A MENTAL health patient broke his hip and heels when he jumped from a hospital storage tank after he was allowed to leave a ward unsupervised to go for a smoke.
Dad-of-three Robert Bayles has now been awarded an undisclosed payout after a five-year legal battle with health bosses after the plunge left him with problems that will affect him “for the rest of his life”.
The 69-year-old’s family had placed him in the care of the Mental Health Unit, then based in the grounds of the University Hospital of Hartlepool, in 2006.
The former miner and naval officer had grown depressed since suffering a stroke in 2002.
His health deteriorated and he was admitted to hospital on a number of occasions – and had made several suicide attempts.
His family hoped medical experts would be able to help.
Staff were aware of his background, the risks he presented to himself, and he was meant to be closely watched.
But the exact “opposite” happened when he was allowed go for a cigarette alone.
He left the ward, went down a flight of stairs and headed across a car park to the back of the hospital where he jumped from the roof of a storage tank.
He suffered fractures to both heels and a broken hip, and was left with permanent problems walking.
His family took legal action against Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust because he was a vulnerable adult who should never have allowed to the leave the unit alone.
After five years, the claim was settled out of court and an undisclosed amount of compensation was awarded to Mr Bayles for the injuries he suffered.
His solicitor, Angela Kirtley, from law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the emphasis was improving standards to “ensure patients such as Mr Bayles were not left unsupervised again”.
She said: “Mr Bayles is a vulnerable adult with a record of suicide attempts. He had never been allowed to go for a cigarette alone before and certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to do so on this occasion without proper discussion with his treating psychiatrist.
“Mr Bayles’ family had placed him in the care of medical professionals who were aware of his background and the risks he presented to himself. He was meant to be closely watched but, in fact, the complete opposite has happened.
“The injuries he incurred have permanently affected his ability to walk, although fortunately, Mr Bayles’ mental health has recovered to enable him to return home.
“However, the injuries he sustained as a result of being left unsupervised will affect him for the rest of his life.”
Miss Kirtley said the trust had to learn from the mistakes that were made in Mr Bayles’ care in order to prevent others from causing potential harm to themselves or to innocent bystanders.
A spokeswoman for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our primary concern is always for the safety of our patients.
“Our procedures are continuously revised and improved to ensure we provide high quality, safe and effective services that minimise risk and promote recovery.”
There is no longer a mental health unit at the hospital as it was replaced by Sandwell Park at the end of 2006.
The purpose-built site in the town’s Lancaster Road provides mental health inpatient care, day care and outreach services.