Mother hopes teenager’s Priory psychiatric hospital death will change ‘failing system’

The mother of teenage girl who died while receiving treatment from a private mental healthcare provider hopes her case will help change “a failing system”, a court heard.

The Priory Group faces a potential multimillion-pound fine for breaching health and safety law after Amy El-Keria died in its care in November 2012.

The 14-year-old, who had a history of suicide attempts, had been sent to the group’s Ticehurst House psychiatric hospital in East Sussex less than three months before.

Following a criminal investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, the London-based company admitted a charge of being an employer failing to discharge its duty to ensure people were not exposed to health and safety risks.

Legal submissions were presented at a Newton hearing at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday, ahead of Judge Mr Justice James Dingemans’s sentencing on Wednesday.

The judge allowed Amy’s mother Tania El-Keria (pictured) to read her personal witness statement to the court.

“There are no words that can truly express the loss of Amy and the impact on me and my family,” she said.

“Amy was a spirited human being who loved life and her family was the most important thing to her.”

Ms El-Keria said she watched her daughter “struggle” throughout her life, and found it “hard to even comprehend what she was going through”.

“Every morning I wake up thinking it’s all a nightmare and realise that it’s not and my heart and soul is ripped out,” she added.

Ms El-Keria said she hoped for “justice for Amy” and that she could grieve when the case was finished.

“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,” she added.

Prosecutor Sarah Le Fevre told the court that Amy was admitted to 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 by 11pm.

She died the following day after life support was withdrawn.

Ms Le Fevre said hospital staff were not adequately trained in identifying, assessing and responding to ligature risks.

She said a ligature audit of Amy’s room, carried out a few days before her death by an untrained member of staff, identified some medium risks which were not followed up.

The court heard that a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection of the hospital in November 2011 identified ligature risk concerns, which staff had failed to remedy by the time of another inspection in June 2012.

Ms Le Fevre also claimed the hospital was aware of products available that could have been installed to make rooms safer.

She said details of a conversation about suicide Amy had with a nurse shortly after midnight on November 12 were not passed on to her doctor.

The two members of staff who first found Amy had not received basic life support training, but Ms Le Fevre did not claim this caused the teenager’s death.

An application for costs of £65, 807 was made by Ms Le Fevre.

Mr John Cooper, for the Priory Group, whose CEO Trevor Torrington sat in court, said the company offered “their sincere apologies to Amy’s family for the failings that this case has underlined”.

Mr Cooper claimed reports from medical experts Professor Tom Fahy and Dr Mark Berelowitz concluded the manner of Amy’s death was “not foreseeable” and that the overall quality of her care was “good”.

He said the Priory Group was an “important” partner to the NHS and had no previous convictions.

Following Amy’s death the High Dependency Unit was temporarily closed to new admissions and fully refurbished, Mr Cooper said.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.