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NHS Not Responsible for Manager's Mental Collapse

A senior NHS manager who claimed that she was bullied into a nervous breakdown by a cancer specialist with whom she had a principled disagreement over the use of public resources in private clinical studies has had her hopes of an £850,000 damages payout dashed by the High Court.

The woman claimed that she had been victimised by the consultant, who put her under ‘unbearable pressure’. She also argued that she had been grossly overworked and that her superiors had not done enough to support her. Following a series of mental crises, she had had to take medical retirement.

However, in dismissing her claim against her NHS employers, the Court found that, although the consultant could be forthright in expressing his views, nothing that he had done had amounted to bullying. Although the woman had toiled hard in her senior role, she had done so willingly and had not been overworked.

Her superiors had been unaware of her pre-existing bi-polar disorder and there had been no warning sign that should have put them on the alert that the stress of her job might trigger a mental collapse. Although it was ‘a sad case’ in which the woman had suffered substantial psychiatric injury, that was not foreseeable and her employers had not breached any duty of care which they owed her.