Teenage ex-pupil 'died of anorexia'

A former public schoolgirl died from anorexia after a long battle with the eating disorder, an inquest has heard.

Laura Willmott, 18, succumbed to the condition in December 2011 a week after suffering a cardiac arrest while being treated in hospital.

Avon Coroner's Court heard that the former Colston Girls' School pupil had first been diagnosed with the eating disorder shortly before her 14th birthday when her concerned mother, Vickie Townsend, took her to see their GP.

Mrs Townsend made an impassioned plea to the coroner to use his power to make recommendations to the authorities involved in order to try to prevent another family going through her heartache.

In a moving written statement Mrs Townsend told the inquest she was not blaming anyone for Laura's death but wanted answers. "The purpose of this statement is not to try and blame any individual for Laura's demise," Mrs Townsend said.

"I fully accept that Laura presented challenging and complicated care and treatment issues. There are, however, aspects of Laura's journey that I would like to raise questions about so that if policy or institutional deficiencies exist they might identified for the coroner to consider making recommendations about."

Mrs Townsend, an experienced hospital nurse, said that at first her daughter appeared to be responding to treatment and was receiving therapy from child psychiatrists. She said that by the summer of 2010 Laura had started to deteriorate and would not co-operate with health professionals.

Shortly before Laura's 18th birthday in February 2011 she was discharged from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) because she no longer wanted help and was missing appointments.

Mrs Townsend said she was concerned that Laura had been discharged from the child services without any handover to adult services, known as Steps. "I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not levelling blame at anyone," she told the inquest at Flax Bourton, near Bristol.

"What I was terribly concerned about then and what I am equally concerned about now is the fact that it seemed to have been assumed that as Laura approached her 18th birthday that a) it was no longer appropriate for me to be copied into reports of her treatment and to be notified of missed appointments ie. evidence of her disengagement and b) she was in a fit mental state then and immediately after she reached 18 to make decisions to whether she should engage with treatment at all."

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