Grieving father calls for criminal inquiry into Priory following deaths of three women

At least 11 patients have died under the care of Cheadle Royal Hospital, inquests show

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Thursday 25 April 2024 05:55 BST
(Family handout)

A bereaved father whose vulnerable son died after managing to escape from the Priory has called for a criminal inquiry into the mental health care group after the deaths of three more patients.

Richard Caseby, who lost his son Matthew, has campaigned for three years against the privately run group after an inquest found his son’s death was contributed to by neglect.

The 23-year-old was able to abscond from the hospital over a fence which had previously been identified as a risk. He was hit by a train just hours later.

Mr Caseby’s call comes following the deaths of three women within weeks of one another in 2022 at the Cheadle Royal Hospital in Stockport: Beth Matthews, 26, Lauren Bridges, aged 20, and 30-year-old Deseree Fitzpatrick.

Mr Caseby, a former newspaper editor, told The Independent: “The Priory is a fundamentally dangerous company, one that persistently refuses to learn from its mistakes and neglect. The roll call of death and disgrace at its hospitals just gets longer.”

An inquest was told Matthew Caseby was able to leave the hospital by climbing over a courtyard fence (Family handout/PA)
An inquest was told Matthew Caseby was able to leave the hospital by climbing over a courtyard fence (Family handout/PA) (PA Media)

An inquest into the death of Miss Matthews found she took her own life and was subject to inadequate care, while in the two months prior, Ms Bridges and Ms Fitzpatrick died on the same ward.

A prevention of future deaths report, issued by coroners concerned over future risks to patients, found Ms Bridges, from Dorset, ended her life by ligature. It found her mental health deteriorated while she was waiting to be discharged from the unit.

For Ms Bridges, the jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure, not of suicide, as they found she “did not intend to take her own life”.

The coroner’s report warned the NHS and government that her case illustrated an “underfunding for local mental health beds” and an “over-reliance” on private hospitals for mental health beds.

Ms Fitzpatrick died on 23 January 2022. An inquest last year found she was on nine different medications when she was admitted to Cheadle Royal and also prescribed an additional anti-psychotic.

The inquest heard despite claims observations were carried out every 15 minutes, these were not carried out in line with policy. It is thought that she died between 4:30am and 6:30am, but staff recorded her as asleep and breathing during this time.

14-year-old Amy El-Keria died in 2019 at Ticehurst Hospital
14-year-old Amy El-Keria died in 2019 at Ticehurst Hospital

According to analysis by charity INQUEST, there have been at least 43 inquests into patient deaths in Priory Group Hospitals since 2011. Ten have been into patient deaths at Cheadle Royal Hospital.

The Priory was fined £650,000 following a prosecution brought by the CQC over the death of Matthew Caseby at its Woodbourne hospital in Birmingham.

The group has previously received fines 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.

Mr Caseby said: “Private providers like the Priory suck £2 billion from the NHS and UK taxpayers and yet standards of care are appalling. Whenever there are failings and neglect, the Priory’s reflex response is aggressive denial.

“The Priory should be investigated and prosecuted again. Waterland, the Dutch private equity owners of the Priory, only sit up and take notice when it is publicly condemned as a criminal company and landed with a big fine.”

A spokesperson for The Priory Group said the deaths of Beth Williams, Lauren Bridges and Deseree Fitzpatrick were “completely unconnected and happened on three separate wards offering different clinical services”.

It added: “The Priory is a safe provider and regulated in the same way as the NHS and other independent providers. Currently 84.3 per cent of our services are rated good or better by regulators, which is above the national average.

“We care for 28,000 people year who have overwhelmingly positive outcomes, and we work collaboratively with the NHS and our other commissioning partners to support some of the most complex and acutely unwell people in the country.”

Waterland was approached for comment.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call or text 988, or visit to access online chat from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.

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