Inquest opens into death of ‘intelligent’ Sheffield primary teacher who died aged 27

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An inquest into the death of a Sheffield primary school teacher who died while at a rehabilitation centre for patients with severe mental illness opened at the town hall yesterday (January 11).

Rebecca Kelly, known as Becca, died on January 14 2020 aged 27, at Forest Close intensive mental health rehabilitation unit in Oughtibridge.

Described at the inquest as ‘intelligent’ and ‘artistic’ by her psychologist Dr Maha Barlow, Becca had been struggling with her mental and physical health for a number of years, and had been sectioned in November 2018.

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She had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and was also diagnosed with a physical illness which caused her to faint and left her with difficulties walking.

Children's PE bags hang on coat hooks at a primary school (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Children's PE bags hang on coat hooks at a primary school (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Children's PE bags hang on coat hooks at a primary school (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

She spent time on two other acute mental illness units before moving to Forest Close.

Assistant coroner Tanyka Rawden heard at the inquest that Becca had been making significant improvements at Forest Close before Christmas 2019, however over the Christmas period – a typically difficult time for Becca – her mental health had deteriorated again.

Following this difficult period she was placed under constant one-to-one observation.

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Forest Close psychiatrist Dr Katy Kendall said that in a bid to help Becca regain a sense of control over her life after Christmas they reduced how often she was under one-to-one observation and began to check on her every 30 minutes. This is a commonly-used method of treating those with BPD.

Dr Kendall explained: “Becca was moved to Forest Close because it is less restrictive. Her self harming would escalate when restrictions were increased and she said herself that the more restrictions there were the more she would try and get around them.

"With patients who self harm the treatment is about damage limitation rather than trying to prevent it altogether, because that usually results in the self harm escalating.

"Becca told us she felt the one-to-one observations were making her worse and increasing her feelings of unbearable distress, so we decided in a step-by-step way to get back to where we were before her Christmas relapse.”

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The decision to reduce Becca’s observations was made at a meeting with mental health nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists on Janary 6 2020 and Becca was informed of the decision at 4.20pm that day.

The inquest heard that a mental health nurse was unable to see Becca when checking on her at 5pm on January 6 before finding her unresponsive behind a sofa.

She was rushed to hospital but had suffered a severe brain injury due to asphysixiation and died on January 14.

Dr Kendall added: "I think we should review how useful the one-to-one observations were in the first place.

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"I think trying to hold one’s nerve and keep the restrictions and restraints at the lowest possible level results in less frequent and severe self harm and that is what we should take from this.”

The inquest into the death of Becca Kelly is due to last until Friday (January 15), and is being held in front of a jury at Sheffield Town Hall.

At the conclusion of the inquest Mrs Rawden will determine a cause of death.

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