25 January 2018
Social Worker Kills Herself Hours After Telling Mental Health Staff They’d Let Her Down
A young social worker who warned doctors that she felt suicidal was allowed to leave a secure ward to go and take her own life.
All we wanted from the trust was for them to be open and honest about their failings, so that they could learn from their mistakes and improve the service for others - that would have been what Charlotte wanted.
A talented singer, Charlotte Faux took her life on the same day that she had told staff she genuinely wanted to die.
Charlotte wrote a moving letter outlining her desire to end her life and the failures in her care that she perceived, and yet staff at Edgware Community Hospital let the “bright and intelligent” 26-year-old out hours later and she tragically ended her life.
Charlotte’s parents, Sarah and Martin Faux, believe their daughter, who had attempted suicide in the hospital only days prior to her death, shouldn’t have been allowed to leave hospital back in March 2014. They raised questions over the care that Charlotte was being offered, following up the concerns Charlotte herself had raised in her letter.
Charlotte, who had previously sung with the children's chorus of the English National Opera, had been admitted to hospital less than two weeks prior to her death, at her own request, recognising that she was seriously ill, and providing the mental health staff with a clear indication of her intentions, should she be allowed to return home.
On admission she was assessed as being a moderate to high acute risk of suicide but days later it was agreed that she could go out so long as staff first completed a risk assessment and gave permission. However, only days later she attempted to kill herself on the ward.
A week after her first attempt on her life, Charlotte, who worked with teenagers with eating disorders, and had a good understanding of mental health care that should be provided, wrote a complaint to her nurse outlining how she felt her care wasn’t adequate. She also highlighted concerns in the treatment of other patients.
In the letter she mentioned how every day was a “constant battle” trying to keep herself alive “because that’s what other people think I need to do”. She also explained how she “genuinely wanted to die” and had “very logical reasons” as to why she knew things wouldn’t get any better. She described a fear of being discharged into the community stressing that she didn’t believe she could survive and would end her life. She mentioned how the hospital was like a “life support machine”.
Even after handing the letter in to nursing staff, Charlotte was allowed to leave the ward just hours later, without a risk assessment being completed, to attend a rehearsal for a theatre production she was starring in. Sadly she never made it to that rehearsal.
The NHS Trust has now finally accepted that they should not have allowed Charlotte to leave the hospital unescorted, given that the trust had assessed Charlotte as needing 15 minute observations.
Speaking of her daughter, who played the flute and piano and had initially wanted to pursue a career in the arts, Sarah said she had so much to live for. At the time she died, Charlotte had just moved to a new social work job and had been rehearsing for the lead role as Maria in West Side Story for a local amateur dramatics company she belonged to.
Sarah said: “She had always wanted to play that part again as she had done it before at school and loved the role. She loved drama and singing. She sung with the children's chorus of the English National Opera, and was a keen member of Finchley Children's Music Group, performing at venues all over the country, even performing solo at the Royal Festival Hall as a child.”
She added: “We never went more than a week without seeing Charlotte, and kept in constant contact via text, so we couldn’t believe that she’d been admitted to hospital, we had no idea.
“She thought she was going to get better and she didn’t want us to worry. She told the hospital she didn’t want her family to know. She also told them she didn’t have any friends but she had her closest friends visiting her at hospital. It came as a massive shock for us to learn she had been in hospital.”
Martin and Sarah believe the authorities failed their daughter – a former children’s mentor and volunteer leader at Nightline, a Samaritans-type service - in a number of ways. If family or friends couldn’t be informed, the couple believe mental health staff needed to realise how vulnerable she was and listen to what she was telling them.
Sarah added: “They let her out on the day that she died. She had attempted to end her life the week before and she’d told them she wanted to do it again. She was a very determined person in all aspects of her life so if she wanted to do something she would do it.
“I feel like she was let down by everybody. They didn’t do anything to treat her. There was no assessment of what was wrong. If you break your leg you go to hospital and have an assessment and they work out how to treat you – you wouldn’t wait a week to have it assessed. She went in and it appears that they effectively babysat her. Charlotte had the first part of an assessment of what might be wrong, but that was because she pushed to have it, because she wanted to get better.
Martin Faux, who is pursuing an enquiry with the Care Quality Commission, said the family’s sole intention is to get answers for Charlotte and to get her voice heard.
He said: “All we wanted from the trust was for them to be open and honest about their failings, so that they could learn from their mistakes and improve the service for others - that would have been what Charlotte wanted. Had the trust been open from the moment Charlotte died, we wouldn’t have had to spend three and half years going down the legal route. Sadly from the very first meeting we had with the clinicians it was clear that they were not going to be open with us.
“Despite the NHS Trust finally accepting that they failed Charlotte in a number of areas, three and a half years later, we are still waiting for an official apology from Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust.”
Julia Hamilton, a clinical negligence specialist at Slater and Gordon Lawyers who represent Mr and Mrs Faux in a civil case, said, “Charlotte’s parents wanted the trust to admit they had failed Charlotte and improve care for other mental health patients. In fact, the whole reason they started this case was because Charlotte had written her letter of complaint to the hospital just hours before she took her life and they felt they had to follow through and see that her concerns were investigated.
“It’s essential lessons are learnt and changes are made so that other people suffering with mental health problems get the support they need.”
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