Mental Health Trust Admits Liability in Motorway Suicide case

The Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust has today admitted liability in the case brought against it on behalf of the family of the late Seleana Mundey.

Seleana died back on 16th August 2007, when she committed suicide by throwing herself from a bridge over the M20 near her home in Ashford. She did so whilst on day release from the Arundel Mental Health Unit at the William Harvey Hospital at Ashford.

Just 3 days earlier, on 13th August 2007, those treating Seleana allowed the Section she was being detained under to lapse.

The hospital did not inform her husband, Brett, that she had come off Section.

Nor did they make him aware of her behaviour at the time which included self harming and repeated absconding from the ward, together with attempts to abscond on 10th, 11th, 12th August and the evening of 13th August itself.

Notwithstanding this behaviour, and a presenting history of Seleana having been unwell, and subject to various admissions, over a period of months, her Section was allowed to lapse at midnight that evening.

Back in September 2009, at Seleana’s Inquest, a Coroner’s Jury, sitting in Dover, returned a verdict of suicide.

At the time, the family pledged to take forward a civil action.

A Letter of Claim was written on their behalf, by their solicitors, Fairweathers Solicitors LLP of Station Road West, in Canterbury, back in August of last year, highlighting no fewer than 56 errors in the care and treatment that Seleana received during the months leading up to her death.

In February, the Trust’s solicitors, Messrs Barlow Lyde and Gilbert, sent a response.

Despite promises to the contrary, that response was not the product of input from an independent psychiatrist and only contained limited admissions surrounding limited failings: to obtain records and a psychiatric history, to keep Mr Mundey informed of developments and incomplete and unsatisfactory care plans and record keeping.

Under the threat of Court proceedings, the solicitors have this morning written further, on behalf of the Trust, having receiving independent psychiatric evidence.

The following is an extract from that letter:-

“It is now accepted and admitted that on balance, with respect to the crucial decision as to whether or not the Section 2 detention of Mrs Mundey should have been allowed to lapse; there was a failing on the part of the Trust to meet the standard of care which Mrs Mundey was owed.

The Trust now accept that the incident of 12 August 2007 was especially noteworthy and was not accorded the importance it should have.  It is further accepted that Mrs Mundey’s behaviour at that time was not addressed in a comprehensive or rigorous fashion. It is further accepted that as a result of these failings an opportunity to avoid Mrs Mundey’s death was lost.”

The parties, through their representatives, will now engage in negotiations with a view to settling the case.

Nick Fairweather, Chief Executive of Fairweathers Solicitors LLP, who represents the family, commented as follows:-

“There was an appalling catalogue of errors in the treatment that Mrs Mundey received and there are many lessons for the Trust to learn from this tragic case.

These admissions, now finally made, whilst welcome, have come far too late in the day.  I hope they are accompanied by a genuine determination on the part of the Trust to improve their practices and procedures for the benefit of future patients.

Families are particularly vulnerable when a loved one is mentally ill and this family deserved better. 

I pay tribute to Mr Mundey’s courage, steadfastness and sheer stamina in taking this case forward on Seleana’s behalf to a successful conclusion.”

Mr Mundey, speaking for the family, commented:-
“We all miss Seleana every day.

I was gobsmacked when the hospital did not renew Seleana’s Section and even more so after her death when I found out the full details of how she had been behaving.

I feel that we have been badly let down by the Trust who should have admitted the obvious errors in the case at a much earlier stage.

I only hope that lessons are truly learned so that another family does not have to suffer in the future as mine has.”