A coroner has asked health bosses to improve eating disorder services following the death of Louise Cooper
A Lytham woman who suffered from anorexia was found dead at her home after health professionals failed to monitor her condition.
Louise Cooper was found dead at her home in Oxford Road on Saturday May 16 in 2020 by a friend who had taken round some shopping.
Earlier this month Blackpool’s Senior Coroner Alan Wilson concluded the 44-year-old died from severe malnutrition and he has since sent a Prevention of Future Deaths report to the Department of Health and Social Care after hearing how Louise was not sufficiently monitored by health professionals.
The inquest, held on December 17, heard that Louise had suffered from anorexia for “many years” and had been admitted to hospital on a number of occasions. She was last discharged from hospital in July 2019 after which time she received care from an eating disorder service until January 2020.
“Louise knew that the Clinical Psychologist with whom she had worked for a number of years was due to go on maternity leave. She did not wish to work with any other members of the Eating Disorder Service [EDS] team,” the coroner said in the Prevention of Future Deaths report.
When discharged, her Body Mass Index [BMI] is estimated to have been at a significantly low level of 12.5. She was discharged on the understanding that she would receive ongoing monitoring from her General Practitioner. The GP surgery was notified about the discharge but due to an administrative issue the need for Louise to be monitored was not appreciated.
“She did not receive the necessary monitoring. During the weeks preceding Louise’s death, her health went into further decline. This was in part contributed to by the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 which left her more isolated.”
Body Mass Index is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. Patients with a BMI of less than 15 are considered to have extreme anorexia.
The inquest heard that the care Louise received included one-to-one support whereby a health professional would visit her once a day and sit with her while she ate a meal. Louise’s father said during the hearing that had this support continued then the outcome might have been different.
Louise’s father added that the cost of providing this service would have been “far less” than the numerous hospital admissions which he described as a “revolving door”.
After exchanging text messages with a friend, on Friday May 15, Louise failed to make further contact and her friend visited her home at 12.30pm the following day to check on her.
“Unable to obtain a reply he forced entry and he found Louise to be deceased on her bed in the rear bedroom. A subsequent post mortem examination confirmed she had died from the consequences of severe malnourishment,” the coroner added.
Recording a narrative conclusion the coroner said: “Having been discharged from an eating disorder service on 2nd January 2020, Louise Cooper’s condition had not been monitored by medical professionals by the time she died on 16th May 2020 as a result of complications of her previously diagnosed anorexia nervosa.”
In his report to Gillian Keegan MP, a minister with the Department of Health and Social Care, Mr Wilson noted a number of concerns regarding the care Louise received.
“It is reported that she stated to friends that the nationwide lockdown due to the Covid-19 Pandemic had removed all of the mechanisms that she had for coping with her condition,” the coroner wrote.
“A trust review would later find that as Louise was self isolating due to Covid, this may have impacted upon her mental and physical wellbeing due to reduced social contacts. Louise did not received the monitoring she was expected to receive during 2020.
“The court found that had she received that monitoring as envisaged, there was a good chance she would not have died when she did, but was unable to say that she would have survived.
“There will be many patients such as Louise who appear to make minimal if any improvement in a hospital setting but who may benefit – according to the clinicians treating them – from sustained supported eating. If that option is not available, these patients may be left with no realistic chance of any meaningful improvement.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said the department would respond to the report in due course. The coroner requires a response, including details of proposed changes or improvements, within 56 days.
A spokesperson for Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to offer our condolences to Louise Cooper’s family at this difficult time.
“We have received a copy of the Regulation 28 report and will work to implement any recommendations that have been outlined.”
Bosses at Impact Computing, where Louise worked in the finance and admin department, paid tribute to her following her death back in May 2020.
“Today our company mourns the loss of Louise Cooper, who sadly passed away this Saturday the 16th of May 2020,” the company posted on Facebook.
“Louise worked in our finance and admin department and was instrumental in the company’s growth during the long period that she worked with us. Louise was a very thoughtful, caring, intelligent and determined individual who always put others before herself.
“She fought hard to address the injustices she saw in this world in an effort to help as many people as she could throughout her life. She will be sorely missed by us all.”
Around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from an eating disorder, according to Beat, the national charity which offers a support helpline and aims to raise awareness and campaign for better services.
Beat’s helpline, 0808 801 0677, is available from 9am to midnight Monday to Friday and from 4pm until midnight on weekends and bank holidays. Between December 24 and January 3 the helpline is open from 4pm until midnight.
You can also email the charity at email@example.com or use the live webchat service HERE.