Care fail­ure played part in woman’s over­dose death

Bethany Shipsey was taken to over­whelmed A&E unit after tak­ing toxic ‘diet pills’

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Ha­roon Sid­dique

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.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PA

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

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