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Cook v Bradford Community Health NHS Trust, Court of Appeal, 23 October 2002

30 October 2002
The issues

Health Care Assistant – psychiatric hospital – assault by patient.

The facts

The Claimant was a Healthcare Assistant who worked in the seclusion suite at a psychiatric hospital. She worked there for about 6 months. The suite consisted of rooms with doors leading onto a single corridor. Access to the corridor was through a locked door. One end of the corridor was a toilet with washing facilities. The patient had been placed in “open seclusion” in the suite. The patient suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia and was unstable, unpredictable and dangerous, frequently being violent. Two Healthcare Assistants were required to be with the patient at all times.

In June 1998, he punched another patient in the face, which was the reason he was taken to the seclusion suite. After several periods of sedation and sleep, the Claimant came on duty and went to see if the two Healthcare Assistants watching the Patient needed refreshments. She was told it was safe to enter by the Healthcare Assistants. Whilst there, the patient asked to use the toilet. He was allowed to go out by the Healthcare Assistants, and whilst doing so, he punched the Claimant hard in the face. She suffered a psychiatric injury. The Judge at first instance found for the Claimant.

The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. The patient was a clearly foreseeable risk at all times.

2. The Trust had a duty of care not to place the Claimant in a position of foreseeable risk.

3. Once the Patient was allowed to leave the room, the risk of an attack increased.

4. All that needed to have been done was for the Claimant to have been asked to leave. The working system was negligent.

It would have been different if the Patient had attacked one of the two Healthcare Assistants observing the Patient. The Claimant’s function at the time was different to theirs. She had to be in the suite before the patient left his room and not afterwards.

Appeal dismissed.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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