A mum who was discharged from a mental health unit one month before her death may not have been given the support she needed to look after her son again, an inquest has been heard. Kate Hedges was discharged from the Medlock mental health ward at Trafford General Hospital on October 28, 2020, and was found dead at Gatley railway station on November 27 that year.
An inquest at South Manchester Coroners Court, in Stockport, this week has heard that Ms Hedges’ family was concerned about her leaving the hospital at the time – having seen her display ‘manic’ behavior earlier in October. The family has raised concerns over a lack of communication at the time, including when she was discharged following a decision made by medical staff.
On Thursday (April 21), coroner Christopher Morris probed the complaints manager who looked into the concerns of Ms Hedges’ family following her death. Mark McCann, of Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH) NHS Foundation Trust, admitted that patients can struggle to adjust back to their normal lives when discharged from units like the Medlock ward.
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He said: “From referring to the statement that was submitted by the consultant psychiatrist, the view was the decision to discharge on a number of levels seems like a reasonable plan. But it was noted that there were issues as part of that which had not been picked up.”
Mr McCann suggested that those issues included the lack of involvement of Ms Hedges’ family with the decision and her return to ‘some elements of her life that were not considered fully’. Mr Morris asked whether this included her role as a single parent to her son de ella, who has additional needs, to which Mr McCann replied: “I think so.”
The coroner also raised other concerns that the family had shared, including the effectiveness of activities at the Medlock ward which were considered ‘not therapeutic’ and whether important information was being shared among relevant NHS staff. Another key concern was whether Ms Hines had been given enough support when she reported being inappropriately touched by another patient.
Only one mention of this being reported to police was made in Ms Hines’ medical notes, the inquest heard. Mr McCann said: “I would hope that discussion did involve something about what happened, what [Ms Hines] would want to do about it.”
Ms Hedges had been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and became unwell in August 2019, before suffering suicidal thoughts which she did not act upon. The inquest heard earlier this week that looking after her son de ella was a key factor in her determination to keep going.
But in August 2020 she began sending ‘worrying messages’ to family members and began displaying ‘manic’ behaviour. She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and stayed on the Medlock ward at Trafford General Hospital, which is run by GMMH.
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Her family raised concerns about a lack of communication with the hospital, including at the time she was discharged in the same month she had still been displaying concerning behaviour. The court heard that on October 4, 2020, Ms Hedges left the ward without telling anyone and boarded a tram to Manchester, before trying to jump out of the car when she was collected by her sibling from her.
On Tuesday, Ms Hedges’ sister Maya said: “This [discharge] came as a total shock to us and we were given no information about her care coming out of hospital. There was no communication or anywhere we could raise our concerns. We still could n’t cope with her behavior from her at this time.
The inquest also heard evidence this morning (Thursday) from Leanne Callan, an investigator at British Transport Police, who told Mr Morris she believed Ms Hedges had acted deliberately when she ‘lowered herself’ onto the tracks at Gatley railway station just seconds before a passing train approached. Ms Callan said Ms Hedges had last been seen by her son de ella as he went to school, although Ms Hedges had exchanged text messages later in the day.
Describing CCTV footage from the station, Ms Callan said Ms Hedges arrived from Cambridge Road at 1.12pm and walked along the ramp to platform one, where she waited by the ticket office with a bag on the ground. Ms Callan added: “She remains in the same area. I did not think there was anything that would cause me concern.” [at that time].”
The court heard that in the CCTV footage, there was ‘no reaction’ from Ms Hedges to two trains that passed on the other side of the station at 1.25pm or 1.34pm, but five minutes later she was seen lowering herself onto the tracks – just seconds before an oncoming train arrives. British Transport Police were unable to find any suicide note either carried by Ms Hedges or at her home, Ms Callan said.
A post-mortem revealed that Ms Hedges had died from multiple injuries and there was no suggestion of drug misuse found by toxicologists. The inquiry is due to conclude tomorrow (Friday).
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