A mental health hospital in London has been fined £140,000 following the death of a young woman due to inadequate safety measures. Francesca Whyatt, 21, was found unconscious at Priory Hospital Roehampton in September 2013. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the hospital had not taken sufficient steps to protect patients from potential risks to their health and safety. Priory Healthcare Limited, the hospital’s operator, expressed deep remorse for the incident and has since implemented improvements to its policies and facilities.
Francesca had been transferred to Priory Hospital’s Emerald Ward in March 2013 from a local hospital. On September 25th, she was discovered unconscious in a patient lounge on the top floor after self-harming. The HSE’s investigation found that she had gained access to the lounge while the hospital was dealing with an incident involving other patients. Tragically, Francesca passed away three days later. This devastating loss has had a profound impact on her family, who continue to mourn her and grapple with their grief.
Priory Healthcare Limited pleaded guilty to failing to fulfill their duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Southwark Crown Court. The court will determine the costs at a later date. Paul Hems, head of operations for London at the HSE, stressed the importance of implementing effective systems to monitor patients and warned that employers who fail to comply with health and safety regulations will be held accountable. He also highlighted that similar incidents occurring after April 2015 will be enforced by the Care Quality Commission.
In response to the incident, a spokesperson for Priory Healthcare Limited expressed deep sorrow for the tragic event that took place at their hospital nearly a decade ago. They extended heartfelt condolences to Francesca’s family and emphasized the seriousness with which they take their responsibilities. The spokesperson stated that the company fully cooperated with the HSE’s investigation and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. The ward where Francesca was a patient was closed in 2014, and since 2013, the company has invested £15 million to enhance the environment, services, and staffing, as well as improve observation and engagement policies.
The safety and well-being of patients should be a top priority for mental health hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Incidents like this underscore the necessity for robust systems and protocols to prevent harm and ensure that patients receive the necessary care. The tragic loss of Francesca Whyatt serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences that can arise when such measures are not in place.