Daughters’ criticism of health trust

Shirley Coalbran
Shirley Coalbran

THE family of a 76-year-old woman, whose body was found washed up on the beach, have this week criticised the mental health trust, saying it did not do enough for her.

Shirley Coalbran, of Coghurst Road, Ore, was reported missing in the early hours of Tuesday, January 7 but was found dead the next day shortly after 11am by a member of the public on Winchelsea beach.

An inquest into her death was held on Tuesday (May 6) at Hastings Magistrates Court.

It heard Mrs Coalbran, who suffered from mild Alzheimer’s disease, had overdosed on three prescribed drugs on December 30 last year and immediately regretted her actions, calling the police.

She was taken to the Conquest Hospital and seen by Jane Moon, older people’s mental health liaison nurse practitioner, who told the inquest that the pensioner presented herself as a ‘low to medium’ risk of taking her own life.

Dawn Leaney, Mrs Coalbran’s daughter, said: “We were told time and time again that Mum did not fit the criteria for help when we asked for it. On the day she was taken to the Conquest we said she needed hospital there and then. We were sent back home with no support, not even with anti-depressants for her. We feel that if she had been given correct support it would have led to a happier outcome for her and us as a family. We hope that new strategies will now be put into place so hopefully this type of situation will not happen again in the future.”

The inquest heard Mrs Coalbran had a history of depression. In 1982 she was admitted to hospital suffering from severe depression and underwent electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).

After the pensioner was sent home on December 30 last year her three daughters stayed with her at her house to look after her, as the mental health team was not due to visit her until January 8.

Mrs Leaney said: “We realised how vulnerable Mum was so needed to stay with her 24 hours a day.”

Mrs Coalbran’s other daughter, Glenda Woodcock, was staying at her mother’s house on January 6. She told the inquest that she had gone to sleep that night after 11pm but woke up two hours later to find her mother missing so called the police. She added: “Mum was always very anxious and suffered from depression. She had a dog called Sophie who was her whole life and she went out with her every day. Sophie died at the beginning of last November. Mum coped better with her death than we thought she would but I think she was putting on a brave face, as after Christmas we noticed a real change in her. She could hardly walk, was falling to pieces and we could hardly leave her for a minute.”

Her daughter added Mrs Coalbran often went for walks along the beach. She said: “I was not surprised she was found by the sea as it was a place of calm for her. She had gone for a walk on the beach on New Year’s Day.”

Coroner Alan Craze said it was ‘highly probable’ Mrs Coalbran took her own life but there was not enough evidence to prove it. He concluded with an open verdict.

A spokesman for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs mental health services, said: “We would like to offer our condolences to Shirley Coalbran’s family at this difficult time. As reflected by the coroner, our staff did their very best to provide her and her family with the support and care she needed; offering her assessment, information and follow-up appointments.”