Hospital fined £650k after young patient who escaped from mental health unit killed by train

Matthew Caseby, 23, was a personal trainer who lived in London  (PA)
Matthew Caseby, 23, was a personal trainer who lived in London (PA)

A major care provider has been fined £650,000 after admitting safety failings in the death of a vulnerable man who escaped from a mental health hospital and was killed by a train just hours later.

The Priory Group, one of the largest private mental health hospital providers in the UK, pleaded guilty to exposing Matthew Caseby, 23, to serious risk of harm while he was an inpatient at its Woodbourne Hospital in Birmingham in 2020.

His father Richard Caseby said the Priory Group had to be “dragged kicking and screaming” to face hard evidence over its failings over his son’s care.

In a victim impact statement which he read to the court, Mr Caseby added that his son had died needlessly and that, in the aftermath, Priory Healthcare had made the family’s lives “indescribably more painful”.

Caseby, a personal trainer, was killed by a train 14 hours after absconding from the hospital, where he had been left alone in the courtyard and climbed over a 2.3m-high courtyard fence. Other patients had escaped from the same courtyard before.

On Friday, Priory Healthcare Ltd admitted breaching the 2008 Health and Social Care Act, by failing to provide safe care and treatment “resulting in Matthew Caseby and other service users being exposed to a significant risk of avoidable harm”. A second charge brought under the same legislation was withdrawn.

The charge came after an investigation into the death of Caseby conducted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and follows a three-year campaign by Caseby’s father.

The £650,000 fine is double the amount handed to the Priory Group following previous criminal hearings brought against it by the CQC.

An inquest in April 2022 found neglect by the hospital, where Caseby was an NHS-funded patient, had contributed to his death.

Following the inquest verdict, Birmingham and Solihull senior coroner Louise Hunt urged health chiefs to consider imposing minimum standards for perimeter fences at acute mental health units.

Opening the case against Priory Healthcare at Birmingham magistrates’ court, CQC barrister James Marsland said other patients had absconded from the ward on previous occasions.

The Priory Group was also fined over the death of Amy El-Keria at its Ticehurst House hospital in East Sussex (PA)
The Priory Group was also fined over the death of Amy El-Keria at its Ticehurst House hospital in East Sussex (PA)

Mr Marsland said: “There was a courtyard [on the ward] which service users were able to access. Part of the perimeter was a fence, which at its shortest was 2.3m tall.

“The prosecution say that they failed to provide safe care and treatment in that they failed to properly assess the risk.

“The prosecution do not suggest that the defendant is to be sentenced on the basis that it has caused the death of Matthew.”

Mitigating for Priory Healthcare, whose chief executive Rebekah Cresswell attended the court hearing, Paul Greaney KC said: “The company’s conduct in relation to this prosecution has been wholly co-operative and responsible.

“It should be publicly understood that the company has not admitted any charge alleging it caused Mr Caseby’s death.”

The defence lawyer added that the company had pleaded guilty on the basis that it had exposed patients to a risk of avoidable harm by not carrying out a full review of three previous abscondments from the ward, not all of which took place over the same fence.

The first two incidents in 2018 and 2019 resulted in no injuries to patients. But the third incident in July 2020 saw a male patient, who visited a supermarket, suffering a cut to the leg.

The Priory Group has received fines previously following prosecutions by the CQC and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The first in 2019 for £300,000 came after the death of 14-year-old Amy El-Keria who was at its Ticehurst Hospital in East Sussex. The second by the HSE in November 2020 came after the death of 21-year-old Fancesca Whyatt, who took her life at Roehampton Priory Hospital.

In September 2023 a young woman called Amina Ismail died at the Priory Cheadle Royal hospital in Manchester, following three deaths the year before.

Caseby, who lived in London, was originally detained under the Mental Health Act following reports of a man running onto railway tracks near Oxford five days before his death.

A Priory spokesperson, said: “We would like to repeat how deeply sorry we are to Matthew’s family, and once again apologise unreservedly for the shortcomings in the care provided to Matthew in 2020. We take our responsibilities extremely seriously and have implemented all the recommendations identified during the investigation process and the inquest into Matthew’s death.”

It said changes made include raising the height of the fencing at Woodbourne Hospital. It said it had cooperated fully with the CQC’s investigation.

This story was updated to include a comment from The Priory Group.