Cawston patients’ lives cut short by profit-driven care system

An independent report has blasted central government and local agencies following the deaths of three people at a privately run hospital for adults with learning disabilities in Norfolk.

The Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board report looked at the deaths of Joanna Bailey, Nicholas Briant and Ben King at Cawston Park Hospital near Aylsham.

Jeesal, which ran Cawston Park, closed the hospital in May following a series of damning reports from the Care Quality Commission and being placed in special measures in September 2019.

The report says: “The relatives of the three adults, and those of other patients, described indifferent and harmful hospital practices, which ignored their questions and distress.

“They were not assisted by care management or coordination activities. People’s families could not value the unsafe grouping of certain patients, the excessive use of restraint and seclusion by unqualified staff, their relatives’ “overmedication,” or the hospital’s high tolerance of inactivity – all of which presented risks of further harm.

“In addition, these patients did not benefit from attention to the complex causes of their behaviour, to their mental distress or physical health care.”

And it calls for a review into the legal structure of private companies running care and hospital facilities, alongside a commitment to “ethical commissioning” which includes decent working standards and collective bargaining.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham described the report as “shocking” and sent condolences to the families of Joanna, Nicholas and Ben.

He said: “Their lives were cut short by a care system more intent on looking after profits than patients.

“Cawston was understaffed, staff were underpaid and undertrained – and ultimately left unable to provide the care people needed. Rather than face up to the costs of improving services, Jeesal just cut its losses and left the public to pick up the pieces.

“The report rightly raises serious questions about the role private hospitals play in our care system. It’s up to the government to provide a properly funded, properly managed health and social care system so catastrophic failings like these won’t be repeated.”