Christie Harnett death: Family welcomes move to prosecute North East mental health trust

A mental health trust is being prosecuted over the death of a teenager who took her own life at a hospital in Middlesbrough. 

Christie Harnett was one of two teenage girls to die in 2019 at West Lane Hospital, which was run by the Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

Following their deaths the trust was rated inadequate and West Lane Hospital was shut down by inspectors.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) confirmed on Tuesday 28 June that it would be bringing a prosecution against the trust.

The charges brought claim the trust failed to provide safe care and treatment, exposing 17-year-old Christie to a significant risk of avoidable harm.

Welcoming the news, Christie's father Michael Harnett said: "We all gave a big cheer this morning when we got the phone call to say they are going to prosecute.

"It’s been three very hard long years. It’s almost validation for us that it wasn’t just us being twisty parents."

Monday marked three years since the death of Christie in June 2019. She was found dead in a bathroom at West Lane Hospital.

Weeks later another patient, 17-year-old Nadia Sharrif took her own life.

West Lane Hospital was later shut down by the CQC.

Nadia Sharrif, 17, took her own life weeks after Christie Harnett. Credit: Family photo

Speaking on the confirmation of a prosecution being brought, a CQC spokesperson said: "In these circumstances, CQC look at all the evidence to determine if it meets the threshold for CQC to prosecute the provider.

"In this case it was concluded that it did meet the threshold and a prosecution was necessary and in the public interest.

"Our main priority is always the safety of people using health and social care services, and if we have concerns we will not hesitate to take action in line with our regulatory powers."

Christie and Nadia Sharrif's deaths are subject to an independent investigation by NHS England.

It is also looking into the death of 18-year-old Emily Moore who died at another of the trust's hospitals, but who had been a patient at West Lane.

The report is due to be published in the autumn.

An independent investigation by NHS England is also looking into the death of 18-year-old Emily Moore. Credit: Family photo

Mr Harnett said he would continue to fight for change in honour of his daughter, adding: "She always said she wanted to make a change when she got out. She never got out so we are doing it for her."

A spokesperson for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: "We have fully cooperated with the Care Quality Commission’s investigation and continue to work closely with them.

"We have made significant changes both in personnel and how we treat those in our care and we promise Christie’s family that we are working extremely hard to continue to improve as they have every right to expect."

West Lane Hospital reopened in April 2021. It is now called Acklam Road Hospital and is run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

The CQC said it would report further as soon as it was able to do so.

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