Private mental health provider fined record £1.5m over patient death

Cygnet Healthcare, a private provider of mental health services, has been ordered to pay more than £1.5m – the largest fine issued for such a case – after pleading guilty in a criminal prosecution brought by the Care Quality Commission over an inpatient’s death at Cygnet Hospital Ealing in July 2019.

It is the highest ever fine issued to a mental health service following a prosecution by the CQC. Essex Partnership University Trust was fined £1.5m by the Health and Safety Executive over care failures that led to 11 deaths in 2021. The largest sum overall appears to be for an acute trust, Dudley Group Foundation Trust, in relation to the death of two patients who had sepsis.

The firm pleaded guilty to one offence of failing to provide safe care and treatment, acknowledging failures to: provide a safe ward environment to reduce the risk of people being able to use a ligature; ensure staff observed people intermittently in line with the company procedures; and train staff to be able to resuscitate patients in an emergency.

The offences related to the case of a young woman who was admitted to a ward in Cygnet Hospital Ealing in November 2018. In July 2019, she took her own life while on the ward. CQC said Cygnet Ealing had been aware the young woman tried to harm herself in an almost identical way four months earlier, but had failed to mitigate the known environmental risk she was exposed to.

Full article in the HSJ, 21 September 2023

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