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Case Study

Settlement following failings in adult mental health services at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Jamie Green successfully concluded a case brought by Jane Best* in her own right as a secondary victim, and on behalf of the estate of her late son Stephen*. Stephen died following failings at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust in south-east London.

Stephen suffered from autism, which was diagnosed at age 4. He had behavioural problems and developed psychiatric issues in his teenage years. These were stabilised and Stephen made great strides in his late teens with support from the local paediatric mental health services and a tertiary paediatric service set up specifically to treat children with autism. With appropriate support and medication, Stephen was able to begin studying at college, formed a close-knit group of friends and learned to drive.

When Stephen turned 18, his care needed to be transferred to the adult psychiatric teams. Despite very strong recommendations from his paediatric mental health service and the tertiary autism service that he continue to be closely monitored, a referral to the local adult mental health service, part of South London and Maudsley, was rejected because his condition was 'stable'. While referrals to tertiary autism-based adult services (also based at South London and Maudsley) were made, there were significant delays due to a combination of lost paperwork, delays in acquiring funding for an initial assessment and delays after the initial assessment to fund treatment.

As a result of these delays and the lack of supervision, Stephen's condition deteriorated. He became more withdrawn and had problems sleeping which led him to miss college. Despite pleas from his mother for additional support, none was given. Stephen's condition continued to deteriorate and he tragically committed suicide shortly before his 21st birthday. 

Jane returned home from work to find that her son had committed suicide. She called for an ambulance and tried to resuscitate him but was unsuccessful. She suffered from severe depression following her son's death and as a result of witnessing the immediate aftermath of his suicide. She became suicidal herself and required considerable care and support from her friends and family to cope. She was diagnosed with, and continues to suffer from, a severe adjustment disorder and enhanced depression, which affects all aspects of her life.

Jane subsequently instructed Jamie to investigate the claim. He obtained expert evidence from a forensic psychiatrist expert in treating patients with autism. He was critical of the treatment provided to Stephen and concluded that, had he received appropriate support and treatment, he would not have committed suicide. Jamie also obtained evidence from a psychiatrist to assess Jane's condition and prognosis.

Jamie then sent a Letter of Claim to the Trust inviting them to admit liability, which they denied. Jamie was obliged to issue formal Court proceedings. The Trust admitted some failings in their defence but still denied liability. Despite this denial, the Trust made an offer to settle the claim. Jamie was able to value the claims and begin settlement negotiations with the Trust and secured a high five-figure settlement for Jane in respect of both claims.

Following conclusion, Jane said:

"I found Fieldfisher on the internet. I wanted justice for my son because he had been ignored in life by authorities that should have been there to help me protect him.

"When Jamie took on my case, he made me feel that my son’s life was not lost in vain. He took the time to explain the process he had to follow step by step and kept me updated on a regular basis.

There were times I wanted to give up on it all, but Jamie kept my spirits up and led me to the finish line.Jamie is hardworking, conscientious, patient and thoughtful and will always give his very best to ensure justice is served

I will always be thankful for Jamie coming into my life and will always highly recommend him to others."

*names changed     

For further information about medical negligence claims, please call Jamie Green on 0330 460 6771 or email Jamie.Green@fieldfisher.com.

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