Cawston Park: Damning report into deaths of three people at Norfolk hospital

  • Watch a full report from ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell

A damning report into the deaths of three vulnerable people at a failed Norfolk hospital has called for a radical review of the care system.

The Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board report found significant failures at Jeesal Cawston Park, near Aylsham, which closed in May after "consistent failures in meeting standards".

The Jeesal Akman Care Corporation, which pledged never to operate hospitals again, said it was "deeply sorry" for the deaths of Ben King, 32, Joanna Bailey, 36, and Nicholas Briant, 33.

Joan Maughan, Chair of the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board, said: "Board members reviewed the report and these tragic deaths with genuine heartfelt sympathy for the families who have lost loved ones. That's not enough.

Joanna Bailey, who had learning difficulties, epilepsy and sleep apnoea, died at Cawston Park in 2018.

Joanna Bailey with her father Keith. Credit: The Bailey family

The hospital was short-staffed at the time. When Joanna was found unconscious, workers failed to start CPR. Her care was costing around £1,000 a day.

"They take the money. They get paid big bucks and they don't provide anything," said her father Keith Bailey.

"They just keep people in there, locked away, doing nothing, on tablets. Give them another tablet, dose them up. Stick them in seclusion. Who cares? That's the attitude."

Ben King, who had Down's Syndrome, died at Cawston Park last year after going into cardiac arrest.

Norfolk Police are investigating whether he was ill-treated. They've released a picture of 60-year-old Dami Tobi Ayans, who they're trying to trace in connection with their investigation.

Police are trying to trace Dami Tobi Ayans. Credit: Norfolk Police

Mr King's mum Gina Egmore said her son's death was a scandal.

"The doctor rang to say Ben was unwell and in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital," she said. "By the time I'd got there, he was brain dead.

"I had to turn my baby's machines off. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life.

"Ben was my reason to live."

Ben King died at Cawston Park last year. Credit: Family picture

The independent report into the deaths at Cawston Park described "indifferent and harmful hospital practices".

It highlighted "excessive use of restraint and seclusion by unqualified staff" and a "high tolerance of inactivity".

"Unless this hospital and similar units cease to receive public money, such lethal outcomes will persist," the report said.

It added that "not a great deal has changed" since the abuse scandal at the former Winterbourne View private hospital near Bristol, which was exposed in an undercover BBC Panorama documentary in 2011.

The report into the deaths at Cawston Park has made 13 recommendations to a series of agencies including the Law Commission, suggesting a review of the law around private companies caring for adults with learning disabilities and autism.

"Given the clear public interest in ensuring the well-being and safety of patients, and the public sponsorship involved, the Law Commission may wish to consider whether corporate responsibility should be based on corporate conduct, in addition to that of individuals, for example," the report said.

Margaret Flynn, who was commissioned by Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board to write the report, said the report highlights "failures of governance, commissioning, oversight, planning for individuals and professional practice".

Mr Briant, who had learning disabilities, died at the hospital in 2018 after swallowing a piece of a plastic cup.

The Jeesal Akman Care Corporation, said the care the three patients received at Cawston Hospital "fell far below the standards we would have expected".

"We are deeply sorry that we let the families down," said a spokesman. "We closed Cawston Park Hospital and whilst the property is owned by our holding company, we will never run it as hospital again nor will we ever operate any other hospital.

"We have read the report in full, and we hope our colleagues providing in-hospitalmental health will learn lessons from our mistakes, we in turn will learn any lessons thatare relevant to our residential care settings."