A young autistic girl who died in an inpatient unit last year “cried out for help” and repeatedly requested to leave the hospital, an inquest has heard.
Lauren Bridges was 20 years old when she died last year while under the care of The Priory Cheadle Royal – a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Manchester.
Her family say that when Lauren was moved to the Manchester hospital in 2021 – 250 miles from her family home – her mental health “declined rapidly”.
Out of area placements can cause mental health to decline rapidly
Lauren was autistic and was first admitted to a CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) psychiatric unit voluntarily in 2018.
Then, in 2021, Lauren was moved to The Priory Cheadle Royal due to a lack of local beds.
Lauren and her family were deeply distressed about this move, largely due to the fact the hospital was a six-hour drive from home, but also because PICUs are typically noisy and chaotic environments that are not suitable for autistic people.
Lauren’s mother Lindsey told the inquest that her daughter rang her every night “in distress”, and that the family were not consulted about the decision.
Lindsey also told the inquest Lauren was given less than an hour to pack up her things and she was not given an opportunity to say goodbye to her daughter.
When she arrived at the hospital, Lindsey says Lauren’s mental health began to decline very quickly, and she would often call her in tears, ‘begging’ her to leave.
Lauren pleaded to move home, or at least nearer to home, and also warned her mother that staff were only observing her every 15 minutes. Lindsey believes if there were “better observations in place”, Lauren would still be alive.
Calls for a new law to protect vulnerable, young autistic people
Lindsey is now calling on the government to implement a new law to protect vulnerable autistic people.
The law would ensure that all psychiatric professionals and support staff are trained in autism and specialist suicide prevention.
“Lauren was left alone, far from home, with no therapy and no therapeutic activities, in an environment that was causing more harm than good.
“I believe if my proposals were already in place, my daughter would still be alive,” Lindsey said.
The inquest into Lauren’s death began on Monday 7th August at South Manchester Coroner’s Court and is expected to last up to four weeks.