An NHS trust said it failed in its duty of care to a student who was killed after escaping from Mill View Hospital in Hove.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the mental health clinic, made a public apology to Janet Muller’s family today (May 16), and said that it had ‘worked hard to address the shortcomings identified following Janet’s tragic, untimely death’.
Janet, 21, was a University of Brighton student at the Eastbourne campus, but was found dead in the boot of a burnt-out car in Ifield on March 13 2015.
Christopher Jeffrey-Shaw, of Lakeside, Beckenham, London, was sentenced to 17 years for her manslaughter.
An inquest heard Janet went missing from Mill View Hospital, in Hove, on March 12, 2015, and concluded that there were multiple failings from the hospital, run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, in looking after Janet in the days leading up to her death.
In a report issued by the coroner’s office, it said Janet, originally from Germany, was first taken to Mill View on March 3, 2015. She agreed to an informal admission, however, the report said on March 6 Janet stated she was upset and asked to leave.
Six days later she absconded twice from the hospital, with the second leading to her death.
Her family said she climbed over a wall in the garden – which was acknowledged as inadequate in the coroner’s report.
Sam Allen, chief executive, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have agreed with the family of Ms Janet Müller to issue the following statement as part of the conclusion of civil proceedings.
“On 13 March 2015, Ms Janet Müller was unlawfully killed by Christopher Jeffrey-Shaw after absconding from Mill View Hospital the previous day, where she was detained under our care.
“I want to apologise unreservedly to Janet’s family. I have met with them and heard about the impact of their loss, as well as their experience of the criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquest and civil proceedings that followed. I have apologised to them in person and agreed with them I would do so again in public.
“Words of apology from me cannot bring Janet back. The awful events that happened after she absconded from our care will forever be borne by her family. I want to give my personal assurance that we have worked hard to address the shortcomings identified following Janet’s tragic, untimely death. Providing the best possible care is a continuous process of improvement. This is something we treat with the utmost seriousness.
“Janet did not receive the care she should have from us. We did not recognise the extent of her desire to leave hospital, manage the risk of this happening or keep her clinical records up to date. We failed in our duty of care to Janet, for which I am truly sorry.
“Specifically, on the day before Janet died we did not keep her under close observation, even though she had already absconded before earlier that day. Following her return to the ward, we should have fully evaluated the risk of her trying to leave hospital again. We should then have made sure she was kept within eyesight of a member of staff at all times in order to support her and keep her safe.
“Clear and complete clinical records are a vital part of providing high quality care. However, Janet’s clinical records – including her care plan and risk assessment – were not kept up to date whilst she was under our care in hospital, even after she had absconded once.
“Meeting with Janet’s family reinforced to me the need to look long and hard at how we work with, listen to and support the families of people who use our services. It is so important we get this right and we will continue doing everything possible to achieve this.”