The NHS is under a duty to take all reasonable steps to prevent mentally ill people under its care from harming themselves. In one case that illustrated this point, the widow and two sons of a patient who took his own life days after being discharged from hospital succeeded in their claim for compensation.
The man was admitted to an NHS hospital owing to his troubling behaviour but was discharged after a few weeks. On the same day he flew out of the country for no apparent reason, and killed himself five days later. His family argued that he was suffering from a psychotic illness and that doctors were negligent in reviewing and monitoring his condition and in discharging him when they did.
The trust that managed the hospital denied liability for the man's death. Following negotiations with the family's legal team, however, the trust agreed to a financial settlement of the claim whereby his widow will receive £153,990 and the sons £54,005 each. The High Court approved the settlement.