Patient found hanged in Sunderland hospital

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A TROUBLED young woman who was pulled to safety from a Sunderland bridge was found hanged in a hospital room just hours later, an inquest heard.

Vulnerable Paige Bell died eight days after she was found hanging at Cherry Knowle Hospital, in Ryhope, on August 6.

The 20-year-old had been diagnosed with an emotionally-unstable personality disorder, and was facing eviction from the Salvation Army hostel Swan Lodge, in High Street East.

An inquest jury at Sunderland Coroner’s Court heard she had been at the psychiatric hospital for a matter of hours, to be assessed under the Mental Health Act, after a female police officer had stopped her plunging from Wearmouth Bridge at midnight.

Pc Natasha Wilson said she went to talk to Paige prior to the arrival of a police negotiator as she knew her well, due to previous similar incidents.

But, uncharacteristically, Paige would not engage with her and as she sat on a ledge with her legs over the side of the bridge.

“I believed she was going to jump,” Pc Wilson said. “Instinctively, I put my right hand through the railings and grabbed her cardigan and her T-shirt and I held onto her until the fire brigade had got over on the other side and carried her back over.”

The Bell family’s barrister Michael Graham told Pc Wilson: “I have been asked to thank you on behalf of the family for what you did that night.”

Paige was taken to Cherry Knowle hospital where she was kept in the police’s designated safe place.

For hours police sat with her as she waited to be assessed by doctors, during which her “uncontrollable behaviour” meant she had to be physically restrained to stop her breaking her own arm, Pc William Kemp told the inquest.

Pc Kemp, who was looking after Paige with colleague Pc Craig Patchett, told the jury that at 2.56am a doctor came see her.

She was agitated and complained of a strange feeling in her arms. But the doctor refused to give her any medication as requested by Pc Kemp, opting instead to wait until a second doctor could be present to assess her.

“The doctor asked us to remove the handcuffs,” Pc Kemp said. “But Paige continued to apply pressure to her arm and twisting it to try to hurt herself. We said ‘is this acceptable?’

“The doctor said ‘if she wants to hurt herself she is an adult so she can’. We decided to ignore the doctor’s orders as she was under police control and reapplied the handcuffs.”

The jury heard Paige had been detained under Section 136 on 12 occasions since June 2013, and that she had been rescued from Wearmouth Bridge once before.

Coroner Derek Winter had previously given a brief summary of the evidence to the jury. He said Paige was later taken to a ward at 8.10am.

Doors had been locked so she would remain in communal areas, but she managed to gain access to a room, Mr Winter said. A member of staff found her hanged at 4pm.

Paige was admitted to Sunderland Royal Hospital where she was resuscitated and began to breath spontaneously. Over the next few days she underwent numerous scans and tests and had to be resuscitated once more .

On August 13, a scan showed no measurable brain activity and a brain stem death test confirmed no brain stem activity. She was pronounced dead at 8.46am.

A post-mortem examination was carried out two days later, which showed numerous self-harm injuries to her arms and legs. Toxicology tests confirmed she had taken ecstasy, cannabis, amphetamine and alcohol in the days leading up to her death.

The formal cause of death was recorded as hypoxic brain injury due to pressure on the neck due to hanging.

The inquest, which is scheduled to last two weeks, continues today.