15th January 2016

The devastated father of a 23-year-old woman who took her own life after absconding from mental health detention says more must be done to keep patients safe.

Abbi McAllister from Birmingham died on 16 April 2015 after falling from a multi-storey car park in the city centre.

At the time of her death, Abbi was detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act and was an in-patient at Mary Seacole House in Birmingham, a secure mental health unit operated by the Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Abbi’s father instructed public law specialists at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care his daughter received from the Trust.

Today, at the end of a four-day inquest into Abbi’s death at Birmingham Coroner’s Court, the jury recorded the cause of Abbi’s death as suicide contributed to by failures that were so serious they amounted to neglect. 

The inquest heard that Abbi had a long history of involvement with mental health services and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and recurrent episodes of depression.

In the weeks leading up to Abbi’s death she had attempted to take her own life a number of times and had self-harmed regularly. Twice in the two months before her death police had found Abbi threatening to jump from car parks in Birmingham and took her to hospital. Abbi told staff at Mary Seacole House a number of times that she intended to end her life by jumping from a building.

Despite these incidents Abbi was sent for an off-site appointment on 16 April 2015, escorted by a health care assistant and a student nurse, rather than a fully-qualified member of nursing staff.

Following the appointment Abbi was allowed to get into a taxi on her own and abscond.  Staff then took over an hour to contact police and report Abbi as missing, despite Trust policy dictating this should have been done immediately. Abbi took the taxi to the car park where she fell from the sixth floor and later died of her injuries.

Gus Silverman, a specialist solicitor at Irwin Mitchell representing Abbi’s father at the inquest, said: “This tragic case highlights real concerns about the quality of the care and treatment provided to some of the most vulnerable patients detained under the Mental Health Act.

“Abbi’s family have been left devastated by her avoidable death.  As the jury’s conclusions have made clear, there were a significant number of basic failures leading up the decision to take Abbi out of a secure environment on 16 April 2015, a decision which ultimately led to her death.

It is particularly shocking that the Trust waited for over an hour before contacting the police.  When the police were contacted the Trust failed to tell them that Abbi had previously attempted to jump from a car park.  Had this information been provided to the police with the necessary urgency there was a real chance that Abbi’s death could have been avoided” 

“It is now imperative that lessons are learned from this tragic case so that vulnerable detained patients are provided with an appropriate level of care in order to prevent similar deaths occurring in the future.”

Abbi’s father Calvin Bailey said: “Abbi’s death has been absolutely shocking for all of us and we have struggled to come to terms with everything that happened.  Our suffering has been made worse by the knowledge that her death could have avoided if the Trust had not made so many basic mistakes in caring for her.

“Abbi was a vulnerable young woman in crisis and despite numerous warnings the Trust failed to ensure she was kept safe.”

“It’s still difficult to understand why my daughter was not better protected given she was at such obvious risk of committing suicide. I hope that the Trust now makes the necessary changes to ensure that detained patients are safe in its care.”

INQUEST has been working with the family of Abbi Mcallister since April 2015.  The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Nancy Collins of Irwin Mithchell Solicitors and barrister Kirsten Sjovoll from Matrix Chambers.