Mother calls for better treatment for anorexia sufferers after death of 'bright and beautiful' daughter

Laura Willmott died in December 2011 after she was given control of her own treatment by NHS mental health services, an inquest heard

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The Independent Online

The mother of a former public schoolgirl who died of anorexia has called for better treatment for people suffering from eating disorders.

Laura Willmott, from Bristol, died in December 2011 after she was given control of her own treatment by NHS mental health services, an inquest heard.

Described as 'bright and beautiful' by her parents, she was admitted to hospital when she weighed so little she was unable to walk.

Shortly before her 18th birthday in February 2011 Willmott was discharged from the hospital's mental health services because she said she wanted no further help.

Her mother, Vickie Townsend, then received no further information on her medical condition as she was classed as an adult.

The inquest heard that the girl's weight plummeted on her release from hospital after she refused to follow a diet plan agreed with doctors.

Just two weeks later she died from cardiac arrest that led to a fatal brain injury.

In a statement read out to the court at her inquest Ms Willmott's mother said: 'I do not believe she was in a fit state to make decisions herself for any treatment.

'I really struggle to see how Laura was any different at 17 years and 364 days than she was at 18 years and one day.

'She was doomed from this point, she went down hill quite rapidly, she had dropped 13kg (2st) in nine months, she weighed just 45kg (7st).

'Laura became frailer and frailer and expressed a fear to me that she thought she was going to die.

'She would do whatever it took not to take in nutrition, her levels of deceit was breathtaking.

'Even as she deteriorated right in front of our eyes she was considered able to make decisions about her treatment.'

The girl's mother questioned the hospital mental health services decision to give her daughter full control over her own treatment. 

She was classed as an adult by the department as she was close to her 18th birthday - because of this her parents were also no longer given information on her care by the hospital.

Mrs Townsend made an impassioned plea to the coroner to make recommendations to authorities involved in similar cases in order to avoid future heartache.

In the statement Mrs Townsend said she was not blaming anyone for her daughter's death saying: "The purpose of this statement is not to try and blame any individual for Laura's demise."

She continued: "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 said she was concerned that Laura was transferred from children's to adult services without any clear handover, but said: "I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not levelling blame at anyone."

She told the inquest: "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."