Hospital care inadequate for mental health patients

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Medical Malpractice on Friday, March 6th, 2015

When someone has a friend or relative in an Essex hospital, it is expected for them to be provided with the best possible standard of care. However, a report into the treatment of UK mental health patients has revealed that those in hospital psychiatric wards are more likely to die unnecessarily than those in a prison facility. Between 2010 and 2013, 1 in every 1,000 mentally ill prisoners suffered an avoidable death, but in a hospital setting, that figure jumped to 1 in every 200.

The study, carried out by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, found that doctor error and general negligence were a contributory factor, meaning some of the country’s most vulnerable patients are not provided with sufficient care. The report highlighted that even when a patient is classified as needing around-the-clock monitoring, observations can sometimes be performed incorrectly.

Furthermore, many psychiatric patients were able to cause themselves serious injury or commit suicide because staff did not take away potentially fatal items. One patient, for example, swallowed harmful objects and attempted to choke herself on ligatures; both scenarios were avoidable if the items had been removed from the patient by staff.

Patients in a psychiatric ward are often at risk of self harm, and, where appropriate, their medical notes should state that they need constant observation. Therefore, even if a person injures themselves in an intentional act, the hospital may be liable if their patient was not properly monitored. In such a situation, a lawyer may be able to prove medical negligence, enabling the victim or his or her family to pursue the health trust for a personal injury claim.

Source: The Guardian, “Hospital psychiatric detainees more at risk of preventable death,” Randeep Ramesh, Feb. 23, 2015

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