Inquiry call over obesity death
Mental health charities have called for an independent inquiry following the death of a "beautiful young woman and daughter" who reached 26st in weight after she was isolated in a padded room at a specialist unit for seven years.
Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation made the call to the Department of Health as a coroner decided that he did not think any plan to treat 25-year-old Stephanie Bincliffe's dangerous weight gain would have worked due to her challenging behaviour.
But East Yorkshire coroner Professor Paul Marks said in a narrative verdict today that there was no cohesive plan in place to manage Miss Bincliffe's weight and behaviour at Linden House, in Market Weighton - a private assessment and treatment unit, the charities said.
The inquest in Hull heard how Miss Bincliffe, from Nottingham, had a learning disability, autism and challenging behaviour. Her death was caused by heart failure and sleep apnoea, due to obesity, the charities said.
Mencap said Miss Bincliffe was 18-years-old when she was sectioned and admitted to Linden House. The charities said she was isolated in a padded room for almost seven years with no access to fresh air or exercise.
It said Miss Bincliffe gained more than 10 stone in the unit and was almost 26 stone when she died despite having no access to food other than that provided by the unit.
In a statement, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Vivien Cooper, chief executive officer of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation said: "At just 25 years of age, Stephanie had her whole life ahead of her.
"But her life was tragically cut short when the service entrusted with her care failed to look after her. We are deeply disappointed that the coroner's judgment does not reflect the seriousness of the failings of the service, which we believe were revealed during the inquest."
The statement said: "The idea that Stephanie's behaviour made her too difficult to treat is unacceptable. The evidence at the inquest suggested Stephanie's complex needs were not properly managed and there were no real attempts to put plans in place. That is inexcusable."
They said: "How was this tragedy allowed to happen? A system that allows our most vulnerable citizens to experience such basic failures in care is fundamentally flawed."
The charities said Miss Bincliffe was one of two young women to die with a learning disability in different assessment and treatment units in the space of a month.
"It is shocking enough that people with a learning disability are living long-term in assessment and treatment units - that they are dying in them is beyond belief," they said.
"We call on the Department of Health to urgently instigate an independent inquiry into any death of a person with a learning disability in an inpatient unit.
"We owe it to Stephanie, her family and the thousands of people with a learning disability who are still stuck in assessment and treatment units to make sure that no-one else's life is put at risk.
"The Government, NHS and local authorities must now deliver a concrete plan and the long-promised changes needed to ensure that people with a learning disability get the right support and services in their local communities. This is a matter of life and death."
Miss Bincliffe's mother, Liz Bincliffe, said she was disappointed by the coroner's verdict.
She said: "I was told that the Mental Health Act was designed to help and protect people like Stephanie. Yet sectioning her to a hospital miles from her home caused her immense confusion and distress, and the people caring for her didn't fully understand her and did not adequately protect her."
"Stephanie was a beautiful young woman and daughter.
"When you earned her trust and she let you in to her world, the connection you made was magical. I feel honoured to have been Stephanie's mother and to have shared those moments with her.
"I wake in the night and think of her. I miss her everyday.
"I have lost my daughter and am left with an aching pain and immense sadness"
Her sister, Jennifer Bincliffe, said: "Stephanie had a beautiful mind which was often misunderstood. My life has an emptiness now she has gone. My only sanctuary is that now she is truly free. Anything that happens now as a result of her passing on will be bitter sweet for me. As a family we relentlessly did all that was possible for us to do in our power, to no avail. We felt that we had no voice and we could only watch in agony as the one we loved and knew deteriorated and faded away.
The Huntercombe Group, which runs the unit, has settled with the family and paid damages, according to lawyers.
Family solicitor Nancy Collins, from Irwin Mitchell, said: "It is imperative that lessons are learned from Stephanie's tragic death to prevent similar deaths in future."