When disturbed patients are committed to mental hospitals, the hospital staff are under a duty to protect them from themselves. A failure to do so meant that a man who was gravely injured when he leapt from a hospital roof in a suicide attempt obtained a multi-million-pound compensation award from the NHS.
The man, then in his 20s, was in a deeply distressed state when detained at the hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. He was being escorted into the garden for a cigarette when he broke away from two carers. He clambered onto the roof of a smoking shelter and, from there, made his way onto the hospital's roof. Despite attempts to talk him down, he jumped to the ground, suffering brain damage and spinal injuries that have left him wheelchair dependent and in need of constant care.
Legal proceedings were taken against the NHS trust that ran the hospital. It was argued that there were clear warning signs that the man was focused on self-harm. He had been experiencing visual and aural hallucinations and was alleged to have climbed onto the roof twice previously.
Following negotiations, the trust conceded 80 per cent liability for the man's injuries and issued a public apology. It agreed to settle the case for a £3 million lump sum, plus index-linked and tax-free annual payments to cover the costs of the man's care for life. Those payments will start at £165,000, rising to £180,000 when he is aged 52. The High Court approved the settlement.