Anorexia sufferer dies after leaving hospital early owing to budget cuts
A mother asked for better care for eating disorders’ victims yesterday, as an inquest heard what happened to her 18-year-old anorexia sufferer daughter, who died just six weeks after being discharged from hospital.
Laura Willmott, a former public schoolgirl from Bristol, was discharged early because when she was deemed old enough by doctors, once she turned 18, to make her own decisions despite her frail state. The trust had also cut long-term in-patient beds to sufferers of eating disorders.
Avon Coroner’s Court heard that the schoolgirl was first diagnosed with anorexia when she was 13 and fought the illness for five years.
Miss Willmott died of heart failure in December 2011. Shortly before her 18th birthday in February, child and adolescent mental health services discharged her, because she said she wanted no further help. As a consequence, her mother, Vickie Towsend, stopped being informed of her medical condition.
Ms Towsend, who is an experienced nurse, suspects that Laura had been discharged from child service without a proper handover to adult services.
After that first discharge, her health condition deteriorated progressively and Laura was taken by her mother to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol on 28th October. Soon after, on 8th November doctors decided to discharge her again because she was no longer in “crisis”.
Ms Towsend said: “Following her discharge on 8th November she was dead within six weeks…I will always have the strong suspicion that if Laura had been allowed to stay in hospital she may have survived.”
Laura’s weight plummeted suddenly after discharge and she was re-admitted to hospital two weeks later, but suffered a cardiac arrest on 12th December and passed away one week later.
The difficult handover between adolescent mental health services and adult services had been aggrieved by the fact that Frenchay Hospital trust did not offer long-term in-patient beds to sufferers of eating disorders.
Dr Melanie Lockett, a consultant gastroenterologist at Frenchay Hospital, told the inquest: “The rationale for that was to give them a buffer so that when they went home they would not end up in crisis so very quickly.”
She added: “We applied for funding from the primary care trust for this service in 2009/10 and it was turned down. Therefore it was no longer offered. The PCT would not fund that.”