Belfast Telegraph

Inquest jury raps mental health unit care of suicide midwife

BY MICHELLE SMYTH

The jury in an inquest into the death of a young woman who took her own life after her fiancé broke off their engagement has criticised aspects of her medical care.

At the final day of the inquest into 30-year-old Aoife Ni Uallachain's death, Armagh Court heard yesterday that while the Southern Health Trust could not have prevented her death and that there weren't any defects in her care that led to her death, the jury still criticised some aspects of her care.

The midwife died on February 11, 2010, just four days after trying to take her own life at the Bluestone mental health unit at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Aoife, who was originally from Dundalk but working in a hospital in Essex, had been suffering from depression for several months before her death and was faced with two major setbacks in her personal life – her mother had been diagnosed with cancer and her 10-year relationship with fiancé Darran Potter had ended.

The inquest heard earlier this week that Aoife had suffered "physical and emotional abuse" during this relationship.

A consultant psychiatrist told the court these issues were major factors in Aoife's depression.

The court heard how Aoife's mood dropped dramatically the night before she tried to take her own life after speaking with her former fiancé on the telephone.

However, the extent of her anxiety that night was not recorded in her medical notes.

The inquest jury decreed Aoife's death was a result of her own act – suicide – and that there were no precautions that could have been taken by medical staff to prevent her death.

They also found there were no defects in her care or treatment that could have contributed to her death.

But the jury did say that some aspects of the young woman's care needed to be reviewed.

The court heard that before she was hospitalised, Aoife had gone to her GP because she was feeling depressed. But there is no record that staff at the Bluestone mental health unit requested her medical history from her GP.

The jury said requests for medical history should be recorded.

The jury also criticised the fact that CCTV footage in the hospital at the time of Aoife's suicide attempt had not been kept.

It is the hospital's policy to record over footage after 30 days, but the jury said that this CCTV footage should have been kept until the investigation into Aoife's death was concluded.

The family refused to comment after the inquest.

A spokesman from the Southern Trust declined to comment.

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