fbpx
World

Family call for lessons to be learned after 29-year-old son died in mental health hospital on Cambs border

The family of a man who died whilst detained in a private mental health hospital have spoken out, calling for lessons to be learned following an inquest into his death. Alex Nova, previously known as Simon Cohen was pronounced dead around two hours after he was found unwell by staff at the hospital near Royston, on the Cambridgeshire border.

Simon Cohen from Bushey, Hertfordshire died whilst he was a patient at The Priory Group run Kneesworth House Hospital, a high dependency rehabilitation unit near Royston on the Cambridgeshire-Hertfordshire border. The inquest heard that he had taken a fatal amount of MDMA.

The 29-year-old, who died in June 2017, had a long history of misuse substance which was known to Kneesworth House. Following the death of Simon, his mum Nozalie Shuter instructed lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help secure answers and support them through the inquest process.

Read more: 20-year-old dies after sustaining ‘serious injuries’ in Longstanton motorcycle crash

Simon had changed his name to Alex Nova by deed poll in 2016, but was still known as Simon by friends and family. Simon’s family have now spoken out after the jury concluded that Simon’s death was drug-related but they were unable to determine where the MDMA had come from.

The specialist public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, Sophie Farrah said after the hearing: “Nearly five years on Nozalie and the rest of Simon’s family remain devastated at his death and the circumstances surrounding it.

Understandably they had a number of concerns about the events surrounding Simon’s death and whether more could have been done to help him. Not knowing all of the facts about what happened to Simon has made trying to grieve for him all the harder.

“While nothing can make up for the hurt and pain the family continue to experience, we’re pleased that we’ve been able to help provide Simon’s loved ones with some of the answers they needed, however, the one question that remains unanswered is how he managed to obtain and take MDMA whilst within a locked rehabilitation ward at Kneesworth Hospital.

“People with mental health problems are some of society’s most vulnerable and it is vital that they receive the best level of care at all times. It is fundamental that lessons are learned to improve patient safety. ”

The jury concluded that Simon’s death was drug-related

Simon had been detained under the Mental Health Act consequent for his diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia complicated by drug use. The inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall heard that Simon had been admitted to the Wortham Ward at Kneesworth House Hospital on June 16, 2017, from an NHS hospital and a referral from the NHS.

Just a few days later on June 21, it was agreed that Simon should be allowed to leave outside the hospital grounds up to four times a day for a maximum of 30 minutes each time and to be accompanied by a staff member. On June 27 Simon was escorted outside at around 11.05am to have a cigarette and was accompanied by a healthcare worker, the inquest was told.

At around 2:20 pm staff noticed that Simon was wearing sunglasses and that when he removed them his eyes were rolling. A little later at around 2.30pm a patient informed staff that Simon was unwell.

Staff declared a medical emergency and an ambulance was called just after 3pm. Simon’s condition rapidly and seriously deteriorated and despite attempts to resuscitate him, Simon died just after 4.40pm.

A post-mortem examination recorded his cause of death as an MDMA overdose. A serious incident report completed by investigators for The Priory Group was unable to establish how Simon had obtained the drug, the inquest was told.

The report suggested areas for improvement including documenting the result of urine drug screening and staff remaining vigilant at all times in respect of patients where there is a known risk of taking illicit substances. Following Simon’s death, various measures have been taken by The Priory to help strengthen the systems and safeguards in place, including the installation of CCTV on the hospital site and the undertaking of more robust drug screening and searches of patients on admission.

Nozalie said after the inquest: “It is almost impossible to find the words to describe the hurt and pain our family feel following Simon’s death. He was loved by all his family and there’s not a day goes by that we do not miss him and think about him.

“The delay in his inquest reaching a final hearing has added to the trauma our family has experienced. Simon had struggled with mental illness and we hoped that going into Kneesworth House would allow him to receive the care he needed. We thought he would be safe and well cared for.

“On the day we were told he’d died our lives changed forever. It’s coming up to five years since that day and while time has moved on for people, it stood still for our family. Trying to come to terms with his death has been made all the harder because of the many unanswered questions we have had about what happened to Simon.

“We remain devastated at the way in which Simon died and that despite being in a place where he was supposed to be safe he had managed to come into contact with drugs. We accept that changes have been made by The Priory Group since Simon’s death in 2017 but unfortunately it is too little too late for Simon and for our family. ”

Read more: Whistleblower claims Cambs ambulance service is ‘unsustainable’

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “Families expect their loved ones to be safe in specialist mental health units, yet even as a detained patient Simon was able to access illicit drugs. INQUEST is deeply concerned by the number of deaths occurring at Priory run mental health units nationally. Basic failures in patient management and observations recur time and time again, yet little changes.

“How many more people must die before the NHS and government reconsider commissioning services from a company that puts profit over patient safety?”

A spokesperson for Priory said: “We would like to extend again our sincere condolences to the Cohen family for their loss. The inquest sadly became very delayed by the pandemic and it is very difficult for the family to wait this long to hear the jury’s conclusion about how Simon came by his death.

“The jury found no criticism of the care provided to Simon, and could not conclude how he accessed the drug. This was consistent with our own internal investigation, which was shared with the court and the family a number of years prior to the inquest.

“The court heard of the continuous improvements made at Kneesworth, to ensure we carry out appropriate searches to balance the patient’s rights with the desire to keep them safe. The Coroner was satisfied that we are doing all we can to manage those risks. We have invested more than £ 40m over the last three years in improving and enhancing safety across our organization.Priory undergoes regular scrutiny of our services by external agencies including the NHS and the CQC and the overwhelming majority of Priory sites are rated ‘good’ or better by UK independent regulators. ”

Get more local news from CambridgeshireLive straight to your inbox for free HERE .

.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
KQ Education Group