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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 17:25 GMT
Nurses claim victory over attack
Rampton Hospital
Rampton Hospital where the attack took place
Six nurses injured by a violent woman patient at a high-security hospital have claimed victory in a High Court challenge against their employers.

They were hurt at Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire in 2001 by a patient said by doctors to be capable of attacking with "murderous severity".

Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust appealed after being found negligent as to the nurses' safety.

The trust said it was "extremely disappointed" to have lost its case.

All six nurses were injured when they were assaulted by the 27-year-old patient at Rampton, one of England's three high-security, special psychiatric hospitals.

'Appropriate staffing'

On the night of the attack on 12 March 2001, four members of staff were assigned to the ward where Rachel Agar and 13 other patients were present.

Lord Justice Waller told London's Appeal Court that Miss Agar was suffering from a "psychopathic disorder", was "grossly disturbed" and had caused "mayhem" at the hospital before the attack.

All six nurses suffered injuries of varying severity in the incident and the judge said some of them had endured "long-term consequences".

Solicitors for the nurses said the original case in February 2006 at Nottingham County Court found Miss Agar posed an exceptional risk and the trust had failed in its duty of care by not bringing in new health and safety regulations demanding a risk assessment for individual patients in care.

Not only was this assault inevitable but it was known to be inevitable and yet basic precautions had not been taken
Frank Rogers, nurses' solicitor

For the nurses, lawyer Frank Rogers said: "We are delighted to have won the appeal in this case which clearly sends out the message that these working conditions are simply not acceptable.

"In view of what was known about this patient, not only was this assault inevitable but it was known to be inevitable and yet basic precautions had not been taken."

Dr Mike Harris, the trust's acting chief executive, added: "This judgement has serious implications for how our society cares for these people in the future as trusts cannot maintain safe and dignified services without close personal supervision.

"In light of this judgement we will have to look more closely at how we manage very dangerous patients."

A trust statement said it took "many and varied steps to protect its staff ... on this occasion staffing levels were appropriate for a night shift" and it was "concerned if, unwittingly, it gave the impression that it did not fully appreciate the degree to which the incident impacted on the staff members involved".

"Any injury incurred in the workplace is unacceptable and injuries received in this way are inevitably traumatic. It is true to say though that five of the staff members were eventually able to return to work."

The ruling means the trust will have to compensate the nurses for the attack. The amount will be decided at a later date.


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