Hospital investigated over 'contentious' deaths goes bust owing £4m

Cawston Park Hospital, Tugay Akman

Tugay Akman, director of the Jeesal Group, promised lessons will be learned from Cawston Park Hospital which has filed for liquidation - Credit: Colin Finch/Archant Library

The company behind a private hospital which is being investigated following the deaths of three patients has filed for liquidation owing nearly £4 million. 

The Jeesal Akman Care Corporation appointed liquidators in May having run the Cawston Park Hospital near Aylsham, which saw three patients die within 27 months of each other.

Chief executive of the Jeesal Group, Tugay Akman, said today that  "apologies must first go to the families" of the patients, as well as promising lessons had been learned and vowing the company will never again run a hospital. 

Mr Akman said: "The loss of these patients to their families is far greater than any pound signs a business may or may not lose. We did not start this business to not take care of people."

The deaths - labelled '"contentious" by charity Inquest - of Joanna Bailey, 36Nicholas Briant, 33, and Ben King, 32 - prompted the Norfolk Safeguarding Adult Board to launch an investigation into the hospital which closed in May 2021. 

Joanna Bailey died in April 2018 with the inquest finding that insufficient staffing and expired training lead to her death. 

Joanna Bailey

Joanna Bailey was 'a very jovial and happy child' who loved discos and karaoke, said her parents. - Credit: The Bailey Family

Nicholas Briant died on October 31 2019 after swallowing a piece of plastic cup. 

Ben King died in July 2019 following the "failure to identify the seriousness of a life-threatening situation".

Ben King, died at Cawston Park Hospital on July 29 2020

Ben King, died at Cawston Park Hospital on July 29 2020. An inquest into his death made a number of criticisms of the care he received. - Credit: Supplied courtesy of Ben King's family

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The company is part of the Jeesal Group based in Dereham, which specialises in caring for people with learning disabilities.

The care corporation's statement of affairs shows that the company owes £3,951,253.44 to creditors. 

It has assets totaling £350,750 with which it can attempt to balance the books. 

Creditors who will be paid first include staff - who are owed £68,000 in arrears and holiday pay. 

A further £360,000 is owed to employees and £125,081 is owed to trade creditors. 

But the bulk of the funds owed is to intercompany loans totalling £1,894,954.17.

The group is made up of parent group Jeesal Akman Holdings, Jeesal Support Services, Go Smart Care, Jeesal Residential Care Services, and Jeesal Akman Care Corporation.

The majority of the funds - £1,443,933.16 - is owed to Go Smart Care, but funds are owed to every other subsidiary of the business. 

Mr Akman said: "The circumstances which led to the closure of the company are a perfect storm. Firstly it was the investigations of the CQC, also the fact that the insurance went up and the fact that we upped staff's pay during the pandemic. We pumped money in from our other companies to allow us to do that.

The accident happened near Cawston Park. Pictures: David Bale

Cawston Park hospital, near Aylsham. - Credit: David Bale

"The families who own the companies have lost funds. We have not paid ourselves dividends for some time and we don't intend to because that's how we can ensure there is no impact on our other services."

The group's other services - a mixture of supported and residential homes - are based in Cromer, Hellesdon, Buxton, Fakenham and Taverham.

They operate under different management to the former staff at the Cawston Park Hospital and are unaffected. 

Mr Akman said: "We have patients in some of our homes which have been there for 20 years. It is their home and we will protect that." 

Mr Akman added that he will continue to support investigations into what went wrong at Cawston Park, saying: "We have always supported all of the investigations. We are working with Norfolk County Council and will continue to be open and honest. I will not hide.

"We realised that no matter how hard we work things can still go wrong, especially in a high-risk environment with 600 staff who can come and go, but the most important thing for us is to be open and honest." 

He added that the holding group which owns the Cawston Park Hospital site will not use the building for another hospital and will not sell it to a buyer who would utilise it for that use. 

Mr Akman said: "I've looked at the problems and the lessons to learn, though the services have always been run separately. 

"This was a very different and risky environment. It's very easy to say in hindsight we were too risk-adverse. All we can do is do things better. 

"We do not intend to open any hospitals ever again. We will not use that site to do anything to do with hospitals or care, and we will not sell it to somebody who will use it for a hospital."