The trust which runs the Peterborough mental health ward where a woman died after setting herself on fire have said they have ‘strengthened procedures to prevent similar incidents happening in the future.
Heather Loveridge, 56, who had a history of burning herself, was found engulfed in flames in her bedroom’s en-suite toilet within a day of being voluntarily admitted to the Cavell Centre in Peterborough.
A four-day inquest at Cambridgeshire Coroner’s Court in Huntingdon concluded that her death was “misadventure contributed to by neglect”.
Members of Mrs Loveridge’s family were at inquest, and wept as the conclusion was read out.
It is though she used a lighter in her handbag to start the fire.
The Cavell Centre mental health facility is run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.
Speaking after the inquest’s jury returned their verdict, Dr Chess Denman, Medical Director of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The death of Heather Loveridge was a tragedy and we would like to extend our sincere apologies and condolences to her family and friends.
“Mrs Loveridge’s family have shown great dignity and strength since her death, and during the course of this inquest, and we will continue to offer them any support they require.
“Mrs Loveridge’s death also deeply affected our staff, particularly those who risked their own safety to try to help her after she was found to have set herself alight.
“The Trust fully accepts that Mrs Loveridge’s belongings were not searched sufficiently and she should not have had access to a cigarette lighter. We carried out an internal investigation after the incident and have strengthened our processes around searching patients’ belongings.
“Overall, the issues around patients with complex mental health needs are highly challenging but we remain committed to ensuring all lessons are learned.
“Finally, it is important to stress that mental illness can be very serious but that most cases of mental ill health are treatable. It is important that people seek medical help as early as possible, as this maximises their prospects of making a full recovery.”
n a statement released after the inquest, Mrs Loveridge’s family said: “Heather had a heart of gold and would have given anything to help someone in need.
“Losing her has ripped a hole in the lives of her eight siblings, seven grandchildren and four beloved children.
“We could not think of a more horrific way to die and grapple with the circumstances in which we have lost her every day.
“We simply don’t understand how this could have happened when she was supposed to be in a safe and secure place.”
Tim Deeming, a specialist medical negligence lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which is representing the family, said: “This has been a harrowing few days for the family to listen to the circumstances surrounding Heather’s tragic death.
“The simple fact is that if Heather had not had access to a lighter then it is likely that she would be here today.”
He said lawyers will be asking for NHS Improvement to review and consider wider safety measures across the board.
Last month the widow of a former soldier called for lessons to be learnt after a jury inquest found that there were failures in the hours before his death while he was sectioned.
Nepal-born Prem Rai, 39, was a Ghurkha soldier for 18 years before embarking on a career change and training as a butler. However, during his training Prem was admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and referred to mental health services in July 2016. Over the following weeks, Prem was kept under medical observation at Ward Oak 2 Cavell Centre, Peterborough. On the morning of 19 August, 2016, Prem was found unresponsive in his bed with no obvious sign of the cause of his death.
Speaking during the inquest into Mrs Loveridge’s death, Assistant Coroner Belinda Cheney said: “There has been some thinking that there is something linking a number of recent inquests.
“I would just like to make it clear that these are not connected in any way.
“They involved different hospitals, different clinicians, and different issues. They were all very different cases.
“There were no common factors, other than the Trust, and I am not linking those cases to this in any way, shape or form.”