Anorexic teen died when she turned 18 because parents were 'kept in the dark' about treatment
A 'bright and beautiful' anorexic teenager was able to starve herself to death because she turned 18 and took control of her own treatment.
Up until her birthday, Laura Willmott's parents were about to ensure their daughter was getting the help she needed for the disease which she'd suffered from for five years.
But after her birthday, Laura's care was transferred to adult health services after which her parents were kept 'in the dark', her mother told the inquest into her death yesterday.
Laura died of brain damage after a cardiac arrest in December 2011.
Her mum Vickie Townsend told Flax Bourton coroner's court: "I do not believe she was in a fit state to make decisions herself. I really struggle to see how Laura was any different at 17 years and 364 days than she was at 18 years and one day.
"She was doomed from this point, she went downhill quite rapidly. Laura became frailer and frailer and expressed a fear to me that she thought she was going to die. She would do whatever it took not to take in nutrition, her level of deceit was breathtaking."Even as she deteriorated right in front of our eyes she was considered able to make decisions about her treatment."
Vickie, a hospital nurse, said that her daughter's treatment was transferred from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services team shortly before her 18th birthday without a proper handover to Steps, the adult service.
She had missed appointments and effectively discharged herself. Laura, from Redland, Bristol, was admitted to Frenchay hospital in October 2011, incontinent and unable to walk. She was discharged after 11 days when she was considered medically fit enough to go home.
She had agreed a nutrition plan with doctors that she then ignored. Her weight continued to fall and by the time she was readmitted on November 23, 2011, she weighed barely 30kgs.
She suffered a cardiac arrest in hospital on December 12 which led to severe brain damage and she passed away one week later.
Vickie added: "I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not levelling blame at anyone. What I am terribly concerned about is the fact that it seemed to have been assumed that as Laura approached her 18th birthday that, a) it was no longer appropriate for me to be copied into reports of her treatment and to be notified of missed appointments and, b) she was in a fit mental state then and immediately after she reached 18 to make decisions as to whether she should engage with treatment at all.
"There must be a better way from the transition from CAMHS involvement coming to an end and Steps involvement to start so that the process is seamless for a young person afflicted by mental health issues."
Dr Melanie Lockett, a consultant at Frenchay, told the coroner that the hospital was unable to keep in patients with eating disorders any longer than was absolutely medically necessary.
An application to the primary care trust for funding to do so had been turned down.
Terence Moore, assistant deputy coroner for Avon, said he would be writing to the health services to express concern about the decision to discharge Laura.
He said he would also be urging that hospitals be given details of any psychiatric disorder suffered by a patient.
He gave a narrative verdict recording her death as the result of cardiac arrest after a 'long and challenging history' of anorexia nervosa.
Vickie is now campaigning with the Somerset-based Anorexia and Bulimia Care. She has launched the Forget Me Not Appeal which is raising money for online training for health professionals.
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