THE death of a young woman in a private Ealing Hospital sparked a landmark judgment against the healthcare company that runs it.

Cygnet Health Care was fined £1.5m yesterday (21) after pleading guilty in a criminal prosecution brought by the Care Quality Commission.

It is the largest fine issued to a provider of mental health services in a prosecution brought by the CQC.

It acknowledged failings of:

  • providing a safe ward environment to reduce the risk of people being able to use a ligature
  • ensuring staff observed people intermittently, in line with company procedures
  • training staff to be able to resuscitate patients in an emergency.

Cygnet was also ordered by City of London magistrates to pay £80,000 costs.

In July 2019, the young woman was able to take her own life while resident on the ward at Cygnet Ealing in Corfton Road.

The hospital was aware the woman had tried to harm herself in an almost identical way four months earlier, yet it failed to mitigate against the risk of a repeat.

CQC brought the prosecution as it believed that, if Cygnet had complied with its statutory obligations, the woman would not have been exposed to such a significant risk of harm.

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 following her death.

“People, especially those at such a frightening, vulnerable time in their life, should be able to expect safe care and treatment.

“It’s unacceptable that this young woman’s safety wasn’t well managed by Cygnet Hospital, Ealing when she needed [it] the most.

“It is also unacceptable that Cygnet Ealing failed to learn from earlier incidents, which could potentially have avoided this tragic outcome.

“We know 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.”

A spokesperson for Cygnet said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family and all those affected by this very sad death.

“We are committed to learning from this incident and, since 2019, we have taken steps to improve practice and ensure the delivery of safe, quality care. 

“We have explained to the court and those involved in this case the steps we have taken in this regard and, at the latest regulatory inspection in May 2022, the CQC rated Cygnet Hospital Ealing as ‘Good’.”