- Amy El-Keria was a patient in specialist children’s mental health unit at Ticehurst House
- Earlier inquest found neglect contributed to Amy’s death
A private hospital group faces a fine of more than £2m after indicating a guilty plea to health and safety charges following the death of a 14-year-old NHS-funded patient.
Amy El-Keria was a patient in a specialist children’s mental health unit at Ticehurst House in East Sussex, run by the Priory Group. She was found unresponsive with a ligature around her neck in her room on 12 November 2012 and died the following day.
The company could be fined an unlimited amount, with the prosecutor in the case suggesting a fine of £2.4m as the starting point for the offence.
A 2016 inquest found neglect by the Priory contributed to Amy’s death. The jury for the inquest was told about inadequate staffing, high risk ligature points in her room, failure to remove a scarf from her which was used in the hanging, and a delay in calling an ambulance when she was discovered.
Amy, who was from Hounslow, had been sent to the Priory Hospital at Roehampton when no suitable NHS inpatient bed was available for her close to her home. She was then transferred to Ticehurst House.
The Health and Safety Executive brought a case against the Priory Group under the Health and Safety at Work Act. In a hearing at Brighton Magistrates Court, the company indicated it would plead guilty.
The case has now been referred to Lewes Crown Court, where a formal plea will be taken and the company will be sentenced.
Victoria McNally, senior caseworker at charity Inquest, which has supported the family since 2012, said: “This family have been failed by a system that placed Amy in the care of a private company, now exposed as operating criminally inadequate standards.
”From the moment of Amy’s death the family have faced the hardest of battles for answers and action against those responsible.
“The government must now review whether the Priory is fit to receive such significant public expenditure for the provision of children’s specialist mental health care. The family called for an immediate meeting with the minister to discuss their response to the gross failures now brought to light through Amy’s and other cases involving the Priory.”
A hospital spokesperson said: “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.
”The hospital is making strong progress under new leadership and continues to be rated ‘good’ in all areas by the [Care Quality Commission].”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “Most commissioned services from Priory Healthcare are rated by CQC as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ but we continue to work closely with the CQC to monitor, identify and take appropriate action where necessary.”
Update: This story was updated at 15:02 on 10 January to add a comment from NHS England.