A hospital for young people with learning disabilities owned by the private mental health company, The Priory Group, has been closed following a CQC report that put it into special measures.


The regulator’s report was damning with an overall ‘inadequate’ rating and a conclusion that the hospital was “not adequately equipped to care for young people with complex needs”. The Priory has now closed the hospital, based in High Wycombe, and moved the patients to other units. The hospital only opened in April 2018.


Pauline Carpenter, Head of Hospital Inspection (and lead for mental health) at the CQC, said:

“Our inspection has identified a number of serious problems concerning patient safety and the quality of care that needed immediate attention.

“It was a matter of some concern that, at a specialist unit, some of the staff could not demonstrate the knowledge or specialist skills needed to care for teenagers who had learning disabilities or autism.


The inspection reported a number of shocking findings, including a young person with complex needs who managed to swallow objects such as screws, wire and a part of a radiator grill; medication errors; no access to psychological therapies for the patients; and the layout of the ward itself being unsuitable for young people with autism as it was disorientating and noisy.


This damning CQC report comes hard on the heels of The Priory pleading guilty to health and safety charges following the death of 14 year old Amy El-Keria in 2012. The case, which was heard in Brighton Magistrates Court in January 2019, could result in a fine of more than £2 million for the company, according to a report in the HSJ.


In 2016, an inquest ruled that the death of a 14 year old Amy El-Keria in 2012 at Ticehurst House, a Priory hospital, was as a result of months of serious failings at the hospital, including staff failing to pass on the fact that she had spoken of wanting to end her life. The inquest also ruled that staff failed to dial 999 quickly enough and failed to call a doctor promptly.


Responding to the guilty plea, Amy’s mother Tania El-Keria said: Amy’s mental health care should never have been in the hands of a company whose priority was placing profit over her safety.  For 14 years we kept her safe but within 3 months with the Priory she was dead.


The Priory Group, which operates as both The Priory and Partnerships in Care, is a leading provider of mental health services to the NHS. The group’s services include in-patient and out-patient services that cover a wide range of psychiatric conditions, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation, plus learning disabilities. The company is owned by the US company Acadia and reported income of £796.6 million in 2017 (see box for a company summary).


The Priory has been the subject of several reports of failures in care in recent years, including other patient deaths. Early in 2016, the family of 17-year-old Sara Green, who died in the Priory Royal in Cheadle in 2014, called for the company to have its NHS contract cancelled. Then in March 2016, the Priory and Solent NHS Trust admitted liability for the death of 15-year-old George Werb, who had been a patient at the Priory Hospital Southampton.

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