Due to the negligence of his employer - Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust - a healthcare assistant who was injured when he went to help a colleague being attacked by a patient has been awarded nearly £5,000 compensation. The man, from Dorset is a member of leading trade union UNISON and has had support from their personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors.

The accident took place in April 2003. The man, aged 53, was working at the Kings Park Community Hospital which cares for people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or similar conditions. Patients come in for periods of time when they are having bad spells or to provide respite for their usual carers. He had not been told by his employers that the advice on how deal with this particular patient was to leave him alone if he started becoming aggressive. At a trial at Bournemouth County Court recently, the Court found that his employers should have made sure he was aware of this advice and that, if they had done so, the incident could have been avoided.

Unison supported claim for compensation

The man explains: “I was at work on the Meyrick Ward with my colleague who was trying to dress one of the patients who was in the Intensive Therapy Unit; soon the patient became aggressive with my colleague - lashing out with his arms and kicking out at him. My colleague shouted out for help and I went over to see if I could help calm the patient down. As I reached the area, and before I had said anything or made any contact with the patient, he lashed out again. He caught hold of my right thumb and pushed it backwards so it bent back unnaturally towards the back of my hand. As a result, I was off work for around 2 months in total and even now I still have restrictive movement in my thumb.”

Ian Ducat, South West Regional Secretary at UNISON, which supported his claim throughout said: “This case goes to show how important it is that all front-line staff are kept fully up to date with patients’ care plans. Carers such as our member are putting themselves in the firing line on a daily basis to try to assist patients and the least they should be able to expect is that they are not put in additional danger by the failures of their employers. We are happy to have been able to help our member pursue his case to trial and obtain the compensation he fully deserves.”

Representing the man, Jeremy Thompson from Thompsons Solicitors in Bristol, said: “This case, like so many others, highlights the dangers that the caring profession face when proper health and safety measures are not put into place and risk assessments are not taken into account. Our client was clearly put at risk by his employer because they failed to tell him about the specific dangers of working with this individual. These risks were clear and preventable.”