Was Vanessa failed by the NHS?

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A woman who died after reportedly setting herself on fire next to a public path in broad daylight was not admitted to a mental health unit because of a lack of beds, it has been claimed.

Vanessa Lucas-Heathorn died following the horrific incident on a patch of land off Stow Court, Mansfield Woodhouse, on Wednesday afternoon.

Council workers, who had been cutting the grass nearby, helped douse the flames before she was rushed to hospital.

The 44-year-old had been arrested days before on suspicion of arson after a blaze had broken out at the home she rented on Valley View in Mansfield.

She appeared in court and was granted bail to appear at Nottingham Crown Court in July.

However, Chad understands there were attempts to admit her into a mental health unit, but she was turned away because no place was available. The mother-of-two died a day later.

A former NHS worker contacted Chad to express his concern over the tragedy, and the deteriorating mental health services in the region.

It comes as the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust revealed plans to axe a further 18 beds at the Heather Close mental health unit.

The former worker, who did not want to be named, said: “I understand they were looking for a bed for her, but could not find one, so they looked outside of the area but still couldn’t find one. They failed her.

“Why are they closing beds when this is happening? “In my experience, this sort of thing happens regularly, people are being turned away and it’s dangerous. It’s alarming how many beds have been closed in the past four years.”

When asked by Chad for a response, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust’s spokesman, Julie Grant, said: “Nottinghamshire Healthcare would like to extend its deepest sympathies to the family of Vanessa Lucas-Heathorn who has died in tragic circumstances.

“The trust will be co-operating fully with the police to ascertain how this tragic incident came about. The trust is ensuring that support is provided to both the family and our staff involved in this incident.

“Whilst looking for an inpatient bed for Vanessa to be admitted as a voluntary patient, the crisis team worked with her and her family to keep her safe.

“She had been contacted in the morning and a doctor’s appointment had been made for a further psychiatric assessment.

“Her subsequent tragic actions were unexpected and very sad. We will continue to support the family through this difficult time.”

Meanwhile, the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), has confirmed it is looking into the handling of the case by Nottinghamshire Police. It was confirmed that the police had referred itself to the watchdog as a mandatory procedure.

A spokesman for the IPCC said: “We are now carefully assessing the referral to determine the level, if any, of IPCC involvement.”

Yesterday a statement was issued by solicitors’ firm Elliot Mather, who represented her at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court.

Spokesman Simon King said: “Vanessa was seen by a mental health team in the police station following her initial arrest. She was reviewed again at court by a community psychiatric nurse both before and after her court appearance and the court had the benefit of a written report as to her mental state before it made its decision on bail.

“Vanessa’s mother was made aware of the position and kindly agreed to accommodate Vanessa and therefore the court granted bail.

“She was released into the care of the local Mental health crisis team who were looking at a placement in Millbrook. We were saddened by the loss of Vanessa and extend our very sincere condolences to her family.”