A care worker who was attacked by a 27-stone psychiatric patient has told how the debilitating injuries she suffered have left her ‘living a nightmare’.
Mother-of-three Natalie Allen, 42, was slammed against the wall and choked unconscious during the onslaught in St Agnes Centre at Gorse Hill Hospital, Leicester.
She was left with chronic pain after her right arm and back following the assault and has also been left completely bald as a result of the trauma to her scalp during the attack.
The incident, which took place in March 2011, has meant that Ms Allen, of Long Street, Stoney Stanton, Leicester, has been unable to work since.
The health care support worker successfully sued Leicester Partnership NHS Trust, which runs the centre, alleging serious staffing shortages and a failure of management left her vulnerable to the attack.
But almost four years after the vicious assault, Ms Allen, says the way health bosses have treated her since the attack has left her feeling “abandoned”. She said, “I’m in a serious lot of pain at the minute. I’m living a nightmare. What happened was diabolical.
“I’ve got severe long-term injuries. I’ve got no hair now because she damaged my scalp. Within two months I’d lost it all. I’ve got a damaged right arm and damage to my back. It is heart breaking how this has stopped me being a mother to my kids. I’ve got to have pain management for the rest of my life. It’ll be four years in March and I’m still suffering.”
Describing the moments leading up to the attack Ms Allen said, “There weren’t enough staff to allow the patient to go for a walk which antagonised her. She flew straight at me. She lunged at me, banged me up against the wall.
“I didn’t have a second to think what I was going to do. I didn’t have enough time to reach for my alarm. She’d got hold of my hand and my head around the neck – she had me in a lock, crushing me. We were going to the floor, falling. I was struggling to activate my alarm around my waist.
“I couldn’t breath. The last thing I remember is thinking ‘God, I’m going to die here’. The kids went through my head. I must have pulled the pin on my alarm and that’s all I remember. I woke up on a spine board with the ambulance people talking to me.
“There was a massive failure of management and health and safety which not only put staff at risk but also patients.
Ms Allen had worked for the NHS for 25 years and the patient that attacked her had a history of violence towards the staff and had attacked and injured Ms Allen just three months earlier. But the Trust failed to listen to the complaints of the staff.
Ms Allen said, “There should have been at least four members of staff on duty but I was looking after four patients on my own. You need at least four members of staff on hand to safely restrain a patient.”
“The patient who attacked me she should not have been in the centre. But what has been worst is the way they’ve abandoned me. I’ve been nursing since I was 18 and I absolutely loved my job. But now I’m unable to work. That’s put so much pressure on us. The entire family have lost an entire income.
“Long before my attack we were chronically short staffed. There was always potential for violence and if it did occur we just weren’t equipped to deal with it.”
Despite admitting responsibility more than three years ago the Leicester Partnership NHS Trust has yet to reach a personal injury compensation settlement with Natalie. The Trust has since made changes to how they manage the centre.
Ms Allen’s Lawyer Mark Hatzer of Slater & Gordon UK said, “Natalie dedicated all her working life to the NHS and caring for others. She didn’t feel safe there and knew there were too few staff working at the centre but cost cutting took precedent and she suffered this traumatic attack as a direct result of the lack of staff.
“The attack was extremely traumatic. However, her treatment by the Leicester Partnership NHS Trust afterwards has compounded her anguish.
“Leicester Partnership NHS Trust has admitted fault but have added to her distress and trauma by refusing to provide adequate financial support while she tries to recover from the injuries sustained. It’s hugely disappointing that they would treat a loyal member of staff like this.”