A UK private healthcare group has been fined £1,530,000 over the death of a young woman in its care, following an investigation by England’s health and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Cygnet Health Care pleaded guilty to one offence of failing to provide safe care and treatment contrary to Regulations 12 and 22 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 after it was brought before the City of London Magistrates Court.
The sentencing, which ended on September 21, saw the private provider of health and social care facilities fined £1,530,000 and ordered to pay £79,773.59 costs and £180 victim surcharge.
A spokesperson for the CQC said: “This is the largest fine issued by a court to a provider of mental health services as a result of a prosecution brought by CQC.”
The court heard how, In November 2018, a young woman was admitted to a ward in Cygnet Hospital Ealing. In July 2019, the young woman was able to take her own life while resident on the ward.
Cygnet Ealing was aware that the young woman was trying to harm herself in an almost identical way four months earlier but failed to mitigate the known environmental risk she was exposed to.
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Jane Ray, CQC deputy director of operations in London, said: “This is a tragic case, and my thoughts are with this young woman’s family and others grieving for their loss following her death.
“People, especially those at such a frightening, vulnerable time in their life, should be able to expect safe care and treatment, so it’s unacceptable that this young woman’s safety wasn’t well managed by Cygnet Hospital Ealing when she needed them the most. This is why I welcome their guilty plea.”
The case was brought before magistrates after the CQC concluded that had Cygnet Health Care Limited complied with its statutory obligations at its Ealing hospital, the patient would not have been exposed to such risk.
Cygnet Hospital Ealing acknowledged the failure to provide a safe ward environment to reduce the risk, failure to ensure staff observed patients intermittently and failure to train staff to be able to resuscitate patients in an emergency.
Ray added: “It is also unacceptable that Cygnet Ealing failed to learn from earlier incidents, which could potentially have avoided this tragic outcome. The judge also concluded that what Cygnet said would happen in line with their policy on observations and what actually happened in practice, were not the same thing.
“We know that the majority of people receive good care when they attend hospital, but if we find a provider has put people in its care at risk of harm, we take action to hold it to account and protect people in future.
“I hope this prosecution reminds Cygnet Health Care Limited and other health and social care organisations they must provide care in a safe environment that meets people’s needs and starts to provide this young woman’s family with a small degree of closure.”
Cygnet Health Care operates over 150 centres with more than 2,500 beds across the UK. It is a subsidiary of Fortune 500 company Universal Health Services, which acquired it for £205 million in 2014.