Health trust apology after reports into deaths of three teenagers seeking mental health care

Christie Harnett, Nadia Sharif and Emily Moore

A health trust has apologised “unreservedly” over the care of three teenage girls who died within eight months at hospitals under its control.

It comes after three separate independent investigations found failings by Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust contributed to the deaths of 17-year-old Christie Harnett, Nadia Sharif, also 17, and 18-year-old Emily Moore who had all been diagnosed with complex mental health needs and took their own lives.

Their families have called for a public inquiry after the reports made a total of 47 recommendations.

The investigations looked at the care and treatment of all three girls at West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough, and in addition for Emily, at Lanchester Road Hospital in Durham, as well as the actions from partner organisations.

Responding to the reports’ findings, Brent Kilmurray, chief executive of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: “On behalf of the trust, I would like to apologise unreservedly for the unacceptable failings in the care of Christie, Nadia and Emily which these reports have clearly identified.

“The girls and their families deserved better while under our care. I know everyone at the trust offers their heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the girls’ families and friends for their tragic loss.

“We must do everything in our power to ensure these failings can never be repeated.

“However, we know that our actions must match our words. We accept in full the recommendations made in the reports – in fact the overwhelming majority of them have already been addressed by us where applicable to our services.”

Mr Kilmurray, who became chief executive at the Trust the year after the girls’ deaths in 2019 and 2020, added: “It is clear from the reports that no single individual or group of individuals were solely to blame – it was a failure of our systems with tragic consequences.

“We have since undergone a thorough change in our senior leadership team and our structure and, as importantly, changed the way we care and treat our patients. However, the transformation needed is not complete. We need to get better and ensure that respect, compassion and responsibility is at the centre of everything we do.”

Alistair Smith, the lawyer representing the girls’ families, said: “Whilst these reports detail the many failings in caring for these three women, we believe the problems are not in the past, that they persist to this very day and are far more widespread, affecting many more families in the North East.

“The problems identified by this report also put the whole provision of mental health services for the young across the UK under an intense spotlight.”

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