A tragic incident has occurred in Chilton, County Durham, where a woman named Linda Banks died of a drug overdose after being assessed as low-risk by an NHS mental health crisis team. The incident has raised concerns about potential failings in her care and has prompted an inquest to investigate the circumstances leading to her death. Linda Banks, 48, was found at her home after a friend alerted the authorities. She was subsequently taken to the hospital but sadly passed away the next day due to a drug overdose combined with alcohol misuse.
Linda Banks had a history of mental illness and was grieving the loss of her mother. She was also dealing with issues related to her disability benefit and struggling with alcohol dependency. In February 2022, she reached out to the crisis team at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust on multiple occasions, expressing her distress. Despite concerns raised by her doctor, family, and her own self-harm actions, she was not considered a high-risk case. The crisis team, which was under special measures at the time, put her in touch with a support worker rather than a registered mental health professional.
A face-to-face assessment was finally conducted by clinician Jayne Bennett on 20 February. Ms. Bennett concluded that Linda Banks was at low risk of self-harm, despite Linda’s self-inflicted cut and her escalating distress. A plan was made for Linda to seek bereavement counseling and receive support for her benefit claims and alcohol dependency. Unfortunately, Linda’s condition continued to worsen in the following weeks, and her family made multiple calls expressing concerns about her well-being.
A second face-to-face assessment was conducted by Ms. Bennett on 4 April, during which Linda reported hearing voices. However, Ms. Bennett did not consider her to be an imminent risk to herself or showing signs of psychosis. The inquest revealed that there were contacts between Linda Banks and the crisis team that were not properly recorded, and there was no record of her learning difficulties in her medical notes, despite her family’s assertion that she was vulnerable due to these difficulties. A serious incident review found an underestimation of risk and suggested that Linda was not seen as genuinely needing mental health help.
The assistant coroner will now examine the mental healthcare and treatment Linda Banks received between February and April 2022 to determine if there were any failings or missed opportunities that contributed to her death. This incident follows another case involving the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust, where errors were found in the care of David Stevens, who died by suicide in June 2022. The inquest into Linda Banks’s death is ongoing, and it highlights the need for a thorough examination of mental health care practices to prevent similar tragedies in the future.