Family of suicide victim express fears over care at Priory hospital

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Family of suicide victim express fears over care at Priory hospital

The family of a 26-year-old woman who was able to take her own life despite having one-to-one care in a secure mental health facility have expressed t

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The family of a 26-year-old woman who was able to take her own life despite having one-to-one care in a secure mental health facility have expressed their concerns about the levels of care in the private hospital. 

Beth Matthews, an accomplished yachtswoman and mental health blogger originally from near Liskeard in Cornwall, died on March 21st last year at the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal near Stockport after taking a mail-order poison she’d bought online, telling two staff supervising her she would be ‘dead within an hour’ of ingesting it. 

Beth was being treated as an NHS patient at the secure psychiatric hospital after being detained under the Mental Health Act, an inquest in January detailed earlier this year.

She was considered ‘highly vulnerable’ meaning she was at high risk of suicide, with staff providing round-the-clock supervision and sometimes two-to-one care.

Her mother and sister have spoken out this week for the first time since the inquest, caller for public inquiries into all inpatient deaths in mental health settings.  

Lucy, 29, and Jane Matthews, 60,  told The Sunday Times that Beth, the youngest of three siblings, wasn’t allowed to open her own post but on the day of her death she did so, allowing her time to consume the lethal drug she’d purchased online in front of Priory staff members. 

Her sister said: ‘It scares me that there are still patients in there. It is where she should have been safe.’

She added that she and her younger sister had ‘spent every minute together, we did everything together’, saying Beth ‘made friends as soon as she walked into a room.’

Ms Matthews, pictured with her boyfriend Matt Parkinson, died by suicide on March 21st 2022 after ingesting a lethal drug she'd ordered online - under her care plan at Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal in Stockport, she was not supposed to be allowed to open her own post

Ms Matthews, pictured with her boyfriend Matt Parkinson, died by suicide on March 21st 2022 after ingesting a lethal drug she'd ordered online - under her care plan at Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal in Stockport, she was not supposed to be allowed to open her own post

Ms Matthews, pictured with her boyfriend Matt Parkinson, died by suicide on March 21st 2022 after ingesting a lethal drug she’d ordered online – under her care plan at Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal in Stockport, she was not supposed to be allowed to open her own post

Beth’s mother, 60, said her daughter’s death had left her an ‘absolute wreck’ and described how she was so alarmed by her decline at the hospital that she rang them a week before Beth’s death urging staff to be ‘extra vigilant’. 

The coroner in the case ruled there had been no failings in Beth’s previous care, but The Priory Group said ‘on the balance of probabilities, if the measure related to post on Beth’s care plan was followed, she would not have ingested the substance, and would not have died as she did.’

Mother and daughter are now campaigning for a public inquiry into any inpatient deaths that occur in mental health settings, something which charities including Mind have previously called for.

Beth, who grew up near Liskeard in Cornwall, had constantly sought out ways to self-harm while she was detained under the Mental Health Act at Priory Cheadle, leaving her mother, Jane Matthews, to warn staff a week before her death to be 'extra vigilant'

Beth, who grew up near Liskeard in Cornwall, had constantly sought out ways to self-harm while she was detained under the Mental Health Act at Priory Cheadle, leaving her mother, Jane Matthews, to warn staff a week before her death to be 'extra vigilant'

Beth, who grew up near Liskeard in Cornwall, had constantly sought out ways to self-harm while she was detained under the Mental Health Act at Priory Cheadle, leaving her mother, Jane Matthews, to warn staff a week before her death to be ‘extra vigilant’

Beth consumed the poisonous substance she'd ordered from Russia in front of two staff - and died several hours later

Beth consumed the poisonous substance she'd ordered from Russia in front of two staff - and died several hours later

Beth consumed the poisonous substance she’d ordered from Russia in front of two staff – and died several hours later

Beth, a talented sailor who competed in the Fastnet race aged just 15, had perviously attempted suicide in April 2019, receiving catastrophic injuries – including breaking both of her legs and ankles – and leaving her with long-term pain and incontinence. She began sharing her story on social media, gaining thousands of followers, shortly afterwards. 

At the inquest, police coroners officer Claire Smith told South Manchester Coroner’s Court that she had received information from the 26-year-old’s phone which ran to 100,000 pages showing that the patient accessed a site with thousands of threads about self-harm.

Her sister, Lucy, 29, and mother Jane, 60, told The Sunday Times they want all inpatient deaths in mental health settings to undergo a public inquiry

Her sister, Lucy, 29, and mother Jane, 60, told The Sunday Times they want all inpatient deaths in mental health settings to undergo a public inquiry

Her sister, Lucy, 29, and mother Jane, 60, told The Sunday Times they want all inpatient deaths in mental health settings to undergo a public inquiry

The officer discovered that Ms Matthews bought the substance which killed her three weeks before her death from a supplier in Russia, which was shipped via airmail in Heathrow. 

Alerts were issued by the Priory about the poisonous substance used by Ms Matthews in 2018 and again in 2020. Assistant Coroner Andrew Bridgman commented it was ‘surprising that none of the staff knew anything about it’.

After the blogger took the poisonous substance, paramedics were called and she suffered a cardiac arrest, the inquest heard. She was pronounced dead at nearby Wythenshawe hospital shortly before 4pm. 

Beth’s friend Sarah Page gave evidence at the inquest and claimed she received a message from the blogger on the day she died which read: ‘I’ve taken poison, I’ll be dead in an hour’.

She did not get the message until later that afternoon. Ms Page said she thought the Priory ‘was a place of safety’ and said her friend’s death ‘need not have taken place’. 

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.smaritans.org for details

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