A CORONER has branded the care given to a woman found to have killed herself as 'inadequate' after a number of failings were identified.

Nichola Saunders was found dead in her Sholing flat on June 14 – possibly up to four weeks after she hanged herself – after neighbours reported seeing maggots.

Evidence suggested the 49-year-old had died around mid-May, although an exact date could not be determined.

Winchester Coroner's Court heard Ms Saunders, who had been diagnosed with mental illnesses and had a history of drug misuse, had been receiving support from Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.

However, when she moved to her flat in Spring Road, which meant transferring between mental health services on the western side of Southampton to the eastern side, cracks began to appear in her care.

Sarah Leonard, head of nursing for the trust in the city, told the inquest: "From reading the records there wasn't a particularly clear (care) plan."

The inquest heard there had been a breakdown in communication between the old and the new care teams, and that in March Ms Saunders had been discharged from the trust, although it was thought highly likely she had not been informed.

Daily Echo:

(Sarah Leonard)

Ms Leonard said: "I cannot give an explanation as to why she was discharged."

She added the care worker had a case load of between 50-70 clients. When asked if the case load was similar for services in the western side, Ms Leonard responded: "No, it's lower... The case load in the western side more manageable.

"We've seen a dramatic increase in the case load, not a great deal of investment to manage that."

After hearing from the trust, Ms Saunders' sister Karma Feeney said: "I think there has been a massive failing in her care.

"Realistically with case loads like that, I cannot see it being prevented without more funding."

Recording a conclusion of suicide, senior coroner Grahame Short said: "I have to say that the support that Nichola received from the community mental health service was inadequate."

Following the inquest, associate director of nursing (Adult Mental Health) at the trust Carole Adcock said: "We are deeply sorry that the service Miss Saunders received was not of the standard we aim for.

“Our investigation makes several recommendations for how we could improve and we are carefully reviewing these, including how to better manage the individual caseloads of care-coordinators and our resources across the city.”