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Essex woman found dead on Hampstead Heath

PUBLISHED: 16:03 13 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:36 07 September 2010

THE Royal Free hospital has defended its procedures after a patient was found dead on Hampstead Heath. Tracy Manning, 43, committed suicide by hanging after walking out of the hospital last Wednesday. Her body was found near the bathing ponds behind Sout

THE Royal Free hospital has defended its procedures after a patient was found dead on Hampstead Heath.

Tracy Manning, 43, committed suicide by hanging after walking out of the hospital last Wednesday.

Her body was found near the bathing ponds behind South Hill Park in the afternoon, just a couple of hours after she was reported missing by staff at the Pond Street hospital.

As an inquest was opened at St Pancras Coroner's Court into the death of the woman - who is from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, hospital bosses have promised to review their missing person's procedure.

"As soon as the missing patient was discovered, our procedure was put into action," said a hospital spokeswoman.

"Police and the hospital's security team were informed and a thorough search of the hospital was carried out. The searches were escalated as dictated by our policy. The patient was not being detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

"The established missing person procedure was followed properly but we always review serious incidents to see if our existing procedure needs to be amended and we will do so in this case. The trust would like to express its deepest condolences to the patient's family."

The trust believes this is the only incident in the last five years where a patient has walked out of hospital and taken their own life.

But there have been numerous other incidents when patients have gone 'AWOL'.

Between April 2007 and March 2008 the missing persons procedure was activated 232 times and from April to August this year it was initiated a further 49 times.

In the vast majority of cases, patients are found safe and well. Many had just popped out for a cigarette without telling anyone.

The procedure is based on a risk assessment. When it is believed someone has gone missing, a search will then begin of the immediate area and where necessary the full Royal Free site. If the patient cannot be found, next of kin and police are informed.

The number of incidents often puts extra pressure on the Hampstead Heath Constabulary, whose officers found the 43-year-old's body.

Constabulary manager Richard Gentry said: "We provide a service on the Heath to make sure people are safe and secure. There are 800 acres of open space so it is not possible to monitor it all at once. It does take time to locate people."

A spokesman for Camden Police said the incident is not being treated as suspicious.

The coroner confirmed the cause of death was hanging. The inquest was adjourned.

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