Woman died three days after being allowed to leave mental health facility

A Blackpool man whose younger sister took her own life three days after being discharged from the Harbour mental health hospital has spoken of his family's heartbreak as they tried in vain to convince doctors the vulnerable widow was not well enough to go home.

Monday, 4th December 2017, 8:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:00 pm
Diane Balderstone

Diane Balderstone, 59, was found hanged at her home last Sunday.

She had been allowed to leave the Harbour, on Preston New Road, on the Thursday morning, hours before a planned meeting to decide whether the Section 2 order keeping her at the hospital should be lifted or not.

Her brother, 61-year-old David Crocombe, of Kendal Avenue, said: “It’s the final, tragic outcome that we hoped wouldn’t happen, but the mental health team did not heed what we had been telling them.

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“I don’t understand why she was let home.

“Nobody contacted me or her children. I still believe had she been given the right support she would still be here with us.”

Mrs Balderstone, a mum-of-two, had suffered from depression from a young age - a condition which had spiralled out of control since losing her beloved husband, Maurice, to cancer earlier this year. She had been admitted to mental health facilities in Chorley, Burnley and Blackpool five times since July, but each time had been discharged after just one or two weeks despite her family’s fears for her safety.

Mr Crocombe said: “When her husband died she managed for a couple of weeks.

“ She then found it became too difficult.

“She self harmed, cutting and scratching herself.

“I phoned her one night and she was very distressed.

“Me and my wife went over and got her into the hospital and she was transferred to a mental health unit in Chorley. She was there for a week.

“While she’s in the company of other people she comes off as OK, but when she’s on her own, that’s when she struggles.

“ She came home from Chorley and within a few days she was cutting herself again.

“Each time she did it, it was getting worse.”

She also, unsuccessfully, tried to take an overdose on more than one occasion.

Mr Crocombe said he informed doctors several times about his sister’s escalating behaviour - but felt his concerns were not listened to as she was repeatedly sent home without treatment.

After self harming yet again, Mrs Balderstone, of Oak Avenue, Morecambe was admitted to the Harbour under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act last month, where she remained for two weeks.

Mr Crocombe said doctors had been due to attend a meeting to discuss her health on the Thursday –but the meeting was cancelled after she was sent home suddenly that morning.

Three days later, her body was found at her home by her daughter, Samantha, who was worried because she had not heard from her mum.

Police confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances.

An investigation will now be carried out by Lancashire Care, which runs the Harbour mental hospital.

Mr Crocombe said: “I’m going through a whole range of emotions.

“At one moment I’m angry at my sister for what she has done, then I’m angry at the service for not looking after her, and then I’m thinking - is there anything I could have done?

“If only I had called her that morning.

“I understand there are financial restrictions.

“There’s a lot being said about mental health and understaffing.

“Diane did what she did. Nobody forced her to do it. But I do believe she has been let down by the system.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Care said: “This is an extremely tragic case and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with Diane’s family and friends at this difficult time.

“When serious incidents like this occur, a thorough investigation into the circumstances are undertaken to determine any learning, and any findings are acted upon as soon as this is complete.”