THE FAMILY of a pensioner found dead in a mental health hospital have described it as “the most avoidable of tragedies”, after the trust in charge admitted a ligature point she used should have been removed earlier.

Sheila Jane Rusholme’s inquest heard she was found hanging in her room at Bootham Park Hospital on March 27 last year after community psychiatric staff had assessed her at home and admitted her on to a ward earlier in the month.

An inspection carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) months before Mrs Rusholme, of Bishopthorpe, was found in her bedroom, identified a number of ligature risks within the ward and inspectors told staff they should be removed.

A maintenance assistant from York Hospital’s Works Department was shown items which posed a risk to vulnerable patients but some were not removed for months, despite staff and managers on the ward making frequent phone calls.

A statement issued on behalf of Mrs Rusholme’s children said: “Our mother went to Bootham Park Hospital to be kept safe but the hospital failed to do that. We will remember her as a woman that spent her life caring and giving to others, especially her family, friends and charitable causes.

“She would have wanted something good to come from this most avoidable of tragedies.

“We hope valuable lessons have been learned and that something like this is never allowed to happen again at Bootham Park Hospital.”

A senior nurse conducted a review on behalf of Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust after Mrs Rusholme’s death.

She admitted she did not know who was responsible for making sure workmen completed the jobs, revealed the hospital did not have a formal process for initiating work or a process to find out what was happening in the event of a delay, and the system which was in place at the time “broke down”.

In recording an open verdict, Jonathan Leach, York’s acting senior coroner, said: “Staff made requests for the work to be carried out, but to no avail.

“There were no checks by management to see if the work was carried out, which I find surprising.

“I would’ve expected senior managers to take on responsibility of overseeing the work.

“It’s right to see the trust accept the ligature point should have been removed prior to March 27.”

Dr Stephen Wright, clinical director, said a procedure was now in place to make sure work was carried out and all ligature points had been removed.

He added there was a “chain of command” structure in place and staff knew who to report issues to. Chris Butler, the chief executive of the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to Mrs Rusholme’s family.

“We are soon to start work on refurbishing the inpatient areas at Bootham Park to bring them up to an acceptable standard. However, a permanent solution is needed to improve inpatient mental health care in York and we are fully committed to working with local partners to see this through.”

Sir Hugh Bayley, MP for York Central, raised Mrs Rusholme’s death in Parliament and called for plans to replace the 250-year-old building.

He said: “Improving Bootham Park Hospital is necessary but only as a stopgap measure.

“It should not be used as an excuse in delaying its complete replacement by a purpose-built accommodation.”

Anyone with concerns about suicide or who needs support can phone The Samaritans on 08457 909090 or Papyrus on 0800 0684141.