Suicidal patient fled as nurses were celebrating on Beaumont Ward, in Bradgate Unit , Leicester inquest told
Nursing staff were celebrating a birthday with cake and chocolates around the time a woman with a history of suicide attempts was let out of a locked mental health ward, an inquest has heard.
The hearing was told it was "chaotic" on Beaumont Ward, in the Bradgate Unit at Glenfield Hospital, when Sally Ann Vye was allowed to leave by a health care assistant. Her body was discovered at Beachy Head in Sussex – a notorious location for suicides – the following day.
The 39-year old, of Melton, had previously absconded and travelled to Beachy Head but had been saved by the intervention of a local chaplaincy team.
Miss Vye should not have been allowed out of the ward without the express permission of a registered nurse, but left at 2.25pm on June 19.
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Yesterday, giving evidence on the third day of the hearing at Leicester Town Hall, healthcare assistant Lisa Yeomans said: "It was chaotic in the ward for the hour between 2pm and 3pm."
She said she had been left to deal with irate parents virtually single-handed.
She said: "Another female patient had absconded and her parents were very anxious.
"I went looking for her with a student nurse. I reported her missing but senior nursing staff in the office were not interested."
Mrs Yeoman said they were celebrating a doctor's birthday.
She said: "They were quite jolly, eating chocolates and cake."
She told the hearing she had to go back three times before she got a response.
The other patient was found a few minutes later elsewhere in the unit.
However, the inquest later heard from a senior manager, on the ward at the time, who denied nursing staff were eating cake and chocolates.
Mrs Yeomans went on to tell the inquest she was also left to attend to an angry father whose son, returning to the ward after leave, did not have a bed.
She admitted she filled in the head count sheet and incorrectly marked that Miss Vye was on the ward at 3pm and 4pm.
She admitted making those mistakes as Miss Vye was recorded on CCTV leaving the ward at 2.25pm.
Mrs Yeomans said she correctly marked Miss Vye absent each hour from 5pm until she finished duty at 9pm.
But she admitted she ignored procedure and did not report Miss Vye missing to registered staff at the first opportunity.
She said: "I had seen her dressed to go out earlier in the day and assumed she was going on accompanied leave."
She said she did not know Miss Vye had been sectioned after a suicide attempt at Beachy Head just over a week earlier.
Mrs Yeomans said: "I kept presuming she was off the ward. I don't think I told anyone at the end of the shift.
"I presumed a senior member of staff would have known."
The hearing was told the alarm was not raised until 10.20pm, when Miss Vye's parents phoned the ward anxious about her safety and it was discovered she was not there.
DC Patrick Coyle told the inquest a police search had been hindered because of faulty record keeping and delays in raising the alarm.
He said: "Because of the wrong time on the log, officers scanned the CCTV to obtain a description of what she was wearing from 5pm onwards instead of from 2.25pm."
He said the delay in raising the alarm had lost "daylight searching" time as Sussex police were not alerted until after midnight – 14 hours after Miss Vye had absconded.
The hearing had previously heard a number of accepted practices and policies had not been transferred by the Bradgate Unit staff to the Beaumont Ward when it opened in December 2011.
Bradgate Unit senior manager Teresa Smith told the inquest she was satisfied that if all those practices and policies had been implemented, including staff abiding by their own professional standards, that Miss Vye would had been safe.
She said if monitoring procedure had been followed correctly a search would have been started at 3pm that day.
Mrs Smith agreed with Miss Vye's father, Ronald Vye, that, given the way the ward was being run at the time, his daughter could not have been protected. Mrs Smith added she was in the ward when Miss Vye went missing and denied nursing staff were eating cake and chocolates.
Coroner Catherine Mason said she would be delivering verdict at noon today.