Learning Disability Today
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Lauren Bridges: extended out-of-area placement caused deterioration in mental health, inquest concludes

Trigger warning: suicide

Last year, Lauren Bridges, a 20-year-old autistic woman, died after attempting to take her own life in the Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal in Manchester.

Now, an inquest has concluded that delays in moving her closer to home contributed to the deterioration of her mental health.

Lauren Bridges was living 250 miles away from her family

Lauren was first admitted to a CAHMS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) psychiatric unit voluntarily in Dorset after she reached crisis point in 2018.

Then, due to a lack of local beds, in 2021, Lauren was moved to the Priory Cheadle Royal in Manchester – 250 miles away from her home in Dorset.

Lauren’s mother, Lindsey Bridges, said she found the move deeply distressing, and she knew Lauren would struggle being so far away from her family.

However, out-of-area placements are only meant to be temporary, so Lauren and her family were hopeful she would be moved closer to home at the earliest possible opportunity.

However, Lauren ended up staying at the Manchester hospital for nearly nine months. Lindsey told Sky News that Lauren “could see no way out” and felt as though she was going to be “held in that hospital forever.”

Jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure

Lauren was then found unconscious in her bedroom at the hospital in June 2022 after attempting to take her own life. She was kept on life support for two days before it was withdrawn.

But the verdict drawn by the jury was not one of suicide, but of ‘misadventure’; they say she did not intend to take her own life. But in the days leading up to her death, Lauren had been suffering from more episodes of self-harm and was becoming increasingly distressed.

The jury therefore concluded that the prolonged period of time spent at the Priory Cheadle Royal caused her mental health to deteriorate, and this contributed to her death.

Her family added that the environment at the Priory Cheadle Royal was unsuitable and chaotic, which was also a contributing factor to her death.

The coroner said this was a “tragic loss of a life, so full of promise”.

Image: Lauren Bridges (family handout)
Image: Lauren Bridges (family handout)

Beds became available closer to Lauren’s home, yet she was not moved

Shockingly, Sky News has reported that on several occasions during Lauren’s stay in Manchester, including in the days prior to her death, beds were available in units closer to Dorset, but Lauren was not moved.

Lindsey says if the government has fulfilled their promise to end all inappropriate out-of-area placements, then her family “would still have Lauren, and other families might still have their children.”

Lindsey now wants the government to make good on this commitment so that other families do not have the same experience.

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