Negligent treatment of psychiatric patients

Mental illness can affect 1 in 4 of the population in our lifetimes. Thankfully most of us are well treated and recover from our problems. However, sometimes medical professionals make errors with their treatment of mental health patients, potentially with tragic consequences.

All healthcare professionals owe a duty of care to their patients – whether they have physical or psychiatric health issues.

Hodge Jones & Allen have many years’ experience in dealing sensitively with claims by mental health patients and their families. We have good relationships with the best experts in this complicated field of medical negligence law. A legal claim for damages can be brought by the spouse and or the dependants of persons who have died due to negligent psychiatric treatment.

Support throughout the process

We also have deep experience in representing bereaved families at inquests following the avoidable suicide of mental health patients. We have assisted many families in representing their interests at coroners courts throughout the UK.

Our solicitors are also experts at guiding you and representing your interests during the internal investigation process and in relation to a compensation claim. The earlier we are instructed on a case the better we can assist you to secure justice for you or your loved one.

In some cases, the injured party may not have the requisite mental capacity to bring court proceedings themselves and we can advise on the appointment of a litigation friend.

Equally, at the conclusion of the care, if the injured party does not have the capacity to manage their finances then we can advise on the appointment of a Deputy (a solicitor who manages the injured party’s finances under the supervision of the Court of Protection).

Hodge Jones Allen have over 40 years’ experience in this area of law and can handle these very sensitive claims in a sympathetic and effective manner.

Contact a member of our specialist solicitors for a Free Consultation today.

What do you need to prove?

Breach of Duty

To establish there has been a breach of duty you will need to show that the medical treatment you received from your psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse fell below a reasonable standard.

A ‘reasonable’ standard of treatment is considered to be what you would expect to receive from a reasonably competent psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse. This is called the “Bolam” test which refers to the case of Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee [1957] – a case involving the alleged negligent treatment of a psychiatric patient who was injured whilst undergoing electro convulsive therapy.


To establish causation you will need to show that the breach of duty directly caused you to suffer a physical or psychiatric injury that would not have otherwise happened.

It is essential to establish this link otherwise your claim will not succeed. You will then have to prove the extent of your losses and damage.

Causation can be a very complex issue as it may be difficult to know whether the mistake caused the injury, or whether the injury was caused by some other underlying problem and would have occurred irrespective of the mistake.

Potential areas of negligent treatment

  • Failure to provide adequate supervision in hospital – e.g. failing to put a patient on 1 to 1 supervision
  • Failure to place the patient in safe environment – e.g. to ensure all ligature points are removed from a ward/bedroom
  • Failure to properly supervise patients with mental health issues in the community
  • Failure to detain patients under the Mental Health Act 1983 when they need to be detained for their safety or the safety of others
  • Misdiagnosis of mental health and psychological problems, such as diagnosing as a different illness
  • Delayed diagnosis of mental health issues
  • Failure to act on results of investigations and allowing the patient’s condition to worsen due to lack of treatment
  • Negligent harm caused to family members by undiagnosed/untreated/unsupervised patients who should have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983

No Win No Fee with Hodge Jones & Allen

The majority of our medical negligence claims are funded by ‘Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs) – also known as “No Win, No Fee” agreements. This means that you will not have to pay anything at the outset, and there is no financial risk or obligation to you if your claim is unsuccessful. Your solicitor will provide clear information on what this means and answer any questions you may have. Start your claim today

Case Study: Denied admission to a mental health unit

A mother committed suicide after being denied admission to a mental health unit. A week long inquest established a number of supervision and training issues that were the subject of a coroner’s recommendation. We secured a settlement of £300,000 for her dependents.

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