Family hit out at care 'failings'

The family of a woman who died following an overdose have criticised mental health chiefs for failing to respond adequately to her.

Sarah Back, 36, of Colwood Crescent, Eastbourne, was found dead at her home on February 7 after worried neighbours had not seen her for two days.

An inquest heard she overdosed on anti-psychotic drugs.

Her brother Alan, of South Street, said his sister regularly self-harmed.

He said, "Being in a supported environment helped her. When she was on her own her self-harming would increase.

"I do not believe they (doctors) treated her seriously and am extremely angry.

"She only took a limited amount of medication when she overdosed as a cry for help. She wanted these people to help her."

Mr Back also questioned why doctors gave his sister enough medication to allow her to overdose even though they knew she had a history of taking too many tablets.

He said, "They should have had a little bit more respect for my sister. I do not believe she took her own life."

Mr Back said his sister got depressed at Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries and was used to living in supported accommodation.

He claimed her condition worsened when she was moved to the one-bedroom flat in Colwood Crescent.

Her sister Anita, who lives in Bexhill, said, "Sarah and I were very close and would regularly call me when she took an overdose.

"This was a cry for help so she could be hospitalised. I think she felt safe when she was there."

Her GP, Dr Peter Dickens, of Green Street Clinic, said in a statement that Miss Back had a borderline personality disorder.

She was taking a combination of anti-depressants, anti-psychotic drugs and mood stabilisers.

"She regularly attempted to gain hospital admissions by overdosing on her medication."

He said Miss Back had a meeting with her carers to discuss her care plan the day before she died.

They said they wanted her to remain at her flat and manage her own anxieties but Miss Back became frustrated at this proposal.

The inquest heard that Miss Back spent time in Lavender Lodge, a six-bedroom facility for women with mental health problems, from September until December 2005.

Peter Forman, senior practitioner from St Mary's House, where the Sussex Partnership NHS Trust community mental health team is based,said Miss Back made "significant progress".

He said, "Her care plan was written up a week before her death and she was involved with that alongside her advocate from the charity Mind.

"She was acquiescent when she was told she would remain at her address."

Coroner Alan Craze said, "The deceased used to on a regular basis take overdoses of her medication for a number of reasons, none of which included an informed intention to take her life."

He recorded a verdict of accidental death.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, which runs mental health services, said, "We are satisfied with the verdict of accidental death.

"We would like to offer our deepest sympathy to Sarah's family and friends.

"In light of this tragic incident we have conducted a review of the care that had been given to Sarah and we believe the level of care she was given was fully appropriate to meet her needs.

"We have offered to meet with Sarah's family to give them the opportunity to discuss any outstanding concerns they may have."