High volumes of staff absences at GMMHT due to Covid-19 and poor communication between teams delayed help for Trauma Survivor who subsequently died

A beloved daughter and sister ‘took shelter in drugs’ following a ‘horrendous rape’, sparking an addiction which ultimately led to her death, say her family.

Catherine Devitt was 56-years-old when she was found unresponsive at her home in Richardson Street, Eccles, on November 16 of last year. 

In the months before her death, Catherine presented at Salford Royal Hospital’s accident emergency department.

Doctors on the ward assessed her and observed that she was behaving ‘erratically’, was visibly ‘unkempt’ and not taking care of herself, as well as being concerned that she was suffering a ‘physical illness’.

Catherine was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and transferred onto a psychiatric ward – treatment she had been through in previous years – between July 16 and July 27, 2020.

At first, medics believed she was showing ‘psychotic symptoms’ but, as the drugs left her system, Catherine became ‘pleasant’.

She told doctors she ‘wanted to work in the community with her social worker to stop using drugs’ following her discharge from hospital.

Catherine continued to live in supported accommodation for vulnerable people in Richardson Street, where she would often be visited by her social worker, according to staff at the complex.

But despite the insight Catherine appeared to have into her drug habit, and desire to stop using, attempts to get in touch with her by Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH) teams failed.

Catherine did not answer calls from mental health practitioners and missed appointments. However, internal investigations done by GMMH found that communications between mental health liaison teams based at Salford Royal and home treatment teams were lacking. 

Attempts to reach Catherine and start work to help her reduce her drug intake were delayed as liaison staff believed she had been discharged, while home treatment staff believed she was still in hospital.

In addition, high volumes of staff absences due to Covid-19 gave way to long waiting lists for appointments also delayed Catherine being able to get help, said Michael Hartley, who led the report by GMMH’s governance body.

Yet, the investigation found that there may not have been a different outcome in Catherine’s case had improved measures been taken given her history of unsustained engagement with mental health services.

Mr Hartley apologies to Catherine’s family on behalf of GMMH and said the learning will be implemented across the service’s operations.

Full article here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 16th July 2021

Published by CHARM Greater Manchester

CHARM, the Community for Holistic, Accessible, Rights Based Mental Health was launched by The Organic Recovery Learning Community in September 2020.

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