Mother’s death highlights care system failures

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GOVERNMENT inspectors reporting on support for a new mother who killed herself in West Yorkshire have expressed concerns about failings in the system.

Former nurse Joanne Bingley, who was known to her friends as Joe, threw herself under a train in Huddersfield two years ago, 10 weeks after giving birth to a daughter, Emily, at the age of 39.

Mrs Bingley had been trying for a baby for a long time before she was successful and became severely depressed when she had problems feeding Emily.

Her widower, Chris, a management consultant from Fartown in Huddersfield launched a campaign for better understanding of postnatal depression out of his unhappiness how she was treated.

He said she should have been taken into hospital when she asked for this to happen.

A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – which centres on outpatient support by Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield – has identified several failings in the system following an investigation prompted by Mrs Bingley’s death.

Although the report does not name her or go into any details of her case, it expresses “minor concerns” about the keeping of care records to inform decision-making and “moderate concerns” about training in “perinatal mental health disorders” – meaning mental health arising from pregnancy and birth or pre-existing.

On the training issue, the Commission’s report concluded: “Because the planned training in relation to perinatal mental health disorders is insufficient and is being delivered by trainers who lack experience in this area of work, there are risks that the Trust’s staff will not be sufficiently equipped to safely meet the needs of this specific service user group.”

Yesterday Mr Bingley said that, two years after his wife’s death, patients are still being treated by staff with no specialist training or experience in perinatal psychiatry, a breach of NHS guidelines.

He said there was insufficient evidence that families and carers were being fully involved in decisions about treatment.

“As no patients were consulted in this report one wonders if mums suffering from postnatal depression and their carers and families are told that staff are not qualified in this specialist area.”

Mr Bingley claimed that more than 30 mothers a year were dying “avoidable” deaths because of failures in their care while they were depressed.

He added: “People wonder why I am so angry, dismayed, confused and passionate when still the NHS fails to follow legislation and care standards that result in over 30 mums every year dying avoidable and unnecessary deaths.”

In a statement, the hospital authority, the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said it regarded the CQC report as a reassurance for its patients but admitted: “The report does highlight where improvements might be made – for example specialist input into staff training. The Trust is finalising an action plan to address these issues.”

Following his wife’s death Mr Bingley set up the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation, a charity dedicated to improving treatment for women with post-natal depression.

Mr Bingley stood down as chairman of the charity after appearing in court.

Two weeks ago, he admitted to Huddersfield magistrates that he tried to avoid penalties for speeding in his late wife’s Jeep car by saying she was driving it – after she was dead.

He is awaiting sentence and has meanwhile stood down as spokesperson for the charity he created.

But the remaining charity trustees are attempting to carry on its work, through the website www.joebingleymemorialfoundation.org.uk

Yesterday a spokeswoman for the charity said they would comment on the Commission’s report once all the trustees had read it.