Eleven bereaved families have united in calls for a statutory public inquiry after "a catalogue of failings" and deaths at a North East mental health trust. The Northern Echo has sent a letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of the families.

A mother has called for a public inquiry into the healthcare trust she believes “drove her daughter to her death”.

Zoe Zaremba, 25, was found dead in June 2020 near her home after being misdiagnosed with a personality disorder and discharged from hospital with no clear treatment plan.

In 2022, a coroner ruled that the young autistic woman, from Aiskew in North Yorkshire, took her own life after “systemic failings” in her care.

Now, Zoe’s mother Jean Zaremba, 66, is campaigning for a statutory public inquiry into the hospital trust that looked after Zoe, and has signed a letter sent to the Prime Minister calling for action.

The Northern Echo: A bench in memory of beloved Zoe Zaremba.

In the years before Zoe’s death in June 2020, she was hospitalised multiple times, under the care of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEWV) trust. Each time she went into hospital, her mental health deteriorated more.

Jean has said that Zoe’s mental health team “just didn’t understand autism”, leading to her misdiagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).

Many autistic women are misdiagnosed with EUPD as there is some overlap with symptoms and behaviours but for Zoe, this meant that she was being “treated like she had a disorder she didn’t have.

“She felt like the only way to escape her misdiagnosis was to die.”

The Northern Echo:

A strong sense of justice and a need for clear rules and communication meant that Zoe was “deeply hurt” by her EUPD diagnosis, and fought for it to be removed from her medical notes.  

Although a specialist assessed her and confirmed she did not have the personality disorder, the diagnosis was not removed from her medical notes.

Jean believes that Zoe’s team at TEWV “drove her to her death”. She said: “She’d have still been alive if they'd done the right thing. They knew that it was autism, but they kept EUPD on the medical records.”

The trust finally took the diagnosis off Zoe’s notes on May 20, but it was “too late” for the young woman, and she died just a month later.

The Northern Echo: Jean Zaremba believes TEWV drove her daughter to her death.

Jean is determined that other autistic women should not go through the same “failures in the mental health team” as Zoe did.

“At her inquest, the coroner concluded that the actions and inactions of the Trust had contributed to Zoe's death.

“He asked the Trust to take another look at the other 134 patients in the area diagnosed with a personality disorder who had also autism markers to see if they’d been misdiagnosed.”

Jean said she thinks that the same issues persist within the teams involved in Zoe’s care, adding: “We got the outcome we needed [at Zoe’s inquest] but I don’t know if it helped anyone. It’s a cover-up.”

“People wouldn’t believe what Zoe went through – it took the Department for Health 11 months to respond to the prevention of future death report that the coroner wrote after Zoe’s inquest.”

Read more:

Get the latest news, sports, and entertainment delivered straight to your device by subscribing to The Northern Echo here

“My life has changed incredibly, I miss her tremendously.”

A spokesperson at the Trust, said: “Our thoughts go out to those who have lost a loved one.

“As an NHS trust, we have no role or influence on public inquiries. These are a matter for government. We fully accept the need for accountability and that currently comes in many forms, including regular inspections from the Care Quality Commission.”

The Northern Echo: The Northern Echo: