Bristol

Student Natasha Abrahart's suicide: Neglect a 'contributory factor'

Natasha Abrahart Image copyright Abrahart Family
Image caption Natasha Abrahart was worried she would be kicked off her physics course

A university student took her own life partly as a result of neglect, an inquest has ruled.

Natasha Abrahart, 20, who was studying physics at the University of Bristol, was found hanged on 30 April last year.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWP) "significantly underestimated" her condition and there was a "gross failure" to provide care.

Parents Robert and Margaret Abrahart say they are now "actively considering legal options" against the university.

AWP has admitted to Mr and Mrs Abrahart that two opportunities were missed to put in place an appropriate management plan for their daughter, in particular follow-up arrangements after she was prescribed the anti-depressant Sertraline.

The trust also said a "wider multi-disciplinary assessment" of her condition should have been carried out.

Mr and Mrs Abrahart said AWP had not apologised but had paid damages as a result of their daughter's death.

A trust spokeswoman said it had apologised in person to the family but would be writing to the Abrahart's next week to apologise, adding it would value working with the family in the future.

Julie Kerry, Director of Nursing at AWP, said: "We are deeply sorry for Natasha's death and... [we] offer our sincere condolences to her family.

"We fully accept the findings of the coroner and recognise that we did not act in accordance to best practice in all of the care provided to Natasha."

'Unacceptable delay'

Senior coroner for Avon Maria Voisin said she had not found evidence of failures by Ms Abrahart's GP or the university, and ruled the student had intended to take her own life.

Ms Abrahart, who had tried to kill herself three times, had to wait more than a month between mental health worker visits and it was decided she was not at significant risk.

She was found dead shortly before she was due to give a presentation as part of her physics course.

The inquest at Avon Coroner's Court heard she was chronically shy and had issues with body image.

Ms Voisin said Ms Abrahart's GP had done the right thing in referring her to AWP but there was "unacceptable delay" before she was seen and she was not adequately assessed.

The coroner said Ms Abrahart was a high-risk case who should have been prioritised but there was no plan to keep her safe.

Image caption Margaret and Robert Abrahart said Bristol University is "still in denial"

In a statement, Ms Abrahart's parents, from West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire, said the university was "unfortunately still in denial".

"The absence of meaningful investigations by the university has left at least two sets of parents, us and the parents of Ben Murray, to look for the answers ourselves," they said.

"Our daughter came to Bristol seeking a better, brighter future. Instead, we lost her forever.

"We will never stop working to ensure that other students don't endure the suffering she did."

Professor Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience at the University of Bristol, said: "Staff in the school, along with colleagues from Student Services, tried very hard to help Natasha. We are very sad that these efforts could not help prevent her tragic death."

In the past three years, 12 University of Bristol students have died.

Nine of the deaths have now been recorded as suicide, one inquest is still to take place or be determined and two inquests returned narrative verdicts.

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