Anne had died because of multiple failings by Surrey and Borders in their management of a low mood that became a dangerous depression. They failed to adequately risk assess her following a referral by her GP, to ensure she had appropriate support from a care co-ordinator, nor did they ensure she had appropriate therapy. They made multiple changes to her medication and did not monitor the effects. All these failings combined to cause her condition to deteriorate.
Anne lived life to the full with much-loved family and friends. She had struggled with her mental health previously, particularly following the suicide of her father. With appropriate treatment however, she was able to manage her mood and bounce back to continue living a full and active life. Her condition was entirely curable.
In early 2018, Anne experienced increasing anxiety and a deterioration in her mental health. Her husband became very concerned and went with her to see her GP on many occasions. Her GP was supportive, but when her treatment did not lead to improvement, referred her to the local mental health team at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In her referral letter, the GP noted that Anne's father had committed suicide himself, that Anne wondered whether this was also her fate, and that she needed to be seen urgently.
She was subsequently assessed by a Community Psychiatric Nurse in May 2018. Despite what had been written by her GP, the Community Psychiatric Nurse failed to document key aspects of Anne's condition, not least her family history of suicide, her deteriorating condition, her husband's concerns and relevant risk factors that would have helped to manage her condition. A full risk assessment was not completed and Anne was not provided with a care co-ordinator to act as a point of contact.
Anne's condition continued to deteriorate. John called the Trust on numerous occasions seeking additional support. Despite this, no care co-ordinator was assigned and changes were made to her medication over the phone and without a further face-to-face assessment. Anne's condition continued to deteriorate and she tragically committed suicide in June 2018.
John initially tried to work with the Trust which carried out an internal investigation, but was very concerned with the findings that suggested it had made several mistakes, yet did not link those to her death. He then instructed Caron Heyes and Jamie Green to investigate the circumstances of Anne's death further with a view to recovering damages for her children, and get acknowledgement from the Trust that their errors caused Anne's death.
They instructed an expert Community Psychiatric Nurse and a Consultant Psychiatrist who both criticised various aspects of Anne's treatment. They concluded that with appropriate treatment it was likely that her condition would have improved and she would not have committed suicide. Armed with this advice, Caron and Jamie wrote to the Trust which responded to our allegations of negligence suggesting they had not made any mistakes. Despite this denial, the Trust also made an offer to settle the claim. Having prepared a detailed valuation of the claim, the legal team negotiated with the Trust to settle the claim and, following a settlement meeting, agreed on a significant six-figure settlement. The damages will secure financial security for the children's future.
Following the settlement, John said:
''It was not an easy decision for me to fight this claim and endure all the raking up of memories that would inevitably ensue, but some things made it more bearable. For one, while I can’t pretend it was an easy emotional process, Caron and Jamie made it much easier for me by being the perfect combination of professional and empathetic.
"They communicated with great clarity at every stage of the process, so that I always knew exactly where we were. I always had the absolute impression that it was more than just a job for them. They showed a tremendous understanding and support for what me and my children have been through.
"Of course, nothing can replace a loved one, but the financial settlement, with all its symbolism – an acknowledgement that Anne's death was avoidable - will make my children’s lives easier moving forward and that’s the least they deserve.’’
For further information about medical negligence claims, please call Jamie Green on 0330 460 6771 or email Jamie.Green@fieldfisher.com or please call Caron Heyes on 03304606743 or email email@example.com.
Sign up to our email digest