MENTAL HEALTH charities have called for an independent inquiry following the death of a “beautiful young woman and daughter” who reached 26st in weight after she was isolated in a padded room at a specialist unit for seven years.
Mencap and The Challenging Behaviour Foundation made the call to the Department of Health as a coroner decided that he did not think any plan to treat 25-year-old Stephanie Bincliffe’s dangerous weight gain would have worked due to her challenging behaviour.
But East Yorkshire coroner Professor Paul Marks said in a narrative verdict yesterday that there was no cohesive plan in place to manage Miss Bincliffe’s weight and behaviour at Linden House, in Market Weighton, East Yorkshire - a private assessment and treatment unit, the charities said.
The inquest in Hull heard how Miss Bincliffe, from Nottingham, had a learning disability, autism and challenging behaviour. Her death was caused by heart failure and sleep apnoea, due to obesity, the charities said.
Mencap said Miss Bincliffe was 18 when she was sectioned and admitted to Linden House. The charities said she was isolated in a padded room for almost seven years with no access to fresh air or exercise.
It said Miss Bincliffe gained more than 10 stone in the unit and was almost 26 stone when she died despite having no access to food other than that provided by the unit.
In a statement, Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, and Vivien Cooper, chief executive officer of The Challenging Behaviour Foundation said: “At just 25 years of age, Stephanie had her whole life ahead of her.
“But her life was tragically cut short when the service entrusted with her care failed to look after her. We are deeply disappointed that the coroner’s judgment does not reflect the seriousness of the failings of the service, which we believe were revealed during the inquest.”
The charities said Miss Bincliffe was one of two young women to die with a learning disability in different assessment and treatment units in the space of a month.
They said: “The Government, NHS and local authorities must now deliver a concrete plan and the long-promised changes needed to ensure that people with a learning disability get the right support and services in their local communities. This is a matter of life and death.”
Miss Bincliffe’s mother, Liz Bincliffe, said she was disappointed by the coroner’s verdict.
She said: “I was told that the Mental Health Act was designed to help and protect people like Stephanie. Yet sectioning her to a hospital miles from her home caused her immense confusion and distress, and the people caring for her didn’t fully understand her and did not adequately protect her.”
Her sister, Jennifer Bincliffe, said: “Stephanie had a beautiful mind which was often misunderstood. My life has an emptiness now she has gone.”
The Huntercombe Group, which runs the unit, has settled with the family and paid damages, according to lawyers.
Family solicitor Nancy Collins, from Irwin Mitchell, said: “It is imperative that lessons are learned from Stephanie’s tragic death to prevent similar deaths in future.”