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Inquest hears Leeanda New-Hart from Whitstable was 'failed' by mental health teams

By Gerry Warren

A mum-of-two whose decomposed body was found in her flat in Whitstable was failed by mental health teams, an inquest has heard.

The inquiry followed the death of 43-year-old Leeanda New-Hart, who had previously been admitted to A&E on 264 occasions, a coroner heard on Wednesday (March 13).

A review by the Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust highlighted issues, including stresses due to staff shortages and high turnover in the community mental health teams assigned to her, as well as poor communications and failures to follow up on missed appointments.

Leeanda New-Hart (7760199)
Leeanda New-Hart (7760199)

Mrs New-Hart was found at her home in Eversleigh Rise on January 11 last year after a friend raised concerns about her welfare.

Police had to break into the property to gain access and discovered her dead on the sofa. No foul play was suspected.

A post-mortem examination could not initially ascertain the cause of her death because of the state of decomposition.

But Canterbury Coroner's Court heard from pathologist Dr Aminu Abdulkadir, who said that with new information about her health, he now believed it was caused by a sudden epileptic seizure.

Her long history of mental health problems, epilepsy and drinking were detailed during the hearing.

Assistant coroner Ian Goldup was told Mrs New-Hart would often forget to take or lose her medication because she had been drinking heavily.

He heard that she had last been seen on January 2, having been admitted to Maidstone and Tonbridge Hospital as a result of drinking heavily and suspected of not taking her medication.

A&E consultant Dr James MacDonald said his staff knew her well and she was being monitored, but later discharged herself before she could be fully assessed.

He said she was not considered to be at risk and, in any event, the hospital had no powers to return her.

Leeanda New-Hart (7760204)
Leeanda New-Hart (7760204)

She was last seen alive by her neighbour back in Whitstable on the same day.

Tony Saroy, who is acting head of legal services for the Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust, told the coroner that the CQC had carried out inspections on some of the trust's community mental health teams and as a result of that, an action plan was formed which tackled some of the issues raised.

He said significant improvements, especially in staffing and training, had since been made and the service was now rated as 'good'.

Mrs New-Hart's father David Kennard, from Larkfield, told Mr Goldup that his daughter was "lovely" and "a delight to be around" when she hadn't been drinking.

Recording that Mrs New-Hart's death had been from natural causes, Mr Goldup said it was not possible to say whether the failings had contributed to it.

He added that he did not feel it was necessary to write to the trust now the improvements had been made.

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs New-Hart's sister, Colleen Kennard-Smith, described her as a "complicated" character.

"She was moved from Maidstone, where she grew up, to Whitstable by Maidstone Council and never really settled because she didn't know anyone," she said.

"I believe she was failed by the mental health teams and there was inconsistency in her care which didn't help her problems.

"I just feel that with her history, they should have been more aware and we may have been in a different state now."

"It's too late for Leeanda, but her death did highlight the failings and the improvements needed."

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