Harbour patient ‘left for 21 minutes after being moved to 10-minute observations’

Sally Hickling died at The Harbour after being found with a ligature around her neck. An inquest at Blackpool Town Hall has being hearing the upsetting details.
Sally Hickling died at The Harbour after being found with a ligature around her neck. An inquest at Blackpool Town Hall has being hearing the upsetting details.

A young woman was left alone for more than double what she should have been before being found with a ligature around her neck, it was revealed yesterday.

Staff at The Harbour failed to looked in on Sally Hickling for 21 minutes after two confused agency workers failed to complete a handover, the third day of her inquest heard.

The Harbour in Preston New Road, Marton

The Harbour in Preston New Road, Marton

The 20-year-old, who was being treated for eating and personality disorders and had attempted suicide numerous times, was meant to be checked every 10 minutes.

The hearing, held at Blackpool Town Hall, also heard how the ligature – made from an item inside her room – went missing before police could examine it.

Det Insp Gareth Willis, from Blackpool CID, said: “It’s something we would have wanted to look at an examine, but sadly we were not able to find the ligature.”

As reported in yesterday’s Gazette, experts at the facility, off Preston New Road in Marton, reduced observation levels of Miss Hickling, from Clitheroe, hours before she was found unresponsive on July 13 last year.

Dr Thirunavakkarsu Aravinth, who the court heard was not an Approved Clinician at the time of the incident, said he believed reducing levels from three to two – from within eye sight to checks every 10 minutes – was in her best interests. He said the decision was made by a team of doctor’s and backed by the patient, with whom he wanted to build trust. But independent witness, Dr Carl Wilson yesterday said the decision was a ‘serious error of judgement’, and accused staff of failing to prevent Sally’s death or to make her safety a priority.

“In my view, level two observations were not sufficient enough to maintain Sally’s safety,” he told the court.

Miss Hickling died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on July 30 after suffering brain damage. The inquest will end tomorrow, when a member of the 10-strong jury is expected to deliver a verdict.

One juror was discharged on Friday morning.