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The Priory fined £300,000 after death of teenage patient

The private mental healthcare group admitted failing to discharge its duty to ensure people are not exposed to health and safety risks.

Amy El-Keria (Family handout/PA)
Amy El-Keria (Family handout/PA)

The Priory has been fined £300,000 for breaching health and safety law after the death of a teenage girl with a history of suicide attempts in its care.

Amy El-Keria, 14, was being treated at the private mental healthcare group’s Ticehurst House psychiatric hospital in East Sussex when she died in November 2012.

A jury inquest in 2016 heard neglect contributed to her death and found she died accidentally of unintended consequences of a deliberate act.

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Tania El-Keria said she feels her heart and soul has been ripped out every morning since her daughter’s death (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pursued a criminal investigation and the company admitted to a charge of being an employer failing to discharge its duty to ensure people were not exposed to health and safety risks.

Judge Mr Justice James Dingemans sentenced the London-based company at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard that Amy had arrived at the hospital’s high dependency unit on August 23 2012.

On November 12, at 8.15pm, she was found in her bedroom with a ligature tied around her neck and taken to Conquest Hospital in Hastings, where she died the following day after life support was withdrawn.

Prosecutor Sarah Le Fevre told the court that information relating to Amy’s care had not been properly handled.

A ligature audit of her room, carried out by an untrained member of staff, identified medium risks which were not followed up.

I hope that the knowledge gained from this case goes on to change what I see as a failing system and prevents future avoidable deaths. Tania El-Keria

The hospital was also slow to tackle concerns over risks identified in a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in November 2011.

Details of a conversation on suicide Amy had with a nurse in the early hours of November 12 were not passed on to her doctor.

Amy’s mother Tania El-Keria told the court that the “nightmare” of losing her “spirited” daughter left her feeling like her “heart and soul is ripped out every morning”.

She admitted to having “low points where I have not wanted to be alive any more just so that I could be with Amy”.

Ms El-Keria added: “I hope that the knowledge gained from this case goes on to change what I see as a failing system and prevents future avoidable deaths.”

At the earlier court hearing, the Priory offered its “sincere apologies” to Amy’s family for “serious failings”.

The 2016 inquest jury’s findings were highly critical of the Priory, ruling staff failed to dial 999 quickly enough, failed to call a doctor promptly and were not trained in CPR.

Staffing levels were inadequate, Amy was not resuscitated properly by staff, and had to be removed from the hospital on a body board because the ambulance stretcher could not fit in the lift, it found.

The response of staff was so inadequate the jury agreed there was a possibility that Amy may have lived if she had received proper care.

PA

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