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CQC prosecutes mental health trust over prisoner suicide

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A mental health trust in Sussex has been fined £200,000 for failing to keep a teenager who was known to be suicidal safe while he was in prison.

Jamie Osborne, 19, took his own life in 2016 on a hospital wing of HMP Lewes run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

“In these circumstances, we had no choice but to prosecute the trust”

Paul Lelliott

The Care Quality Commission took the trust to court, after its own investigation determined that Mr Osborne died in circumstances that were avoidable.

Sussex Partnership admitted that it had failed to provide safe care and treatment to Mr Osborne and it was today fined £200,000 by Brighton Magistrates’ Court.

The court heard how Mr Osborne took his own life in his cell on 12 February 2016. Healthcare staff from the unit failed to properly monitor Mr Osborne despite knowing he was at risk of suicide and that his cell contained a ligature point. 

The court was told that Sussex Partnership did not provide the teenager with the same level of care that a patient in the communmity would have received.

Care Quality Commission

Dr Paul Lelliott

Paul Lelliott

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health at the CQC, said he hoped the prosecution would lead to better healthcare for prisoners. He 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,” he said.

“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,” added Dr Lelliott.

In February, Sussex Partnership pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm to a patient.

Sentencing was adjourned until today. The trust was fined £200,000 for the offence and was also ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £25,000 and a £170 victim surcharge.

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