‘Since our daughter’s death others have died needlessly’ - Family reveal heartache as inquest concludes
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The family of a student with anorexia – whose death a coroner ruled was avoidable – have called for urgent changes to help save lives and prevent further suffering.
Nic Hart, father of 19-year-old Averil who died in December 2012, noted that it has taken his family seven years to receive a formal inquest into her death.
He feels in that time other patients have died “needlessly”, and criticised a lack of open and honest disclosure by health organisations involved in Averil’s care.
On Friday, assistant Cambridgeshire coroner Sean Horstead concluded that Averil’s death was avoidable, and found it was contributed to by neglect in care provided by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).
MORE: Inquest concludes into death of teenager Averil Hart, who died from anorexia
“We hope, now that the coroner has finally looked in detail at the evidence of the failings by each and every organisation looking after Averil, that there will be recognition of the urgent need for reform of the NHS eating disorder services not just in the east of England, but nationally, involving training and more resources,” said Mr Hart.
“Averil’s case has highlighted the desperate need for open and honest disclosure when things go wrong, so that other patients do not suffer in the same way.”
He pointed to similarities between Averil’s case and that of four other, separate inquests overseen by the same coroner – of Maria Jakes, Emma Brown, Madeleine Wallace and Amanda Bowles, who all died of anorexia.
“Our hearts go out to the other families who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances,” Mr Hart added.
Family lawyer Emma Jones of Leigh Day said they welcome the full and open investigation carried out by the coroner.
“We have been impressed with the coroner’s approach to the investigations into tragic loss of life in respect of five eating disorder deaths,” she said.
“We could not have asked for any more from the coroner and we welcome his conclusion.”
MORE: What we learned from the inquest of Averil Hart
Professor Erika Denton, medical director at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said the trust has endeavoured to learn and improve its services, including 24/7 mental health support and expanding its nutrition team.
“We acknowledge the devastating impact that Averil’s death has had on her family and we offer our sincere condolences for their loss.
“We recognise that the care and treatment we gave to Averil was not of the quality that we or our patients expect, for which we are very sorry and offer an unreserved apology.”
Tracy Dowling, chief executive of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust which provides specialist inpatient services and community services in the area as well as community services in Norfolk, said: “We offer sincere condolences to Averil’s family and we are very sorry for the shortcomings in her care.
“We have acted on the learnings from this tragedy and we continue to do so to advance the understanding and treatment of eating disorders, and together with our partners we are working more closely than ever on the provision of care for patients.”
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