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The care of patients requiring psychiatric treatment was brought into focus following a report by the BBC, on a patient who took her own life while receiving treatment for epilepsy and schizophrenia.

The Health Service Ombudsman stated that the patient’s death was avoidable. They noted that her care was being managed between two different hospital trusts, which resulted in a failure to control her seizures because her medication was changed frequently and her previous attempts to take her own life were not acted upon.

These types of failures in care are not restricted to patients who are admitted to hospital. One common example is patients attending A&E having psychiatric symptoms falsely attributed to a physical injury. It has been reported that many patients treated in A&E for self-harm do not receive a full psycho social assessment from a mental health professional to assess suicide risk. This can result in the risk of harm the patient may cause to themselves or others being missed.

This is particularly pertinent since suicide rates rose in 2019, for the first time since 2013. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has commented that substandard follow-up treatment  for people who attempt suicide or self-harm is putting patient’s lives at risk. The chair of the Patient Safety Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Huw Stone, has said patients, particularly those under the age of 30, were being systematically let down in their most vulnerable state. This has led to calls for all self-harm patients to be offered a safety plan which would involve an agreed set of bespoke activities and guidelines to help them deal with depressive episodes.

Oversights can also occur when a patient is passed between two organisations such as when being transferred between the hospital treating a physical injury and the mental health services. In 2016 a patient, who took control of an ambulance while being transported to a mental health hospital, died after crashing into another vehicle. The NHS Trust responsible for the patient’s care had failed to pass on the patient’s full medical history to the ambulance provider. Furthermore, the two staff onboard had not had mental health training and the company had not done a full risk assessment of the patient. At the inquest, the coroner recorded an open verdict but said that the transport arrangements had been “inadequate and insufficient”.

There are some cases where patients are dissatisfied with their mental health treatment or diagnosis, Mind are a charity that may be able to help you ensure the right care and treatment is in place. However, if you have been injured as a result of the wrong treatment or care being in place, we can help you make a medical negligence claim.

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