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Hanging victim's family hits out at health services
8:10am Sunday 22nd December 2013 in News
THE FAMILY of a woman who took her own life in a Weymouth cemetery has hit out at the care she received from mental health professionals.
Fitness trainer Donna Michelle Canavan-McClung, 32, was found hanged from a tree in the cemetery in Quibo Lane on the evening of October 9 after her family had contacted police to raise concerns from her welfare.
The inquest at County Hall in Dorchester was told that Miss Canavan-McClung had been engaging with the Weymouth community mental health team and had been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder but it had taken seven months for her to be assigned a care co-ordinator.
Dr Anna Cosslett said that this was due to staff shortages and that additional staff were now in place to ensure that was not repeated.
Miss Canavan-McClung was one of the first people in Dorset to get married in a same-sex wedding in 2006.
The inquest was told she had had divorced in February 2012 and was in a volatile relationship with another woman prior to her death while she also had concerns over employment and accommodation.
She had taken several overdoses previously and her mother Beth Roles said on one occasion in July she had asked for her daughter to be committed to hospital for psychiatric treatment.
Dr Cosslett said that at that time two doctors and an approved mental health practitioner had assessed Miss Canavan-McClung and concluded that, as she posed no immediate risk to herself at that moment in time and had agreed to engaged in treatment, it would not be appropriate.
Mrs Roles said: “I don't understand why, when they know of her problems and her previous attempts, they didn't listen.”
She added: “I feel strongly that they have let her down.”
Mrs Roles also asked why it had taken so long for her to be assigned a care co-ordinator.
Dr Cosslett said: “We had significant staffing difficulties within the team.
“Due to the various difficulties it was impossible to recruit in the time frame.”
She added that six new members of staff had meant there was no longer a waiting list for people in need of a care co-ordinator.
For a period the mental health team also engaged with Miss Canavan-McClung through weekly phone calls but Dr Cosslett admitted this practice was not deemed a safe way to proceed and people would be seen in person where possible.
Mrs Roles said the changes Dr Cosslett said had been introduce since her daughter's death provided little comfort for the family.
She said: “It's too late for us, you have let my daughter down.
“She phone you on several occasions crying, longing for help.”
PANEL 1 DORSET Coroner Sheriff Payne said that even if Miss Canavan-McClung's family's concern around the mental health care she received had been addressed, there was no guarantee the outcome would have been different.
He said: “Certainly admissions have been made by Dr Cosslett that she did not receive the best possible attention and there were considerable delays in getting a care co-ordinator.
“Whether that would have made a difference in the overall picture I think is impossible for anyone to say.”
The inquest was told Miss Canavan-McClung was seen on CCTV going into Asda in Newstead Road and buying a clothes line shortly before she was discovered.
She had also texted members of her family on several occasions that day expressing that she was going to end her life.
Mr Payne said: “I am sure that she knew what she was doing and that she knew this would end her life.
“She therefore has taken her own life and, she has committed suicide.”
PANEL 2 Deborah Howard, associate director for community mental health services at Dorset HealthCare, said: “We were saddened to hear of the death of Ms Canavan-McClung and would like to offer our sincere condolences to her family.
“Learning from this tragic event is important so that we can provide the best possible patient care.”
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