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Crisis team refused to assess Highbury woman days before suicide

PUBLISHED: 07:03 09 July 2012

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A suicidal mother was denied a full assessment by a mental health crisis team days before she killed herself, an inquest heard.

Francine Vladermersky, 52, was refused a face-to-face assessment by the North Islington Crisis Resolution Team after being screened over the phone by a nurse – even though one is offered in nearly every case.

This was despite being referred to the team by an experienced GP who was deeply concerned about her talk of wanting “to go to sleep and not have to face the world”, St Pancras Coroners’ Court was told.

Her brother found her drowned in the bath of her home in Ashburton Triangle, Highbury, three days later, on Sunday April 1.

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said: “I feel that if an experienced GP has made the referral, that should warrant at least a face-to-face assessment with a mental health worker.

“I can’t possibly say it would have made a difference if anything was done differently. But I feel strongly everyone referred to this centre should have a face-to-face assessment, it’s the very least that families can expect.”

The court heard Ms Vladermersky had a long history of anxiety and depression, linked to her troubled relationship with her son. Her ex-partner Christian Forster, the father, said: “He had been attacking her. It started about three years ago. Social services were saying if it happened again, he could kill her. She was physically frightened of him.”

The coroner gave the cause of death as drowning due to alcohol intoxication and recorded a verdict of suicide.

Dr Radcliffe stopped short of directly criticising the decisions of the medical professionals involved. A spokesman for the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the crisis team, said: “The trust would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family of Francine Vladermersky.

“Decisions about assessments are made on a case by case basis by our clinicians and neither the GP nor the coroner criticised the trust’s decision about the assessment in this case.”

The nurse who screened Ms Vladermersky, Aisling Clifford, said the crisis team was planning to offer all GP referrals a full assessment in future, although the trust would not confirm this.

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