Not ready to go out alone

    Staff in psychiatric hospitals do not always know the importance of
    properly monitoring and reviewing patients’ conditions. As a
    patient who was brought to hospital in a disturbed mental state, I
    think staff ought to have made the effort to find out I had a
    history of psychiatric illness before they granted my request for
    overnight leave – just two days after I was admitted.

    Ward staff allowed me to leave at 8.15pm on a Friday evening
    without money or shoes and with little clothing. They had no idea
    where I would be staying or whether I had made any travel
    arrangements.

    If a patient is not known to the clinical and nursing staff, then
    surely a detailed mental state examination and risk assessment
    should always be sought from a consultant psychiatrist? Surely
    discussions with the patient’s next of kin are routine?

    Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Too often staff prefer not to
    waste time on an assessment or consultation with a consultant, and
    ignore the appearance and behaviour of a patient, including those
    with cuts to both wrists.

    And if the patient decides not to return to hospital to continue
    with their treatment, that’s fine, too. Staff may not know when the
    patient is supposed to return, and may not try to make contact. It
    is up to the patient to monitor their illness and pick up the
    pieces when things go wrong.

    Although the police had picked me up in the street in the first
    instance and had taken me to a place of safety – the hospital –
    they were there again with Swat (special weapons and tactics) teams
    five days later. Three days following my readmission, they were
    called yet again to return me to hospital. I can only presume that
    the police asked the trust why they were being called upon to
    provide a very expensive taxi service.

    As a result of this experience, I suffered moderately severe
    post-traumatic stress disorder – damage that I believe was a
    predictable consequence of the decision to grant me home leave.
    Ward staff should think much more carefully about the nature of an
    individual’s illness before they grant leave to a disturbed
    patient.

    Caroline Meaker has been diagnosed with bipolar
    disorder

    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.