'Nurses played on phones as my son prepared to take his life, now we face another shameful insult'

A grieving mum has described an compensation as 'shameful' following the death of her son while in the care of a Blackpool mental health facility.

Bren McFarlane from Bacup died after taking his own life while he was detained at the secure mental health unit The Harbour. The hospital is run by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust which is responsible for mental health services across the region.

Bren, who was just 20 when he died, had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and taken from his flat in Accrington to The Harbour in October 2022. Less than 24 hours after Bren was admitted he was found unresponsive in his room. Despite policy stipulating that all patients in the 136 Suite should be "in sight at all times" in the hour before Bren was found staff spent less than three minutes observing him.


During an inquest held last October jurors watched harrowing footage of Bren taking steps to end his own life while three Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust employees played on their phones, did each other's hair and vaped. The jury concluded Bren had died by misadventure contributed to by neglect.

Bren's mum Gail Rawlinson, from Rossendale, has been campaigning for improvements to mental health services following her son's death. She has now been offered £12,000 in compensation from the NHS for the failings which led to his tragic death.

"This has affected our whole family so much," Gail told LancsLive. "We had a meeting this week where they told us the offer. £12,000. That's it. Is that all my son's life was worth?

Bren McFarlane, who died in October last year, with his mum Gail
Bren McFarlane with his mum Gail -Credit:Archive

"Apparently the law doesn't take into account the suffering a family has gone through. Ironically, if he had survived or had lost a limb, the amount would have been significantly higher.

"It's not about the money; it's about what our family has gone through. The funeral itself cost around £6,000 so with the rest I can't use it to get him the headstone I want or pay for private counselling for my children."

The NHS paid out £2 billion to patients in 2022/23, and a further £700m in legal costs. However, compensation does not take money away from local NHS budgets, and are instead paid from a central pot.

In 1995 the government set up NHS Resolution as the claims management wing of the NHS. The system operates like an insurance company. All NHS trusts pay into the scheme so, when a successful claim is made, the payment comes from the NHS Resolution pot and not from the local NHS budget.

Family members are sometimes able to bring claims even if they are not the patient who has suffered as a result of negligence. If a patient has died the family can claim for bereavement and funeral expenses or for the cost of looking after dependents.

Bren McFarlane had a history of mental health issues dating back to when he was 14
Nurses seen doing hair and scrolling phones while man prepared to take his life

Gail added: "We can't move forward. We all suffering from grief. none of us have even been offered any counselling and we can't afford private. It's shameful."

A final offer for Bren's family has not yet been decided and discussions between Gail and the NHS are ongoing.

Ursula Martin, Chief Strategy and Improvement Officer at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We fully acknowledge the distress that discussing compensation for the life of a loved one can cause.

"However, any financial compensation agreement is a confidential matter between the Trust, the family and their legal representatives. As such, and as this matter is still on-going, it would be inappropriate comment further."