Parents Settle Compensation Claim for a Fatal Delay in Treatment

The parents of a young man who jumped to his death at the Castle Mall Shopping Centre in Norwich have settled their compensation claim for a fatal delay in treatment against an NHS Trust.

In May 2013, Matthew Dunham (25) tragically jumped to his death from the cinema complex in Norwich´s Castle Mall Shopping Centre, two weeks after being referred to a specialist team for mental health problems which included severe low mood and mild anxiety.

Matthew had contacted the mental health services run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in February 2013; but by the following month his mood had deteriorated, and Matthew admitted to having thoughts of suicide.

In April Matthew was referred to the NHS Trust´s specialist mental health team, and it was suggested that social worker be appointed to support him. Matthew received a letter advising him of the help he was being offered, but the first meeting was not scheduled until 23rd May. Matthew tragically took his own life the following week.

An inquest into Matthew´s death recorded a verdict of death by suicide while suffering a mental health disorder and receiving mental health services. The Coroner – William Armstrong – criticised the NHS Trust for its “fragmented and uncoordinated approach” to mental health care, after which Matthew´s parents made a compensation claim for a fatal delay in treatment.

Matthew´s parents claimed in their legal action against the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust that a competent practitioner would have provided their son with an earlier intervention and treatment for his mental health issues. Had earlier intervention and treatment taken place, they claimed, the likelihood was that Matthew would not have committed suicide.

After a period of negotiation, the compensation claim for a fatal delay in treatment was settled out of court by the NHS Litigation Authority for an undisclosed five-figure sum. The Director of Nursing at Norfolk and Suffolk MHS Foundation Trust – Dr Jane Sayer – also issued an apology to the family in which she said: “Matthew’s family have our deepest sympathies and apologies for their loss.”