A SOCIAL worker stabbed six times in the back by a mental patient who had earlier threatened to “kill her on the spot” has taken her bid for compensation to the country’s top judges.
Deranged Graham Burton issued his sinister warning two days before the near-fatal attack on 42-year-old Claire Selwood – but she was never told of the threat to her life.
Now mother-of-three Ms Selwood, who was left with a kitchen knife embedded in her back that took three surgeons to remove and lost five pints of blood, is fighting for compensation from the NHS in a case which raises crucial issues on the duties of mental health professionals to pass on such warnings.
Burton, 45, of Murton, Seaham, County Durham, attacked Ms Selwood, who was involved with his family, during a professional conference at a school in Easington Colliery in October 2006. He is currently serving an indefinite jail term after he admitted attempted murder.
Ms Selwood was profoundly traumatised by her ordeal and suffered injuries that have permanently affected her mobility.
Judges heard yesterday that two days before the attack Burton had told medics before his discharge from Sunderland’s Cherry Knowle Hospital that he would “kill her on the spot if he saw her”.
Her legal team, led by Michael Kent QC, says that, had Ms Selwood, of Glanton Close, Morpeth, been warned, she would have taken steps to protect herself and blames two local NHS trusts involved in treating Burton for failing to alert her to his threat. However, Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust are adamant that, as Burton was not compulsorily detained and Ms Selwood did not work for them, they could not be held responsible.
A judge last year struck out Ms Selwood’s claim, saying it would not be “fair, just and reasonable” to impose a legal duty of care on the trusts.
But now she is battling on in the Court of Appeal in a test case which goes to the root of duties owed by healthcare and social workers to communicate with one another.