Step father of Newton Aycliffe teenager cycles to Downing Street to call for inquiry into TEWV

Michael Harnett is cycling from Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, to Downing Street, to deliver letters calling for a public inquiry into Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The step father of a County Durham teenager who died at a mental health hospital is cycling to Downing Street to call for a public inquiry into the trust which was caring for her.

Michael Harnett, from Newton Aycliffe, is cycling to London to deliver letters to the Government calling for an inquiry into Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust (TEWV).

His step daughter Christie was one of two teenagers to take her own life at the trust’s West Lane hospital in Middlesbrough in 2019.

Mr Harnett said: “It's been horrible. We just never thought it would happen. She was in somewhere that was supposed to keep her safe and she died.

“She was such an influence to everyone and we miss her smile and laugh everyday.”

Christie Harnett, 17, died at West Lane hospital in 2019. Credit: Family

He set off from their home in Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday 4 October and hopes to complete the 286 mile journey to London by Friday.

He said: “I am cycling to Downing Street with some letters from ourselves and other families with a brief description of what has happened to our children just saying we feel there should be a public inquiry."

Casey Tremain, Christie’s grandmother, said: “What was happening there needs national recognition and (they need) to get behind us families to do something about it and make change. We have to get our voices heard nationally.”

Christie was 17 when she died at West Lane in June 2019. The trust is now being prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission.

Six weeks after she died Nadia Sharif, who was also 17 and a patient at the hospital, took her own life.

Following her death inspectors shut the hospital down. It has since reopened under a new name and it is run by a different trust.

Christie and Nadia's deaths and the death of 18-year-old Emily Moore, who had been a patient at West Lane and died at Lanchester Road hospital, near Durham, which is also run by TEWV, are the subject of an independent investigation.

David Moore, Emily’s father, was among those to see off Mr Harnett on Tuesday.

He said: “If you don't do anything nothing happens. You have got to not stay silent and get your voice out there. There is a lot of stigma around mental health. It needs to be put out there.

“I'll never give up until we get a public inquiry because there is a lot more to be said and more people who need to speak up. The only way forward is a public inquiry.”

Emily Moore was 18 when she died at Lanchester Road hospital, near Durham. Credit: Family

TEWV chief executive Brent Kilmurray said: "Our hearts go out to the families and friends of Christie, Nadia and Emily for the loss they have suffered, and we are deeply sorry.”

He added: "We have made significant changes since 2019 both in personnel and how we treat those in our care. We know what needs to be done and I promise the families that we are working hard to deliver the changes they have every right to expect."

Michael Harnett set off from his home in Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

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