Nurses who assessed a mentally ill woman before her death were unaware of her potential learning disabilities, it has emerged at an inquest into her death.

Linda Banks, 48, from Ferryhill, died in hospital on April 10, 2022, after taking an overdose. In the months before her death, she had been a patient at multiple services run by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

The second day of the inquest heard that Linda may have had learning difficulty, but this flew under the radar on her medical records – with no universal information available to medical staff, and different agencies recording just one aspect of her health at a time.

Early last year, Linda’s mental health deteriorated after the death of her mother, and she was experiencing escalating anxiety, low mood, delusions and paranoia, as well as an increasing dependence on alcohol and worries about self-neglect.

The Northern Echo: Linda Banks died in April 2022, after taking a fatal overdose.

In spring 2022, Linda took multiple overdoses, landing her in A&E twice, where she was assessed by members of the liaison team, whose role it is to evaluate patients with mental illness presenting in hospital.

In spite of these incidents, the mental health staff did not believe that she posed more than a “low risk” to herself. She later took a fatal overdose and died in hospital.

Her family said that Linda had a learning disability or difficulty, making her particularly vulnerable.

Her brother Jonathan said that any disability or difficulty should be “obvious” to professionals – but there was no note of it in her medical records, and it was only sporadically identified by the different agencies involved in her care.

Inquest witnesses who had assessed Linda’s mental health whilst she was a TEWV patient said they were unaware of any disability or difficulty and had no reason to suspect one.

Linda was assessed by staff from the liaison team, access team, and crisis team – but at the time of her death, she had been rejected for further treatment, and her risk level to herself was rated as “low”.

The coroner heard evidence that some members of the liaison team, who assessed Linda in A&E in the months preceding her death, were aware of the learning difficulties.

Christopher English, a liaison team clinician who assessed her face-to-face following an overdose said: “It may not always be obvious on records if someone has learning difficulties or disabilities, so you often have to go with what you have in front of you. Things like [the patient’s] understanding will be taken into account.”

Evidence seen by the coroner suggested that the liaison team were aware of Linda’s potential learning difficulty, but Mr English outlined that he “was not aware of anything running through her notes”.

In the 90-minute assessment he had with Linda, she was “alert” but did not mention any disability, nor did her brother Jonathan when he was present.

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However, Mr English did not ask for any background on potential disability, such as whether she has “difficulties or went to normal school”, as this would not necessarily have been routine to ask.

Linda’s care plan did not change after her trips to A&E.

The inquest, being heard in Crook, continues.