Relatives Instruct Lawyers To Support Them At Hearing Following Patient’s Death At Priory Group Run Kneesworth House Hospital
The family of a man who died while detained in a private mental health hospital are calling for lessons to be learned following an inquest into his death.
Alex Nova, previously known as Simon Cohen, was pronounced dead by paramedics around two hours after he was found unwell by staff at The Priory Group run Kneesworth House Hospital, which is a high dependency rehabilitation unit near Royston in North Hertfordshire. An inquest heard that he had taken a fatal amount of MDMA and sadly died as a result. Simon had a long history of substance misuse which was known to Kneesworth House.
Following the death of Simon, who had changed his name by deed poll to Alex Nova in 2016 but was still known as Simon by friends and family, his mum Nozalie Shuter instructed expert public law and human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help secure answers and support them through the inquest process.
Simon’s family have now spoken out. It comes after an inquest into the death of the 29-year-old who died in June 2017. The jury concluded that Simon’s death was drug related but were unable to determine where the MDMA had come from.
Expert Opinion“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’s vital that they receive the best level of care at all times. It is fundamental that lessons are learned to improve patient safety.”
Sophie Farrah - Associate Solicitor
Simon, of Bushey, Hertfordshire, had been detained under the Mental Health Act consequent to his diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia complicated by drug use.
The inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall was told that Simon had been admitted to the Wortham Ward at Kneesworth House Hospital on 16 June, 2017, from a NHS hospital. The referral had been made by the NHS.
On 21 June it was agreed he should be given leave outside the hospital grounds up to four times a day for a maximum of 30 minutes each time and be accompanied by a member of staff.
On 27 June Simon was escorted outside at around 11.05am to have a cigarette. He was accompanied by a healthcare worker, the inquest was told.
At around 2:20pm staff noticed that Simon was wearing sunglasses and when he removed them that his eyes were rolling. At around 2.30pm a patient informed staff that Simon was unwell. Staff declared a medical emergency and an ambulance was called at just after 3pm. Simon’s condition rapidly and seriously deteriorated.
Despite attempts to resuscitate him, Simon sadly died just after 4.40pm.
A post-mortem examination recorded his cause of death as MDMA overdose.
A serious incident report completed by investigators for The Priory Group was unable to establish how Simon had come by the MDMA, the inquest was told.
The report did make areas for improvement including the documenting of 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.
As a result of 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’s 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 don’t 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’s 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.”
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?”