A Suffolk coroner will be writing to the minister for mental health after ruling that a shortage of hospital beds directly led to the death of a mother from Haverhill.

On Friday, an inquest concluded into the death of Nicola Rayner, a mother-of-one who died on June 10 last year at the age of 40.

Senior Coroner's Court heard evidence that Miss Rayner had struggled with her mental health since she was a child, and first recalled feeling suicidal at the age of 10 and that she suffered from feelings of anxiety and depression.

While she had struggled for many years, Miss Rayner’s mental health severely declined after Christmas 2022.

In a document found on Miss Rayner’s computer after her death, she described her struggles, writing: “This is a reoccurring and soul-destroying reality for me.”

On May 29 2023, Miss Rayner attended the A&E department at West Suffolk Hospital. Her partner, Robert Ralling, was concerned for her welfare, and said he felt she needed to be admitted to the acute ward.

However, evidence read to the court said that owing in part to the bank holiday weekend, there were no available beds and that the hospital was “overflowing”.

On June 6, Miss Rayner attended a medical review with Dr Laurence Reed, consultant psychiatrist at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.

Dr Reed said that his preference would be to have admitted Miss Rayner to the ward. However, this was impossible as there were no beds available.

Also giving evidence was Peter Henson, interim lead nurse and operation lead for Suffolk inpatients at NSFT.

Mr Henson explained that the hospital was operating at OPEL (Operational Pressures Escalation Levels) score four, the most critical stage, meaning that every bed across Suffolk and Norfolk was occupied and there was no way of discharging patients to make room.

This is a national problem, Mr Henson explained, and has not eased since June.

As of Friday, he said that there are 20 people struggling with their mental health across Suffolk and Norfolk awaiting beds with no way of knowing when space will become available.

Later on June 6, Miss Rayner took action to end her life. She died in Addenbrookes Hospital days later.

Mr Parsley recorded a narrative conclusion. He found that Miss Rayner’s cause of death was suicide, but that this stemmed directly from the lack of mental health bed provision, across Suffolk and nationally.

He said that he would be writing a Prevention of Future Deaths Report addressed to Maria Caulfield MP, the current minister for mental health, to relay these concerns.

Cath Byford, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief People Officer at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our thoughts are with Nicola's family at this difficult time. We would like to pass our condolences to them and assure them that we are taking action to improve following her sad death.

“We would encourage Nicola's family to get in touch if they have any further questions or we can support them in any other way.”

If you need urgent mental health support call NHS 111 and select option 2 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week.