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Folkestone: Sunny Sands death victim Sarah Stringer should have received evaluation about her mental health months before death

By Matt Leclere

The mental health of a patient who died in the sea off Folkestone needed “further evaluation” months before she died, an inquest heard.

Sarah Stringer, 39, from Cheriton Road, Folkestone, died on November 22 last year after entering the water at Sunny Sands.

Dr Heather Simmons, a consultant psychiatrist, saw Miss Stringer twice in December 2015 and again in April 2016.

Emergency services at the Sunny Sands in Folkestone

Emergency services at the Sunny Sands in Folkestone

She said: “My view was that she needed to remain in our service.”

In June 2016, Miss Stringer’s family raised concerns with mental health teams about her clearing out her flat including items “she had saved and considered beautiful and had been given”. She also left her dog tied to railings before leaving her flat.

Miss Stringer's father told the inquest he felt “ignored” by mental health teams when he called them the day before his daughter died.

The inquest heard some of the effects of the emotionally unstable personality disorder that Miss Stringer was diagnosed with included self-harm.

Dr Simmons told the court: “Every time someone comes into contact then a risk assessment should be done each and every time. I would say [in April 2016] she was relatively stable.

“Looking back [at the incident in June] maybe that needed further evaluation because that can be a psychotic episode.”

The day before Miss Stringer died, she was found wandering along the Harbour Arm, climbing a fence and trying to get to the end of the pier.

Her father told the court she told him she was waiting for a boat to take her away.

Sarah Stringer

Sarah Stringer

Questioned about that sequence of events, Dr Simmons said: “In terms of there being some delusional thinking and she was trying to go past people, a Mental Health Act assessment [would be appropriate]. She was putting herself at risk.

“I would have thought an urgent assessment the following day would be appropriate.”

Mental health teams last had contact with Miss Stringer in August 2016, when she told staff she was “progressing well” and no longer “experiencing symptoms of PTSD”.

A statement from Dr Hema Duraiswamy, from the Manor Clinic in Folkestone, who was Miss Stringer’s GP, said she last saw her patient on August 26.

She said Miss Stringer told her she was “feeling a lot better”.

Dr Duraiswamy noted her “mental state was stable and she wanted to look for work”.

Mr Stringer said the family felt she had tried to "pull the wool over our eyes" when it came to telling them how she was feeling and that she had concealed her true thoughts.

Mr Stringer described a phone call he had with the mental health team the night before his daughter died.

He said: "I felt I was told I was worrying totally unnecessarily. You just feel like you're being, I've no words for it more than ignored.

"I was asked if I was happy Sarah was alone in her flat and safe. I said 'no, in no way' because she can walk out at any moment and do the same thing again.

Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone

Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone

"I was hoping that there might be some action.

"I was then asked what I wanted to happen. At this point I felt I had been asking for help and was being made responsible for the action what was left for her.

"No comment was made and visiting Sarah. No comment was made about an ambulance."

Following the events at the Harbour Arm the day before his daughter’s death, Mr Stringer said he was expecting a call from mental health teams about her the next day.

He said when he chased up the call he was told someone would return his call in the next 30 minutes.

Speaking at the inquest, he said in that 30 minutes police had visited the house to tell them his daughter had died.

They received a “routine follow-up call” at 5.18pm from the mental health team in Shepway.

Mr Stringer said: “He said ‘I really don’t know what I’m phoning about’.“I said it really doesn’t matter now.

"I was staggered and didn’t think they knew how they were making phone calls

“Now I know they knew Sarah was already dead.

“It was just amazing he said he didn’t know why he was phoning.”

The inquest at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone continues tomorrow.

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