Deaths at hospital highlights abuse by private providers

24 September 2021

An independent report into the deaths of three people with learning disabilities at a private hospital in Norfolk has highlighted a series of failings in a further example of shortcomings in the sector.

Relatives of Ben King, 32, Nicholas Briant, 33, and 36-year-old Joanna Bailey had described “indifferent and harmful hospital practices” at Cawston Park hospital, according to the report.

It made reference to “excessive use of restraint and seclusion by unqualified staff” and a “high tolerance of inactivity.” 

Mr Briant and Ms Bailey died in 2018, while Mr King died last year. An inquest into Mr King’s death said there had been a failure to diagnose him with a breathing condition and that inadequate consideration had been given to the use of a sedative.

Shoosmiths is highly experienced in representing bereaved families at inquests, legal hearings which can highlight inadequate care and shortcomings in medical treatment received.  

The firm also has extensive expertise in assisting relatives making claims on behalf of the estate of those who have passed away which covers (non exclusively), an amount for the additional pain and suffering that the deceased may have suffered due to negligence, loss of financial and non financial dependency on the deceased and funeral costs.

Sharon Banga, a specialist medical negligence solicitor based in Shoosmiths Birmingham office, said,

“We are really disappointed and concerned at the issues this case has highlighted. Cawston Park was placed into special measures by the Care Quality Commission in 2019, and was eventually closed this year. 

Yet Ben King died in 2020 and the spotlight is only being placed on these three tragic deaths now thanks to this report. People in these types of private residential establishments tend to be very vulnerable and therefore require an extra layer of protection. Clearly this is still not happening which is of concern with respect to the maintenance of patient safety and public confidence in the standard of care being provided.

“We regularly represent families who need answers as to how and why their loved ones died in organisations where care with compassion and focused clinical oversight is required.   ”

In the Cawston Park case, the independent report by Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board raised concerns about private establishments. It said: “Unless this hospital and similar units cease to receive public money, such lethal outcomes will persist.”

The report went on to make 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.

Many private nursing homes look after elderly and confused residents and similar issues of lack of care, neglect and even abuse, can occur.

Shoosmiths has acted for a number of claimants related to nursing homes, such as Peter Clarke, whose mother Elsie died nine days after going into a private nursing home.

The sprightly 93-year old had been due to stay for just two weeks after being treated in hospital for pneumonia.

Mr Clarke was unpresented at the inquest into his mother’s death but was later assisted by Shoosmiths’ serious injury lawyer Sarah Cunliffe, who specialises in cases of care home abuse and neglect.
She said family members may want to bring claims on behalf of their relatives for the sub-standard treatment they received whilst in a care/nursing home.

This can be very emotionally charged, protracted and upsetting but Shoosmiths offers support at all stages of the legal process.

Sarah Cunliffe says,

“Our solicitors can help when anyone or any organisation in a position of trust causes harm or distress to a vulnerable relative, either deliberately, or by failing to provide necessary care. 

“You may think it would be difficult to prove that abuse or neglect has taken place, especially if your loved one has a condition like dementia that impairs their recollection of events. That’s why it's vital to have expert lawyers who fully understand the legal processes involved on your side.” 



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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