‘Cuts to my local mental health teams are having a huge impact’: a patient’s story

The stress of trying to access my local crisis care services when unwell can be debilitating, writes Sue

Mobile phone
Picture: Rex Features

By Sue, a woman who uses services at a London mental health trust

I have noticed a significant change in the quality of services since the cuts came in at my mental health trust at the end of July 2012.

I used to be able to access a women’s crisis house but they won’t take me anymore because my risk of suicide is too high and they can’t meet my increasing physical disability needs either.

Following a serious incident with the crisis team that is being investigated I no longer access support through that service, but there is an arrangement that I am supposed to be offered a bed in hospital instead. There is not a single female bed in acute admissions and only one female bed with disabled access in the entire trust, so I rarely get access.

There is no such thing as voluntary admission to hospital in my area now. The policy is that if you are in crisis and asking for help, you should be offered a place in a crisis house but the crisis houses don’t automatically have to take you in and you may have to wait up to two weeks for assessment.

To get a bed in hospital you have to be detained under the Mental Health Act – and I have been told that since the cuts approved mental health professionals won’t come out and assess you for detention unless they know there is a bed available.

There has been a significant change to community mental health services since July 2012. I used to be on an enhanced care programme approach, had a care coordinator who I saw twice a week and saw my psychiatrist every two weeks.

Between 2004 and 2012 I had 15 or 16 admissions to crisis houses and, in the meantime, risk assessments. I was also only given enough medication for a few days at a time so that they could keep a close eye on me.

In mid-July 2012 I became very concerned about how the planned cuts were going to affect my care – I had had no care planning meetings or discussions whatsoever, despite asking for these, for some time.

My care coordinator and psychiatrist didn’t know anything and eventually I withdrew from services because I was unwell and scared that I wasn’t going to get the support I needed. It was October before anyone at the trust thought to contact me, and by that time I was very unwell, wandering around the country experiencing delusions and hallucinations. I was sectioned in Wales, then in Cornwall and then again in London.

I had no GP, no care plan, no support whatsoever – the ward team had referred me to the post-traumatic stress disorder team, who said I was too unwell, too unstable and too traumatised to manage therapy. I appealed my detention under the Mental Health Act, was taken off section and discharged shortly after with no follow up.

Back at home I bought the newly prescribed anti-psychotic medication online as agreed and as stated in the hospital discharge plan.

As an alternative to calling the crisis care team I have called NHS 111, but if you call them about mental health crisis they automatically send out police to accompany the ambulance.

On several occasions in the last year I have had the police at my home for hours at a time, basically keeping an eye on me because there is no where for them to take me when I am in crisis.

They try their best but they don’t have the training they need to deal with people who are in distress, and their presence in any case can make me more frightened and distressed. When they leave, there is no support to help me recover and I have a tendency at that point to run away.

In February I was persuaded to go back and register with my GP, who has been prescribing my medication since March. I find now that it’s easier to cope on your own than deal with services. It just adds to the stress trying to access the support you need – I don’t have any faith in the system now.

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