HOSPITAL bosses responsible for the care of a mentally-ill man doctors said could die if he did not have his foot amputated have come under fire for taking too long to ask a judge to consider the case.

A judge who gave surgeons the go-ahead to amputate the man's left foot against his wishes says litigation should have started weeks before it did.

Mrs Justice Lieven concluded that amputation would be in the man's best interests, after hearing how his leg was infected, earlier this month.

She approved surgery after analysing evidence at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions, in London.

The judge has now published a written ruling on the case in which she outlines the reasoning behind her decision and complains about delay.

Mrs Justice Lieven, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, said the man, who suffers from schizophrenia and is in his early 60s, could not be identified.

Bosses at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, which is based in Blackburn, had asked her to rule that amputation would be in the man's best interests.

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"This application came before me on an extremely urgent basis," said Mrs Justice Lieven in her ruling.

"However, it was entirely apparent from the papers that the application had been in the course of preparation for at least a month."

The judge said trust bosses could and should have asked a Court of Protection judge to consider the case weeks earlier.

She added: "The effect of the delay has been detrimental to (the man's) interests and to a fair process which could fully take into account his wishes."

Doctors had said the man, who suffers from schizophrenia and is in his early 60s, could die if the lower part of his leg was not removed.

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They said options were limited.

The judge heard evidence from specialists and legal argument from lawyers representing the trust and the man, before making a decision, and spoke to the man via a telephone link to the court room.

Professor Damian Riley, Medical Director for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“To protect patient confidentiality we are unable to comment on individual cases, but we would like to stress that circumstances like these are extremely complex.

“Patient safety and wellbeing is always our top priority. We will be looking into this case in greater detail to ensure that any lessons to be learned are identified and actioned.”