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Mental health trust issues apology over killing of absconded patient

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Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has issued a public apology about the care given to a woman who was killed after she absconded from one of its secure units.

On 13 March 2015, Janet Müller was unlawfully killed by Christopher Jeffrey-Shaw after absconding from Mill View Hospital in Hove the previous day, where she was detained under the trust’s care.

“She should not have been able to leave the hospital in this way while detained and under our care”

Sam Allen

The body of the 21-year-old student, who was a German national, was found in a burnt-out car near Horsham in Surrey. Mr Jeffrey-Shaw was jailed in February 2016 for 17 years for her manslaughter.

The public apology, published in a statement on 15 May, was agreed with the family of Ms Müller as part of the conclusion of civil proceedings against the trust over her care.

Trust chief executive Sam Allen said: “Ms Janet Müller was unlawfully killed by Christopher Jeffrey-Shaw after absconding from Mill View Hospital the previous day, where she was detained under our care.

“She should not have been able to leave the hospital in this way while detained and under our care,” said the boss of the Sussex mental health trust.

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Sam Allen

Sam Allen

“I want to apologise unreservedly to Janet’s family,” she said. “I want to give my personal assurance that we have worked hard to address the shortcomings identified following Janet’s tragic, untimely death.

“We did not recognise the extent of her desire to leave hospital, manage the risk of this happening or keep her clinical records up to date,” she said. “We failed in our duty of care to Janet, for which I am truly sorry.

“Specifically, on the day before Janet died we did not keep her under close observation, even though she had already absconded before earlier that day,” said Ms Allen.

“Following her return to the ward, we should have fully evaluated the risk of her trying to leave hospital again,” she said. “We should then have made sure she was kept within eyesight of a member of staff at all times in order to support her and keep her safe.

“Meeting with Janet’s family reinforced to me the need to look long and hard at how we work2

Sam Allen

Mr Allen also noted that “clear and complete” clinical records were a vital part of providing high quality care. But she admitted that Ms Müller’s records, including her care plan and risk assessment, were not kept up to date while she was under the trust’s care in hospital, even after she had absconded once.

She added: “Meeting with Janet’s family reinforced to me the need to look long and hard at how we work with, listen to and support the families of people who use our services.”

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