Private mental health group faces multimillion fine after death of NHS-funded girl in its care

A private mental health group is facing a multimillion-pound fine for breaching health and safety laws after a 14-year old with a history of suicide attempts died in its care.

Amy El-Keria was treated at the Priory Group’s Ticehurst House psychiatric hospital in East Sussex and was deemed high-risk, but three months after she was admitted she died in the trust’s care, Brighton Magistrates’ Court heard.

The private mental health group indicated a guilty plea at the hearing after being charged under health and safety laws after a criminal investigation was launched by the Health and Safety Executive into the death.

The Priory Group is charged with failing to discharge its duty to ensure people were not exposed to risk in what is thought to be the first prosecution of its kind. Prosecutor Sarah Le Fevre proposed a £2.4m fine as the starting point for the offence, although the company could be fined an unlimited amount.

The teenager was an NHS-funded patient in the Priory’s care, and Le Fevre told the court that she had a known and recent history of suicide attempts and was left unsupervised by staff and with the means to carry out another suicide attempt.

Outside the court, Amy’s mother Tania El-Keria said her daughter’s welfare should never have been “in the hands of a company whose priority was placing profit over her safety” and asked mental health minister Jackie Doyle-Price for a meeting to discuss the failings in the care system.

El-Keria said her family had suffered every day since but described today’s judgement as a “huge step forward,” adding that the only thing that kept her going was to achieve justice and stop other families going through the torture she has endured.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation concluded “procedures for the management of ligature risk had not resulted in effective measures.”

The jury’s findings were highly critical of Priory, adding that staff failed to dial 999 quickly enough, were not trained in CPR, and failed to call a doctor quickly enough wit

Inquest, the charity supporting the family, said this was a “historic moment in accountability.”

Priory Group said in a statement: “We are truly sorry that this very sad incident occurred and extend our deepest sympathies to Amy's family. We continue to invest significantly in improving patient safety at Ticehurst. LMK Ends The hospital is making strong progress under new leadership and continues to be rated 'good' in all areas by the CQC.”

Sentencing is expected to take place at Lewes Crown Court on 6 February.


Top image: Philafrenzy


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