Glenbourne psychiatric failures cited at nurse's inquest

Failures at a Plymouth psychiatric unit contributed to the suicide of a nurse at the centre of an inquiry into allegations she had sex with a patient, an inquest has ruled.

Elizabeth Watts, from Appledore, Devon, hanged herself after being admitted to the Glenbourne Unit in January 2011.

The 38-year-old was being investigated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for gross misconduct.

The inquest ruled on Friday procedural problems allowed her to kill herself.

These included staff missing a 15-minute observation, incomplete record keeping and a lack of a nurse in charge.

'Almost certain' dismissal

The inquest jury in Plymouth was told Miss Watts, a senior staff nurse at North Devon District Hospital, had been suspended in April 2009 following an allegation made by a male patient she was treating in the hospital's accident and emergency department.

The patient told a Nursing and Midwifery Council disciplinary hearing Miss Watts had taken him to her home "for a weekend of sex".

Miss Watts admitted having sex with the man and swapping emails, but claimed nothing untoward took place until after he was discharged.

Det Sgt Steve Foale told the inquest it was "almost certain" Miss Watts would be struck off for gross misconduct and her mental health had deteriorated.

After a failed suicide attempt at her home, Miss Watts was admitted to North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, but she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and later transferred to the Glenbourne Unit at Plymouth's Derriford Hospital.

Death 'preventable'

Staff at the unit found her dead in her room early the following morning.

The jury was told 15-minute checks had been signed for, but not made on the patient. It also heard staff were not properly briefed.

Expert witness Dr Dinesh Maganty said her death could have been prevented, although she may have killed herself in the future.

"I have no doubt there were significant and serious failings in the care she was provided," the consultant psychiatrist said.

The inquest jury was told two of the four staff on duty were sacked and the other two suspended.

The Crown Prosecution Service had considered a prosecution, but then rejected it, saying there was no case to answer.

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