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Case Study

A catalogue of failures in care and funding led to suicide of Sheila McInulty

Fieldfisher acted for the husband and daughter of Sheila McInulty in an Inquest into the circumstances that led to Sheila's death and also secured compensation sum for the family.

Sheila McInulty was hospitalized after she suddenly became severely depressed. The funding managers at the then named Barnet Primary Care Trust paid for her stay in hospital. They identified Sheila as a patient whose care was sending their PCT budget over the financial limit. It came out at the Inquest that the Senior Commissioning Manager for Barnet PCT suggested Sheila be reviewed by her doctors to see if she could be discharged from hospital as it would have a significant benefit on the PCT's financial performance. Sheila was reviewed and this led to Sheila being discharged to the Mountview residential care home to continue her rehabilitation programme there. This, however, was also paid for by Barnet PCT.

It came out at the Inquest that the Senior Commissioning Manager for Barnet PCT had also set up a new system to review patients within three months to decide whether they should continue to receive PCT funding. The main reason for the new system seemed to be to try to reduce the PCT budget. Sheila was reviewed under the new system. As the Coroner recorded in his verdict “There were failures at every level in the process. This represented a significant failure on the part of the individuals involved in this process and was the beginning of a chain of events that led to and directly caused Mrs McInulty’s death”.

Basic systems to protect patients were not followed. Further the assessment information was lost and the assessment was not repeated. Sheila's funding was not put to a panel to decide whether to stop funding as should have happened. Sheila was not informed of her right to appeal the decision. Social Services could have paid for her continued stay but a basic mistake was made by the Local Authority Commissioning Manager who then wrongly decided that Mountview could not be funded by Social Services. Sheila was only told on the day she had to leave that funding had been stopped. Mountview was so concerned for her that they kept her in for longer but she was discharged home where she lived her husband.  Limited support was provided in the community despite promises of additional support. In the 9 weeks she was at home she was only visited 5 times.  The family did what they could to support Sheila with the work commitments that they had.  Sheila took her own life on 02 February 2011. She was found by her husband when he returned home from work.

The Coroner recorded in a Narrative verdict that Mrs McInulty’s death was contributed to by neglect by the healthcare providers.  Despite the shocking information that had come out at the Inquest the case had to be put to the defendants before admissions of failure in care were made. Even then they did not accept Sheila's life could have been saved. Court proceedings had to be started and the case settled for a six figure sum after that.

Sheila's daughter on behalf of the family said of Fieldfisher

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your firm for all of the support and help with my mum's case. 

Your representation at the inquest and throughout this case has been first class. You have been efficient, caring, informative and always there when we needed you. Our trust in you has always been steadfast. 

You have managed to find closure for us in what has been a very complex and difficult case.  We will always be indebted to you. Thank you very much from everyone."

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