Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust pleads guilty to charges over patient deaths

Christie Harnett, from Newton Aycliffe, died at West Lane Hospital in 2019. Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust has pleaded guilty to a charge in relation to her death. Credit: Family

A mental health trust has pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment for two patients who died in its care.

Christie Harnett, 17, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, and an unnamed patient took their own lives in hospitals run by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

During a hearing at Teesside Magistrates' Court on Tuesday 26 September, the trust has admitted breaching the health and social care act in relation to both of their deaths.

At the same hearing, the trust pleaded not guilty to a charge in relation to the death of 18-year-old Emily Moore, from Shildon, County Durham, who took her own life at Lanchester Road Hospital, near Durham, in 2020.

It means the trust will stand trial in relation to her care in February 2024.

Emily Moore, 18, who died at Lanchester Road Hospital, Durham, in 2020. Credit: Family

The mother of the unnamed patient, referred to as Patient X, spoke to ITV Tyne Tees about the impact of her daughter's death on her grandchildren.

She said: "She still thinks her mummy is coming home. She doesn't understand death and even now she panics if you go to the hospital or you are poorly - she'll panic.

"She thinks you'll disappear and you're not coming back. So it is difficult, and the trust is responsible for that.

"They didn't have to stand in front of my grandchildren and tell them their mummy wasn't coming back.

"I feel like part of me is missing. Every day I expect her to walk in."

The trust's investigation into the woman's death identified failures in her care, with insufficient risk assessments, missed opportunities for records to be updated and on the day she died a delay in medical help because a full inspection of her room was not carried out.

Her mother added: "I think it's right and just they should be taken to court. There were a lot of things lacking that should have been done that weren't done. You don't expect your children to go into a mental health service and come out dead.

"If they were going in for surgery you know there is a risk but that wasn't the case."

The family of Christie, who died at West Lane Hospital, Middlesbrough, in 2019, spoke to ITV Tyne Tees following the hearing.

Her grandmother Casey Tremain said: "It's been four-and-a-half years. It has taken so long. We'll never have justice for her because we can't ever have her back.

"When you hear her name it's debilitating. It stops my breath."

Michael Harnett, Christie's stepfather, who said the guilty plea brought a "little bit" of closure, added: "We've missed her 18th birthday and her 21st. We're never going to see her get married, have children. It's always going to be there."

Her death and treatment has already been subject to an NHS England inquiry, along with the death of Miss Moore.

A total of 120 faults and failures in "care and service delivery" across a number of agencies were found over the treatment provided to them.

A spokesperson for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “Today we gave our pleas to charges made by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

“We can’t begin to imagine just how difficult this is for the families and loved ones involved.

“We hope you can appreciate that we can’t comment further due to ongoing legal proceedings.” 

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