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Priory Group fined £300,000 after death of child.

Healthcare provider, the Priory Group, has been fined £300,000 after the death of a child at one of its hospitals.

Amy El-Keria, 14, was found hanged in her room at the Priory in Ticehurst, East Sussex, in November 2012.

The private company, which runs mental health services as part of an NHS contract, was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court.

An inquest in 2016 found that Amy El-Keria’s death might have been prevented if she had received proper care.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pursued a criminal investigation and the company admitted failing to ensure people were not exposed to health and safety risks.

In sentencing, Judge Mr Justice James Dingemans said no financial penalty would ever "reflect the loss suffered by Amy's family.”

Speaking outside court, Amy's mother, Tania El-Keria, who said that Priory's contract with the NHS should not continue, added: "The public's eye has been firmly opened to what Priory stands for: profit over safety. Amy died in what we know to be a criminally unsafe hospital run by the Priory."

Amy El-Keria, who was deemed high-risk and had a "known and recent history" of suicide attempts, was admitted to the hospital on 23 August 2012.

She was left with unsupervised access and the means to carry out another suicide attempt. She was found with a ligature around her neck and taken to Conquest Hospital, Hastings, where she died the next day.

An inquest heard staff at the unit had not been trained in resuscitation and did not call 999 quickly enough.

The jury said Amy El-Keria died of “unintended consequences of a deliberate act, contributed to by neglect” and that staffing levels at the Ticehurst centre were inadequate.

Judge Dingemans said: "It is apparent from the investigations that have been carried out into Amy's death, and the works carried out by Priory Group and the Care Quality Commission, that there is now a much better understanding of young person suicide, and that vital lessons have been learned."

When imposing the fine, he said he took into account the company's "good" health and safety record, guilty plea and steps made to improve the service.

Priory Group had a turnover of £133m in 2017, with an operating profit of £2m. The group must also pay the HSE’s costs of £65,800 and a victim surcharge of £120.

In a statement, the charity, Inquest, which supported the family, said it was "a historic moment in terms of accountability following deaths of children in private mental health settings.”

A senior caseworker at the charity, Victoria McNally, said: "Allowing Priory Group to investigate its own actions, meant it took six-and-a-half years for its criminally unsafe practises to be exposed.

"If we are serious about child safety and welfare, such a blatant lack of oversight and scrutiny cannot continue."

Head of Priory Group, Trevor Torrington, said: "The latest CQC report rated Ticehurst as "good" in all areas. We remain absolutely focussed on patient safety and will continue to work closely with commissioners and regulators to learn lessons from incidents and inspections quickly and ensure all concerns are addressed."