Social worker stabbed by psychiatric patient slams NHS bosses

Claire Selwood
Claire Selwood
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A SOCIAL worker who was knifed by a psychiatric patient has criticised health bosses after she accepted an out-of-court settlement.

In October 2006, Claire Selwood was knifed by Murton man Graham Burton six times just two days after he warned doctors he wanted to kill her.

He was jailed indefinitely for attempted murder, with an independent investigation finding serious failings in how NHS workers handled Burton’s care at Sunderland’s Cherry Knowle Hospital.

Now the mum of three boys has won an undisclosed payout in a landmark case because her injuries forced her to give up her career in December last year when she was medically retired.

Burton missed her heart by millimetres with the 6in knife.

She was left with nerve damage to her lower limbs which means she needs to use a wheelchair and has also suffered mental health problems including flashbacks.

Legal experts had argued the two NHS trusts had no duty of care for her safety. Ms Selwood claimed health bosses, and her employer Durham County Council, had been negligent and exposed her to danger.

Her civil damages claim was “struck out” by a county court judge but, following a hearing in 2012, three judges ruled she could claim damages from the health authorities.

The 44-year-old has criticised health bosses and urged the Government to do more for frontline workers, claiming she had been let down in the aftermath of the ordeal.

She said: “Mine is an extreme case but there are thousands of social workers who are dealing with verbal threats, dealing with children’s trauma like sexual abuse and hearing their disclosures.

“I feel the public need to understand more about the dangers faced by frontline social workers.

“I also feel what needs to be addressed is the lack of support for social workers, who end up with their own mental health difficulties as a result of the trauma they face at work.”

She said she was made an offer in September and while it was a significant sum, had she continued working, she would have earned three times as much. In a joint statement, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said they were pleased the claim had now been resolved and that mental health services have changed since the “appalling attack”.

They added: “Both organisations have made improvements to the way they work and acted promptly to implement the recommendations of an independent investigation into the incident in 2010.

“Both trusts offer their best wishes to Ms Selwood and her family for the future.”