Ms Garrod was a health visitor, working part time for 30 hours per week. She had fallen ill with depression due to pressure of work having been repeatedly obliged to cover for a colleague who had been absent due to illness.

She had returned to work six months later on a phased return to work programme and subsequently returned to her normal duties, but reduced to 24 hours per week. A further six months later the Claimant learned that another colleague , who worked 5 days per week ,was off sick with a long term illness. She telephoned for assistance with the workload and had been asked to arrange cover herself. Despite repeated attempts to contact her line managers, G was only able to arrange one hour of cover per week. Soon after she suffered a severe relapse of her depressive illness and went off sick.

1. The psychiatric harm to G was reasonably foreseeable .Whilst she was only working for 24 hours per week, the responsibility in the sudden absence of her colleague who had been working a five-day week was substantial having regard to G's earlier breakdown. Deciding which appointments to prioritise, which to cancel, attempts to find alternative staff, and the demands of her own duties, were such that a reasonable employer should have foreseen a significant risk of psychiatric harm to an employee of known vulnerability. The circumstances of the second breakdown were strikingly similar to the first.

2. N was in breach of its duty to G by failing to take steps to replace absent staff. There were bank staff available, and having regard to the size and scope of N's organisation it was reasonable to expect that cover would be provided for absent health visitors. Further, N failed to offer reassurance and support of any kind. G's second breakdown was not due simply to stress at work, but was caused by N's breach of duty.

Melanie Garrod -v- North Devon NHS Primary Care Trust (2006). [2006] EWHC 850 (QB). QBD (Henriques J) 28/4/2006