An inquest jury has found that neglect contributed to blogger Beth Matthews' death while she was being cared for at a mental health unit in Stockport.
The 26-year-old died on 21 March 2022 at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester after she had been transferred from the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal in Stockport where she was being detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act.
Beth Matthews had collapsed after taking powder she'd bought online from Russia which she told staff was a protein powder. It was in fact a toxic substance.
Jurors at South Manchester Coroner's Court found that neglect by staff at the unit had contributed to her death by suicide.
The inquest previously heard how a ‘clear direction’ on Beth’s care plan said she should not be allowed to open her own mail, with the restriction also being repeated in handover notes relating to her.
However, an internal investigation by The Priory, where Beth had been transferred for specialist therapy, found ‘inconsistencies’ in staff’s approach, with some allowing Beth to open her own post.
On Wednesday, the penultimate day of the nine-day inquest, The Priory Group admitted in a statement that Beth’s care plan ‘was not followed’ as it should have been on the day of her death.
They accepted that ‘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’.
Following the conclusion of the inquest, Beth’s family said: “We would like to thank the coroner, jury and our legal representatives Leigh Day for their diligence in ensuring there was a thorough investigation into Beth’s death.
“The passing of Beth that day was wholly avoidable and her death was completely unnecessary. We have been tragically let down by the Priory, who we believed were providing a safe place for Beth and the care that she needed.
“Mental health care providers must listen to and act on the findings of this inquest. It is incumbent on them to keep their patients safe. We do not wish to see or hear of other families having to endure the grief, unimaginable loss and anguish that we have been through. “Not only was Beth bright and vivacious, she was intelligent, had a ‘can do’ attitude and her infectious smile would brighten anyone. She was an accomplished yacht and dinghy sailor who was always full of energy and had a wonderful sense of humour.
“Beth tried to help others through describing her own mental health experiences in a highly graphic but articulate way and by doing so was able to touch and help countless others. We know for a fact that she saved at least one person through her social media presence. That is a huge legacy for a young lady to leave behind. “Beth gave a bright light of hope to people who were struggling to see any light at all.
“May she now rest in peace.”
The mental health blogger had acquired a large following on social media, where she discussed a ‘failed suicide attempt’ in 2019.
Beth, who was from the village of Menheniot near Liskeard in Cornwall, was described as a 'caring, 'intelligent' and ‘articulate' daughter by her mother, Jane Matthews.
Analysis of her mobile phone showed during her time at The Priory, Beth made ‘frequent’ internet searches relating to the substance she ingested, especially during the two-week period prior to her death. She also accessed online forums discussing suicide, and told a mental health nurse just weeks before her death that 'there are things you can purchase that can do the job'.
Assistant coroner Andrew Bridgman asked jurors to consider whether Beth’s suicide was contributed to by neglect, failure to follow her care plan, or by any other factor. Directing them, he said any finding of suicide contributed to by neglect would have to amount to a ‘gross failure’.
Beth’s medical cause of death was ruled to be 1A) Methemoglobinemia caused by 1B) 'poisoning' of the substance. Priory director of risk management David Watts has told the court that the group were aware of a growing trend of suicides using the substance, and had issued staff bulletins highlighting its risks in 2018 and 2020.
In a statement the Priory say, "We fully accept the jury's findings and acknowledge that far greater attention should have been given to Beth's care plan"