Q: Last year my partner was referred to an NHS psychiatrist after a failed suicide attempt. For a while he seemed happier, but in February I found him looking at suicide websites on the internet. He wasn’t due to see the psychiatrist for another month so I made an appointment with him for myself because I was so worried. The psychiatrist was very dismissive and said he would ‘have a word’ with my partner about it at his next appointment. Sadly the next appointment did not happen as my partner hung himself a week later. Could I pursue a claim based on professional negligence?
A: You may be entitled to make a claim based on negligent psychiatric care, something we are seeing a lot more of these days. Your partner’s psychiatrist had a care of duty to heed any warning signs and take appropriate action to ensure that no harm came to his patient, yet it appears he ignored evidence that your partner was actively looking into ways to end his life. Not only could the practitioner’s lack of appropriate action have resulted in the loss of your partner’s life but it also impacted severely on your life. Whilst monetary compensation cannot make up for your loss it may provide the financial security to which your partner would have contributed had he lived.
In any claim it will be necessary to show that whatever the doctor did or did not do fell below the standard of a reasonably competent doctor in that particular field of medicine. A letter of claim setting out the allegations of negligence and the damages suffered must be sent to the potential defendants in accordance with the court procedure rules.
Psychiatric care negligence cases are extremely complex so you should seek advice from a solicitor with the knowledge and experience to successfully pursue your case.