'Selfless' young nurse took her own life after fearing she'd spread Covid

Katie Reynolds

A "kind, fun-loving" and "selfless" young nurse feared she would contract Covid-19 and pass it on to vulnerable patients before her death, an inquest has been told.

Katie Reynolds, who worked in the haematology department at Derriford Hospital, died at the age of just 26, Plymouth Coroner's Court heard.

Senior coroner Ian Arrow said concerns grew for Katie's welfare after she had not been seen or heard of by neighbours, family and friends for three days.

Police found her body inside her flat in Bradley Road, Mannamead on April 24 last year.

The inquest heard a statement from Katie's GP which said she suffered from anxiety and was waiting for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Due to the pandemic, sessions had been suspended and the nurse was feeling "completely overwhelmed".

The GP surgery's advance nurse practitioner noted Katie had been "crying constantly and does not feel she would be any use at work given the current situation".

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The reported noted that while she had friends' supporting her, she lived alone.

During one long conversation with her GP, Katie reported having "anxiety around Covid and giving it to patients".

During further consultations she said her anxiety remained "bad", she had not been sleeping well and was very uptight at the thought of returning to work. She described being "daunted and frightened".

On April 17 the surgery received another e-consult where Katie explained she was suffering a chesty cough and her sputum was green.

She wrote she was "terrified about coronavirus" and was "not coping very well".

However she hoped to restart her CBT in the next week but she remained "very fearful and scared that I feel run down and have the symptoms and scared that I'm going to pass it on".

The doctor who received the e-consult tried to ring her that morning but could not get through to Katie and instead left a message saying it was best to err on the side of caution as to whether she had coronavirus or not.

The doctor assured her that her past medical history did not put her in any vulnerable category and he did not expect her to develop a serious illness.

He urged her to call the surgery if she became increasingly short of breath.

He also told Katie he had texted her advice about getting support for her anxiety "in these challenging times".

He added there was "a lot available" and ended his message encouraging her to "keep well".

When police found Katie's body, they also found a note which had been intended to be read following her death.

Jo Thompson, community services manager at Livewell SouthWest gave evidence via a video link.

She explained a root cause analysis had been carried out, reviewing the care given to Katie in the weeks and months leading up to her death.

On April 16, Katie revealed during a telephone call she was having some thoughts she would be "better off dead" and that these thoughts were "scaring her" as she did not want to die. She denied making any plans or attempts to take her own life.

Ms Thompson said the review found the lack of in-person meetings added to Katie's sense of isolation "and that there was a possibility that Katie may have responded better to seeing a mental health professional face-to-face".

Livewell has since reconfigured one of its buildings to ensure it is Covid-secure and able to offer face-to-face contact with people who want it.

230321 Plymouth Coroner's Court. Credit: BPM Media.

Mr Arrow described Katie as an "intelligent young lady". As a result of the evidence presented to him, he said on the balance of probabilities Katie "made arrangements to end her own life".

At the time of her death Lenny Byrne, chief nurse and director of integrated clinical professions at Derriford Hospital spoke on behalf of Katie's colleagues.

He said she was a "very special" part of the team on Bracken Ward, adding: "Katie, who was 26, had been working with us for five years since graduation and was a truly loved part of her ward team and the wider haematology unit.

"Katie has been described by her colleagues as 'warm-hearted and bubbly', 'often singing with an infectious laugh', 'a rainbow in the clouds who brightened up your day', 'loyal', 'caring', 'loved by all' and 'an excellent nurse'.

"Her loss is keenly felt by her family and her work family, who were also her friends, and our thoughts are with them all at this very sad time."

Katie's family wrote their own tribute to her last year, which was posted on the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust's website.

Her mother, Tracey, who works at Oxford Health, wrote: "Katie was a daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, niece, friend and colleague.

"Katie will be greatly missed by everyone that knew her.

The family had decided to raise money for the Laura Hyde Foundation, which raises awareness of the mental health challenges facing those who work in the emergency and medical services.

The Foundation’s objective is to is to ensure all medical and emergency servicespersonnel have access to the best mental health support network available.

If you would like to donate to The Reynolds Family campaign in Katie’s memory, you can contribute here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/katie-reynolds-lhf

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