Parents to Receive Compensation for Failings in Community Psychiatric Care

The parents of a woman, who died from complications related to malnourishment, is to receive £7,500 compensation for failings in community psychiatric care.

In September 2012, Ruth Mitchell (40) was found dead on the floor of her flat in Plymouth due to complications related to malnourishment. The single mother had been under the care of Livewell Southwest (formerly Plymouth Community Healthcare) at the time, and was discovered in “squalid and impoverished conditions” with no furniture, curtains or floor coverings.

An investigation into Ruth´s death found that there had been a failure to formally review her situation in 2011 despite concerns about her “deteriorating self-care”, that Plymouth Community Healthcare had failed to assess Ruth for vulnerable adult status, and that a community psychiatric nurse´s response to Ruth´s deteriorating condition “did not go far enough”.

Ruth´s parents – Russell and Anne – complained to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman about the standard of care that had been provided for their daughter. The Ombudsman partially upheld their complaints – its report concluding: “There is not enough evidence for us to say whether Ruth’s death could have been avoided if she had received appropriate care, but opportunities to prevent her deterioration and death were completely lost.”

As a consequence of the report, Russell and Anne will receive £7,500 compensation for failings in community psychiatric care, while the nurse responsible for Ruth´s wellbeing – Joanne Campbell – faces a disciplinary hearing for the failure to maintain adequate records over a four year period and the failure to escalate safeguarding concerns, causing an “unwarranted risk” to a patient.

Speaking with the BBC after his claim for compensation for failings in community psychiatric care had been resolved, Russell Mitchell said: “Nothing can compensate for the loss of a child. We only really started this because we wanted someone to say sorry. My wife was particularly moved because she felt that Ruth couldn’t be the only one. We know it won’t bring our daughter back but it might help someone else’s daughter.”