika. She was a beautiful and extremely gifted young woman and we were very proud of her in so many ways.
“While we know nothing will bring Afrika back, it has been a very difficult decision for the family to speak publicly but we feel we have a duty to ensure that this does not happen to any other teenager and that changes are made quickly.”
In April, Afrika’s GP questioned why Afrika had not heard from either a transition or adult mental health worker. Seven weeks later after being transferred between services and receiving a four-minute triage assessment over the phone, a letter was sent to Afrika stating that she did not meet the criteria for adult mental health services.
Afrika was subsequently referred to a primary care mental health practitioner. Beverley continued to challenge the decisions made and questioned why no contact had been made with Afrika’s private therapist or her GP to ensure the right decisions about her care needs were being made.
Beverley added: “The report which has examined the Afrika received is very difficult to read. It has brought to light some new information for the family, which makes it even harder to read.
“We were unaware that four days before her taking her own life, Afrika had told a NHS mental health professional she was struggling to cope with and resist suicidal thoughts, stating that she may do something soon.”
Following Afrika’s comments to the NHS mental health professional, concerns were escalated to the Adults Community Mental Health Team. Afrika was given an appointment for 31 days later after her appointment with the NHS mental health professional.
This is despite the fact that Afrika should have been booked in for a ‘gatekeeping assessment’ which would have occurred much sooner than her scheduled appointment.
Beverley said: “I would urge any parents with concerns about their children that have been told they don’t meet the criteria or threshold for services to never stop challenging and fighting to get them the support they need.”
“The decision to offer Afrika an appointment for 31 days later was made while we were at Afrika’s bedside in the intensive care unit. We returned home from the hospital after she had died to receive the appointment in the post. It was truly heartbreaking.”
Since Afrika’s death, her friends and family have raised a total of £12,800 with the support of businesses and the local community for The Rothwell Cluster in her memory.
The Rothwell Cluster is a group of schools in the South Leeds area which offers an emotional and wellbeing counselling service for young people. The funds raised will reduce current waiting times and allow the Cluster to help an addition 25 young people access the counselling support they need.