Care failure played part in woman’s overdose death
Bethany Shipsey was taken to overwhelmed A&E unit after taking toxic ‘diet pills’
A 21-year-old woman who died in an exceptionally busy A&E ward after taking an overdose of diet pills had intended to kill herself but received inadequate care, a coroner has found.
Bethany Shipsey died in Worcestershire Royal hospital on 15 February last year, a day described by hospital staff as overwhelming. She had swallowed tablets she bought online from eastern Europe that contained the substance DNP.
An animal welfare activist, Shipsey was described by her mother, Carole, as a gifted photographer and “full of life”. She said her daughter had suffered mental health problems when subjected to bullying on social media, and had broken up with her boyfriend.
The inquest heard that Shipsey had been raped by a previous partner and was on home leave from a psychiatric ward when she took the pills.
The coroner, Geraint Williams, recorded a verdict of suicide but also criticised failings at the hospital, where she said the care Shipsey received had been “significantly substandard”.
However, Williams said it was not possible to conclude that Shipsey would have survived if the treatment she received had been up to scratch.
Carole Shipsey, who is a nurse, told the inquest that she took her daughter’s pulse and even changed the electrodes on a monitor because staff were too busy. She and her husband, Doug, said there had been a delay before their daughter was put in a resuscitation room, and that she was moved from there because other patients were considered more seriously ill. In a statement read after the conclusion of the inquest, the couple expressed their disappointment at Williams’s findings and blamed the standard of care their daughter had received at the hospital.
“We do not feel that the coroner’s conclusion reflected the evidence that was heard during the inquest ... Bethany’s basic human right to life was breached in the very place you would expect it to be preserved,” they told Sky News.
Two weeks before Shipsey died, the NHS regulator told the trust that runs the hospital to urgently overhaul patient safety or face sanctions.
Dr Alireza Niroumand, an emergency junior medical doctor who treated Shipsey, told the inquest it was one of the busiest days he had experienced. He said he was not familiar with the pills Shipsey had taken and, under questioning, said he should have consulted the poisons department in order to fully understand the drug.
Kirsty South, a senior sister at the hospital and the coordinator of the A&E department at the time Shipsey was admitted, said: “We were often unable to meet the quality access standards that day. It was one of the most challenging shifts we have worked. It was more than busy.”
In December, it emerged that the trust had to turn patients away from A&E units 13 times in a week, including four times in a day, as snow left it facing “extremely challenging” conditions.
Doug and Carole Shipsey called for tougher laws to regulate the sale of DNP. Doug said: “In addition to the serious failings of the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Beth’s life was brutally cut short by the effects of the deadly industrial toxic substance DNP, which was illegally sold as a so-called diet pill.
“Beth was unlucky enough to be taken to an inadequate A&E department which was overcrowded, overwhelmed and under-staffed – literally a first-world hospital in thirdworld circumstances.
“It’s important that everyone knows that DNP is not actually a diet pill – it’s a lethal industrial compound with no known antidote which is inserted into capsules and illegally sold over the internet.”
The coroner said it was impossible to know if Bethany Shipsey would have survived had she received better medical care
Bethany’s parents, Carole and Doug. Carole, a nurse, told the inquest she had cared for her daughter because staff were too busy PHOTOGRAPH: PA