Fat cat boss of private mental health firm receives £445,000 pay rise despite hospitals failing autistic patients

Cygnet has almost doubled the package handed to its highest-paid director

Nine of the company’s hospitals were failed this year by the official watchdog

Failings include the killing of one patient and the preventable suicide of another

A private mental health firm has been accused of ‘disgraceful’ behaviour in handing huge pay rises to top executives despite safety failings, including the killing of one patient and the preventable suicide of another.

Cygnet has almost doubled the package handed to its highest-paid director – most likely to be chief executive Tony Romero – from £508,000 to £953,000, according to its latest accounts

The revelation comes after nine of its hospitals were failed this year by the official watchdog. In the latest case, a Coventry hospital for women was threatened with closure on Christmas Eve after inspectors found serious safety, staffing and hygiene issues.

The firm also saw ten staff arrested in May after an undercover BBC documentary, Panorama: Hospital Undercover Abuse Scandal, at Whorlton Hall in County Durham exposed cruelty and abuse towards people with autism and learning disabilities. The 17-bed hospital was later closed.

The disclosure of big pay rises for Cygnet’s senior management despite the firm’s track record on safety and staffing sparked fury last night from politicians, patients and their families.

‘After a year of scandals and unsafe care in their services, it is disgraceful that Cygnet bosses have been rewarded with a big pay rise,’ said Barbara Keeley, Labour’s Shadow Care Minister.

‘The families of patients with autism, learning disabilities and psychiatric problems stuck in inadequate mental health units run by Cygnet will rightly be furious. NHS funding should be used for patient care, not for huge payouts to private bosses.’

According to its annual report Cygnet Health UK – which boasts that it ‘did business’ with 228 NHS purchasing bodies last year to fill more than 100 facilities – increased spending on ‘emoluments’ for directors from £912,000 to £2.4 million.

The firm’s operating profits surged from £40 million in 2017 to £45 million last year, assisted by the takeover of a 25-unit rival. Directors also cashed in significant share options with Universal Health Services, Cygnet’s parent company based in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, Cygnet was condemned for ‘unbelievable’ failings by the parents of Claire Greaves, a 25-year-old with anorexia and mental health struggles, who took her own life at its purpose-built Coventry hospital. An inquest found long-term use of segregation had fuelled her mental decline – then insufficient staffing, reduced observations and other care failures contributed to her death last year.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which had raised concerns before the tragedy, revealed there was a second death at the unit this year.

Last week, it placed the unit in special measures and shut down one ‘dirty, unhygienic’ ward after inspectors found unacceptable levels of self-harm, staff shortages and routine use of restraint.

‘Staff and patients had been telling managers for more than five months that lack of regular staff was a problem, but no effective action had been taken,’ said its report.

Another inquest this year into the strangling of Linda Goswell by a fellow patient at a Cygnet hospital in Bradford highlighted staff failures.

Both women were supposed to be checked every 15 minutes yet the killer slipped unnoticed into Goswell’s room for 42 minutes.‘

Had the correct observations and procedures taken place, there was a possibility that death may have been prevented,’ concluded the jury. A nurse was dismissed after the killing for gross misconduct.

Source: daily mail

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