The coroner at the inquest into the death of a 48-year-old woman who died last year has delayed conclusion after being unable to reach a verdict. 

The hearing to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of Linda Banks, who died at University Hospital of North Durham in April 2022, is being held at Crook Coroners’ Court.

The coroner has been told the beloved sister and aunt died after taking a fatal overdose following a period of turmoil with her mental health. 

During the inquest, the court heard that Linda had been in touch with multiple mental health agencies run by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), to ask for help with increasing distress, anxiety, low mood, suicidal thoughts, and paranoia. 

The 48-year-old, from Ferryhill, had been struggling to cope with the recent death of her mother, to whom she had been close, and had withdrawn from her usual life, leaving her friends and family increasingly worried for her welfare. 

Linda was struggling to look after herself and her home, not eating or drinking for long stretches. Before she died, she told police she had not eaten for seven days.

During evidence this week, it has emerged that Linda contacted the crisis team up to four times a day from February 2022 to her death in April 2022.

Multiple other agencies – including her GP and home group had contacted the crisis team over concerns for her wellbeing.

Her family had also contacted the crisis team for assistance after noticing a “significant deterioration” in her mental health in the weeks preceding her death.

Despite pleas for help, the crisis team staff did not think she posed more than a “low risk” to herself and failed to refer her to specialist teams that could have helped. 

This was during a period when the crisis team was in business continuity measures – meaning that many positions were left unfilled whilst the service struggled to cope with high demand.

The inquest was told that unregistered and unqualified practitioners took many calls from people in crisis. 

The team came out of special measures this summer. 

Thomas Hurst, the general manager for urgent care services in the Durham and Tees Valley region, told the court that significant improvements had been made in the service since April 2022.

Though unqualified practitioners are still picking up calls in the crisis team, this is based on best practices in other trusts, with patients in crisis are escalated to qualified mental health nurses. 

He said: "We now have a screening approach where non-registered practitioners take calls under the supervision of registered practitioners, but they have a small remit of only a few questions."

Solicitors for the Banks family have said that healthcare staff may have missed a learning difficulty that Linda had, which would have made 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 the inquest heard that it was only sporadically identified by the different agencies involved in her care.

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.

Over the course of the inquest, concerns were also raised about if clinicians treating Linda's presentation as "genuine" mental illness, or if they thought it was "behavioural" in order to "get her needs met". 

Witness Helen Cooke, Linda's "best and oldest friend", said that when she phoned Linda's mental health team for assistance only days before her death she was told to give "tough love" as Linda was "putting it on." 

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But Emma Sutton KC, counsel for TEWV, said that Helen must be "mistaken" about the conversation she had, or that it was "made up after the event", saying it "simply did not happen."

Nine weeks after Linda’s death, another crisis team patient, David Stevens, took his own life. An inquest into his death noted that the crisis team “missed opportunities” in his care, though it could not be concluded that these significantly contributed to his death.

The inquest is expected to conclude in the coming weeks, though a relisted date is yet to be set. 

  • Samaritans are available, day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.
  • If U Care Share on 0191 387 5661 or text IUCS to 85258.
  • SANE on 07984 967 708, Calm on 0800 58 58 58.
  • Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust crisis line 0800 0516 171.