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Stafford hospital's payout to Rugeley family after rail death

By Kerry.Ashdown  |  Posted: May 22, 2014

Samantha Maritza

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THE family of a young Rugeley musician who took her own life while in the care of a Stafford hospital have agreed a five-figure out of court settlement.

Samantha Maritza, of Batesway, Brereton, was just 21 when she was involved in a fatal collision with a high speed train at Lichfield Trent Valley Station in June 2010.

At the time she was a patient at St George’s Hospital and just days before her death her mother, Joan, had raised concerns that she was being considered for unescorted leave.

Samantha’s family brought a claim of negligence against South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who manage the hospital.

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This week it was announced the two parties reached a five-figure out-of-court settlement. But the Maritza family lawyer, medical negligence specialist Sharon Allison of Ashton KCJ, said there had still been no apology from the trust.

She added: “This is of significant importance to the family and I am at a loss as to why the trust has failed to recognise this.

“What has added insult to injury to the family is that despite this matter settling in November 2013, it has taken five months for the trust to provide the family with a letter of regret over the circumstances surrounding Samantha’s death.”

Samantha, lead singer of electro band China Red, had attempted to take her own life twice in the two weeks before she visited her GP in April 2010, complaining of depression and mood swings. She had suffered from depression for two years and had been prescribed antidepressants.

Following another attempt on her life she agreed to be informally admitted to St George’s Hospital and a risk assessment was carried out. She made six more attempts on her life during a three week period and she was detained under the Mental Health Act.

In early June Mrs Maritza, worried that her daughter was being considered for unescorted leave, told a nurse that she had seen an entry in Samantha’s journal regarding train timetables. But her concerns were not passed on and Samantha did not return to the hospital after leaving on June 9.

Speaking this week Samantha’s parents: “It has now been four years since we lost our beloved Samantha and she would have now been 25. The pain has become no easier to bear during this time but we do feel we need to speak out about this horrific tragedy, to help others.

“Sam went into care after being told it was ‘for her own safety' and, although we were never sure this was right for her, we were assured that it was for the best. We were so sadly let down by the doctor's decision, against our own doubts and those of others, to the speed with which Samantha was allowed unescorted leave, and we regret allowing ourselves to be convinced this was the way forward for her. 

‘It was obviously the wrong decision. Sam was not ready at that time.

“We seriously believe that unescorted leave was taken far too lightly and the danger was not realised.  We are all struggling to come to terms with our loss but as a family we hope, for Samantha's legacy at least, we can make a difference in helping others by possibly preventing such heart breaking outcomes.”

A Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said: “We are truly saddened by the death of Samantha and our condolences go to her family.  In line with our usual policy, a full investigation was carried out into the circumstances surrounding her death and a number of changes have been implemented, including an emphasis to staff that patient notes must be completed in full and observation sheets correctly filed. 

“We have also recently introduced a new clinical information system which will allow all staff to have access to electronic health records, offering more comprehensive and up to the minute detail on each patient.”

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  • teak23  |  May 22 2014, 8:54PM

    Sadly not the first time St George's Hospital has been criticised over the suicide of someone in their care. The South Staffs NHS trust did not publicly disclose their investigation at the time. Rather moving it to the 'confidential' section of their meetings. "He said the health care trust which runs the hospital had been criticised in the report for the haphazard distribution of information and system of checks, and this was being actively investigated. Amanda Godfrey from South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Trust said it took incidents of this kind very seriously. She said: "Any untoward incident is thoroughly investigated in line with our procedures and the trust endeavours to learn from and improve services as a result of such events." Read more: http://tinyurl.com/q92pde9