Human rights and psychiatric care

The most vulnerable members of our society rely on the NHS to protect them from harm when they most need it. Those patients who have expressed suicidal thoughts or actions are particularly at risk and it is vital that an effective care plan is put in place to enable treatment to be started promptly.

Unfortunately, some patients fall through the net and the standard of care they receive is not what is required to treat a serious psychiatric illness. A breakdown in communication within the NHS or between doctors, care workers and the patient, or an inappropriate care plan can cause a patient’s condition to deteriorate and increase the risk of an adverse event or a tragedy occurring.

The NHS is required under European human rights law to take preventative measures to protect those whose life is at risk. Traditionally, this principle was applicable to those patients who had been involuntarily admitted to care at a psychiatric hospital. Recent developments from a case in the UK’s Supreme Court have extended this principle to those patients who attend psychiatric hospital voluntarily and to those who come into contact with mental health care workers informally outside a hospital setting.

Claiming compensation will never make up for injury to, or loss of a loved one, but can help ensure that any mistakes are less likely to happen to another vulnerable person. Financial compensation can also assist in paying for any aftercare costs associated with injury or, in the event of a death, funeral arrangements.

Steve Duddell is a specialist medical negligence solicitor at Metcalfes who has pursued successful claims in these circumstances. If you are concerned about the standard of care that you or a family member  have received whilst under the care of mental health professionals, then please contact him on 0117 945 3034, or by email at, and he will be happy to assist you.


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