Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Scandal of Mental Health Care in the UK

I am sorry that I am back into occasional blogger mode, this is not only due to the fact that I am still not online at home, but that I have been dealing with a very poorly sister. Having grown up with a manic depressive father, I am quite well acquainted with psychiatric units, they are always going to be difficult places both as a patient but also for visitors.

Last week, after a few weeks of a deterioration in her condition my sister was admitted to a psychiatric unit which will remain nameless. They put her in a room with a long narrow window which made it look like a prison, she was very distressed. She was on a mixed ward (who remembers all that chat from Patricia Hewitt about dealing with this?) and at 5.30am she called me absolutely frantic because a man had come into her room in the night and started kissing her hands and face (she is not well, but not hallucinating). I went to visit her the following day. The room she was in was an affront to human dignity, disgraceful. Dirty, chunks out of the walls and door, marks all over the walls. When I suggested to the charge nurse that you wouldn't put a prisoner in a room like that he said, Oh I've been in prisons and they are worse than this! (oh that's OK then!!!) I took her out for a few hours, but in the middle of the night I got a call from her daughter to say she had run away. At 2.30am she was discovered. The police who took her back advised her daughter to get her out of there because it was so dreadful. To cut a long story short, I returned the following day to take her home with me as I was told she couldn't be transferred to another unit (Oh, so much for patient choice........).

Yesterday I heard Gordon Brown talk about the importance of human dignity. I am sure he believes in it, but as long as we have such an archaic Victorian approach to dealing with mental health there is a sizable percentage of people in this country who will at some time in their lives experience life in a psychiatric wing similar to the one my sister was in. Some are wonderful, some are not, but whilst mental health services are regarded as such Cinderella services I fear there is little chance of change.

No comments: