A psychiatric patient who failed in a suicide attempt has been awarded £400,000 compensation.
A High Court judge said the patient had experienced “undue suffering” after being insufficiently monitored by the staff in the hospital where he was admitted.
Patient Noel Davison, 48, had attempted suicide by jumping in front of a train at Highgate Tube station. He survived with a serious head wound and pelvic fractures.
Mr Justice David Steel told the court that Mr Davison had “suffered undue pain, suffering and loss of amenity” as a result of being let down by the mental health team at Whittington Hospital, run by Camden and Islington Foundation Trust.
The trust refused to admit liability. But the NHS Litigation Authority agreed to pay the patient £400,000 in compensation.
Mr Davison was admitted to Whittington Hospital in north London on January 2, 2004, and was assessed and kept on a ward. He later discharged himself, but returned six days later before walking out again on January 13.
Mr Davison was known to have suicidal thoughts and his lawyers claimed he should have been more strictly monitored.
The lawyers alleged negligence by staff in failing to take ‘sufficient steps’ to ensure that Mr Davison remained at the unit, or returned there following his second walk-out. It was also claimed they failed to properly assess his mental state.
Opinion appears to be divided over the settlement.
Scott Stevens, from the charity Camden Mental Health Consortium, fears psychiatric wards could become more oppressive as a result of patients being “treated more restrictively”.
But Peter Jones, chairman of Islington Borough Users Group Mental Health, said: “I am very pleased the High Court is taking this issue seriously. NHS trust and accident and emergency staff need to look at this and consider their own responsibilities.”
The trust said it was satisfied that the settlement had been approved.
Marjorie Wallace of the charity SANE told the Daily Mail: “We hope this will make psychiatric units much more careful in protecting the lives of their patients. It is not unusual for this to happen.
“People walk out of wards, sometimes due to a under staffing, sometimes due to a culture of not wanting to interfere with a person’s liberty, and quite often it is down to not enough care in preventing people from leaving when they are disturbed or depressed and failing to carefully assess the risks they pose to themselves.”