Hospital vows to learn from death of teen

A RAFT of measures are to be introduced to safeguard vulnerable children at a Suffolk hospital following the death of a troubled teenager.

Before her death, 16-year-old Rebecca Watkins was placed at a care home in Brandon – dozens of miles away from her home county of Essex.

In June last year, she was found hanging unconscious at the Brandon home. She died the next day at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

A serious case review into the circumstances surrounding her death is still ongoing, according to county council chiefs.

The review is being carried out by the Essex Safeguarding Children Board.

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However, some of the likely findings of the review have emerged in a report by the hospital, which has listed a string of improvements it plans to make to improve the safety of adolescents with mental health needs.

Outlining key recommendations, the hospital’s executive chief nurse Nichole Day said in her report to the hospital’s board, social workers “must be contacted” when a child in care is brought into hospital.She said the social worker was necessary to “clarify who holds parental responsibility”.

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Ms Day said a review was necessary to look into where adolescents with mental health needs should be placed within the hospital and who should be responsible for them once admitted.

Other issues highlighted include the need for designated staff to be trained in accessing mental health records.

The hospital would not comment on Rebecca’s case, but in a statement yesterday Ms Day said: “During a serious case review, the actions of every agency involved in the case are independently evaluated so that, if necessary, lessons can be learnt for the future.”

However, Julie Young, Labour member of Essex County Council’s Children and Young People Policy and Scrutiny Committee, said the hopital’s recommendations raised a number of issues of concern about out-of-county placements for children in care.

She said: “Placing children in other counties muddies the waters. The problems arise when it is cross-border like this – there are accountability issues.”

Mrs Young, who was among the first to demand a serious case review in Rebecca’s case, said she was concerned to learn there might have been issues contacting Rebecca’s parents.

Although the exact details surrounding the teenager’s final hours have not been revealed, Mrs Young said she hoped the teenager did not die without a parent by her side.

Sarah Candy, Essex County Council’s children’s services member, said: “The death of Rebecca Watkins is terribly distressing.

“However, a serious case review is currently under way and it would be wholly inappropriate for the county council to speculate as to the reasons behind Rebecca’s death.

“The review will assess the role of all the agencies involved with Rebecca. When the report is published, we will review all the recommendations made and we will ensure that lessons are learnt in the future.”

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