• Trust pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment
  • Recent inspection revealed concerns remain over healthcare at Lewes prison
  • CQC chief exec warned of more prosecutions last year

A mental health trust has been fined £200,000 for breaching the Care Quality Commission’s fundamental standards in only the second case of its kind.

Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust was taken to court after a 19-year-old prisoner used a bed sheet attached to a tap in Lewes Prison’s healthcare unit to take his own life. Jamie Osborne – who was on remand – was known to be a suicide risk and the trust knew the sink tap in his cell was a potential ligature point.

The trust pleaded guilty to an offence under regulation 12(1) of the fundamental standards of failing to provide safe care and treatment, leading to avoidable harm in February 2016. On Friday, it was fined £200,000 with prosecution costs of £25,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

Brighton Magistrates Court heard it failed to provide care equivalent to that in the community, failed to address a clear and well-documented risk to Mr Osborne’s safety and failed to ensure staff knew how to manage this risk.

The trust was recently rated “good” in a Care Quality Commission inspection but a joint inspection with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons found that improvements were still needed in the healthcare unit at HMP Lewes. A report by HMI Prisons in March 2019 said prison health services at Lewes had deteriorated since the last inspection at the end of 2015 with “significant risks to prisoner care” and five self-inflicted deaths since then.

Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “In these circumstances, we had no choice but to prosecute the trust. I hope this case will serve as a warning to other providers to ensure that they are taking all necessary steps to care appropriately for people who require close observation and careful management of the risks posed by the physical environment, managed by the prison, in which they are being cared for.

“I hope that it also sends a clear message that people in prison have the same right to high quality mental healthcare as any other member of our society.”

In a statement, the trust said: “Our thoughts today are with Jamie Osborne’s family and friends. In 2016 our investigation into Jamie’s death found clear failings for which we are deeply sorry.

“The safety and wellbeing of the vulnerable people under our care is of the utmost importance, whether they are receiving treatment in the community, our inpatient units or within prison healthcare services we are responsible for managing. This includes acknowledging when things have gone wrong, learning from this and taking action to make changes.”

The first trust to be fined for failing to provide safe care was Southern Health FT, which was fined £125,000 with £36,000 costs after a patient fell from a roof.

CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm warned last year that the regulator was considering bringing more prosecutions against providers.