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Patient’s Death Exposes ‘Gross Failures’ at Mental Health Clinic

In an unusual case that exposed serious shortcomings in the care provided by a mental health clinic, the widow and young daughter of a patient who threw himself under a train after going missing from a ward have won substantial compensation.

The man, who was aged 37 and whose wife was pregnant with their first child at the time, was an in-patient at the clinic when he took his own life. Following an inquest, a coroner found that there had been gross failures in his care at the clinic. Basic observations had not been carried out and nursing records had subsequently been deliberately falsified.

Opportunities to search for him at an early stage had been missed and the various failures indicated that the ward on which he was treated frequently had inadequate numbers of staff with an inappropriate skill mix. There was a lack of discipline, with staff failing to accept the authority of a nurse in charge. Management had been informed of some issues but had failed to listen or take appropriate action.

In the circumstances, lawyers launched proceedings against the company that ran the clinic on behalf of the man’s widow and three-year-old daughter. The company agreed to settle the claim for a sum that was kept confidential. In approving the compromise, the High Court expressed the hope that the end of the case would provide some closure to the bereaved family.

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