NHS Lothian blamed for failing to care for vulnerable patient Evie

Evie Douglas with her mother Freda. Picture: contributed
Evie Douglas with her mother Freda. Picture: contributed
Have your say

A BEREAVED mother whose daughter took her own life just days after being discharged by doctors said she feels vindicated by a damning report into failings in her daughter’s care.

Evie Douglas had stopped treatment with an outpatient team at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital a week before she died at her flat in Canonmills in November 2014.

The popular 21-year-old had struggled with depression over many years and had attempted to take her own life several times in the month before her death, according to her mother Freda, who has been fighting for answers ever since.

Doctors decided to discharge Evie from the care of the mental health hospital’s Intensive Home Treatment Team (IHTT) but she was not given a named staff member to turn to, nor was there any follow-up 
planning, a watchdog report found.

The investigation said Evie felt “lost and abandoned” after being discharged from the service where she was a patient between September 28 and November 8, 2014.

Scotland’s ombudsman Jim Martin ordered NHS Lothian to apologise for failing to offer Evie reasonable care both before and after her discharge, and to review its policy around outpatient treatment for people with mental health issues.

He said: “I agreed that the follow-up arrangements were not sufficiently robust.

“I was concerned that Miss A [Evie] was discharged entirely from the board’s care on the basis of her private counselling, when no steps were taken to contact the private counsellor to find out what was being 
offered in terms of follow-up.”

Evie, who was a student at both Edinburgh Napier and Edinburgh University for short periods, had been working in a shop in the Capital while also teaching at the Fiona Henderson School of Dance.

She suffered from bouts of depression over many years and spent five days in a mental health facility near her family home in the Scottish Borders the previous year.

Evie had lived in Edinburgh for three years and was under the care of her GP before being referred to the Royal Edinburgh’s IHTT.

The talented dancer had been due to take up a place at the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London before her death.

Speaking after the watchdog’s ruling, Freda, of Peebles, said: “I feel some satisfaction as I do think they have heard my complaints finally.

“My big worry is there is a difference between being heard and being really listened to.”

Freda, 54, said she could not accept an apology from NHS Lothian as it would not bring Evie back.

She said: “How can they even think that an apology would be anything like enough for what I have lost?

“It’s not going to touch my life or my heart after everything.

“What I want is for no-one to go through what our family has been through, because it is the darkest place to be. I will be asking to see that these recommendations are being followed.”

Freda continues to campaign for better mental health services, which she believes could have helped Evie.

She said: “It’s coming up for two years since she died and people say, ‘You must have moved on.’ How can you anyone say that?

“This report shows it wasn’t just me thinking these things. I was doing the right thing when I kept calling and complaining about what happened to Evie. It’s been a long haul for me, working on different projects and trying to keep Evie’s memory alive.” NHS Lothian was given a string of recommendations by the ombudsman, including advice for A&E staff on how to help vulnerable patients and to review how discharges are carried out.

Professor Alex McMahon, Nurse Director, NHS Lothian, said: “I would like to publicly apologise to Mrs C [Freda] for the failings in this case and offer our sincere condolences following the death of her daughter. We accept the report from the Ombudsman and we are taking the recommendations very seriously indeed, which include reviewing the discharge planning process and the operational policy of the Intensive Home Treatment Team IHTT.”