British health care system faces criticism following woman's death

November 27, 2023

An investigation into the death of a 45-year-old woman two years ago has led to serious questions about Britain's National Health Service (NHS). 

According to Fox News, Michelle Whitehead was admitted to the Millbrook Mental Health Unit in Sutton-in-Ashfield in May of 2021.

Woman drank fatal amount of water

While in custody, the mother-of-two quickly began consuming large quantities of water, something which created a dangerously low level of sodium in her system.

As a result of this, Whitehead experienced swelling in her brain and slipped into a coma which ultimately ended in her death.

The inquiry noted that Whitehead suffered from psychogenic polydipsia, a mental health condition characterized by frequent and excessive water consumption.

Despite this, medical staff did not try to limit Whitehead's access to water. What's more, they mistakenly believed that she had gone to sleep after being tranquilized and stopped monitoring her.

Report: Staff were distracted by their phones

An inquiry by the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust concluded that those who had been tasked with caring for Whitehead made multiple mistakes.

Chief among these was being "distracted by the use of their personal mobile telephones, an activity which was prohibited on the ward."

Also of concern was that a duty doctor was late to arrive as well as paramedics being made to wait for 10 minutes before they were finally admitted into the building.

Ifti Majid serves as chief executive of the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and he issued a statement regarding Whitehead's case.

Husband says Whitehead could have been saved

"On behalf of the trust, I once again extend our sincerest condolences and apologies to the family and friends of Michelle Whitehead for their loss," Majid was quoted as saying.

"We are considering the findings of the jury and the coroner," he continued, adding, "We acknowledge that there were aspects of care which were not of the quality they should have been and will address the concerns raised so that the experience for patients now and in future is improved."

Fox News noted that Whitehead's husband spoke with the BBC, stating, "When Michelle [seemingly] fell asleep, staff should have realized something was very wrong."

"Had they acted earlier Michelle would have been taken to ICU and put on a drip. That would have saved her life. By the time they realized what was happening, the same course of action was far too late," he complained.

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