Family of patient who died from drug overdose speak out after inquest

Alex Nova, formerly and colloquially know as Simon Cohen

Alex Nova, formerly and colloquially know as Simon Cohen - Credit: Irwin Mitchell LLP

The family of a 29-year-old man who died of a drug overdose while being held in a private mental health hospital have spoken out after their loved one's death.

Alex Nova, formerly and commonly known by friends and family as Simon Cohen, was found by the staff of the Priory Group-run Kneesworth House Hospital feeling unwell - two hours later he was pronounced dead by paramedics.

The high dependency unit near Royston in North Hertfordshire knew of his history of substance abuse.

An inquest into the incident found that Simon had taken a fatal amount of MDMA which led to his death.

Alex Nova, formerly and colloquially know as Simon Cohen

Alex Nova, formerly and colloquially know as Simon Cohen - Credit: Irwin Mitchell LLP

The inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall was told that Simon was admitted to the Wortham Ward at Kneesworth on June 16, 2017, from an NHS hospital through an NHS referral.

On June 21 Simon was arranged to have leave outside the hospital grounds for 30 minutes up to four times a day while accompanied by a member of staff.

On June 27, Simon was escorted and accompanied outside by a healthcare worker at around 11.05am to have a cigarette. At around 2:20pm staff noticed Simon wearing sunglasses and when they were removed his eyes were rolling.

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At around 2.30pm a patient told staff that Simon was unwell and staff declared a medical emergency.. An ambulance was called at just after 3pm.

Simon’s condition rapidly and seriously deteriorated, he died just after 4.40pm despite attempts at resuscitation.

The port-mortem examination recorded the cause of death to be an MDMA overdose.

Investigators created a serious incident report for The Priory Group and they were unable to establish how Simon had obtained the MDMA, the inquest was told.

The report also detailed measures The Priory Group has now taken after Simon's death to improve their safeguarding.

After the hearing Simon’s mother, Nozalie Shuter, said: “It’s almost impossible to find the words to describe the hurt and pain our family feel following Simon’s death.

“We remain devastated at the way in which Simon died and that despite being in a place where he was supposed to be safe he had managed to come into contact with drugs.

"We accept that changes have been made by The Priory Group since Simon’s death in 2017 but unfortunately it is too little too late for Simon and for our family.” 

A spokesperson for Priory said: "We would like to extend again our sincere condolences to the Cohen family for their loss.

"The inquest sadly became very delayed by the pandemic and it is very difficult for the family to wait this long to hear the jury’s conclusion about how Simon came by his death.

"The jury found no criticism of the care provided to Simon, and could not conclude how he accessed the drug. This was consistent with our own internal investigation, which was shared with the court and the family a number of years prior to the inquest.

"The court heard of the continuous improvements made at Kneesworth, to ensure we carry out appropriate searches to balance the patient’s rights with the desire to keep them safe. The Coroner was satisfied that we are doing all we can to manage those risks.

"We have invested more than £40m over the last three years in improving and enhancing safety across our organisation. Priory undergoes regular scrutiny of our services by external agencies including the NHS and the CQC and the overwhelming majority of Priory sites are rated ‘good’ or better by UK independent regulators."