Family of tragic West Lane patient welcome hospital's reopening under new name

The family of a young girl who took her own life at a mental health hospital in Middlesbrough say they are relieved it has reopened - and ITV Tyne Tees has been given exclusive access.

Christie Harnett was one of two young women who died at West Lane Hospital in 2019.

Inspectors shut down the facility, which was run by Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust, but now it's about to bring patients back under a new name and new trust.   

Christie died in June 2019. A few weeks later another patient - 17 year old Nadia Sharrif - took her own life. 

Nadia Sharrif and Christie Harnett Credit: Family handout

Three wards at the hospital were shut down and care provided Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust was rated inadequate. 

I was there when she was born and I should not have been there when her life ended especially when she was in a place that was supposed to be keeping her safe.

Casey Tremain, Christie's grandmother

Our problem has never been in the hospital it was with the care. We're happy it's reopening, it should never have closed to start with but I think it's needed to solve a lot of the issues that were there but it's a good thing that it has finally reopened. 

Michael Harnett, Christie's step-father

Services are starting again - with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust in charge of opening a ten bed ward. 

The hospital, which has been renamed Lotus Ward, is part of the also renamed Acklam Road Hospital.

The Lotus Ward will care for people aged 13 to 18 years old with complex mental health needs.

Bedroom on Lotus ward

As well as assessment and treatment rooms there are three outdoor spaces, a gym, activity rooms and a classroom.

The newly renamed Acklam Road Hospital is ready to accept patients. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees
None of the staff at the new facility have worked at West Lane.
Lotus Ward

It will have more than 60 staff, none of whom worked at West Lane.   

The new team in charge says it is vital that it is reopening so patients can receive care closer to home. It is one of three mental health wards providing care for young people in the North East.

We place the utmost importance on the safety of our services users and staff. There have been many months of rigorous work done to ensure that this service will be working using best practices in line with our high standards of safety and effectiveness. “We have undertaken an open, values-based recruitment process to ensure we are getting the best staff to deliver a high quality, safe service. We have also invested significant time into the induction of new staff for this service.

Gary O’Hare, Executive Director of Nursing and Chief Operating Officer at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Christie's death and the failures of West Lane are the subject of an independent NHS England inquiry. Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust say they are unable to comment until it concludes. The inquiry will also look into the deaths of Nadia Sharrif and Emily Moore. Emily had been a patient at West Lane and took her own life on an adult mental health ward at Lanchester Road Hospital in County Durham in February 2020.