24 Hours in Hell: Update

Two Years Later…

It’s almost two years to the day since I suffered this terrible and traumatising experience at the hands of Camden and Islington NHS trust (CANDI), and I thought it was time to provide an update on what’s happened since then.

It took me quite some time to get over my unlawful detention, in fact I still haven’t recovered. I no longer trust authorities, and I certainly don’t trust the medical staff at CANDI, which is a shame as they’re the only ones who are available to treat me. Instead, I pay to see a private counsellor. The cost of one fifty-minute weekly appointment is more than one week’s Employment and Support Allowance, but I have to do what I can to stay alive.

After the unlawful detention, I requested my medical notes. They took over six months to arrive, by which time I was starting to feel better mentally, and just wanted to put the awful trauma behind me. Then I got ill again. Eventually, after a whole host of other terrible treatment by CANDI, I decided I’d had enough and complained about being locked up against my will as well as a number of other issues.

My complaint was upheld. They didn’t have much choice, really, since their own Mental Health Law officers had told them that they were acting unlawfully. I didn’t receive an apology, unless you count a generic one-liner that tags off the end of all their complaint responses. No indication that they understood the severity of what they’d done, or the impact such an experience might have on someone who is already suicidal and vulnerable.

I submitted a complaint to the GMC about the doctor who’d unlawfully detained me, Sophie Gascoigne-Cohen. They didn’t pursue the complaint as they didn’t deem her to be a risk to patients (mental scars being conveniently less visible than physical ones) although they did say that the matter would be reported to her supervisor. The matter of her refusing to give me information to allow me to give my informed consent to stay on the ward, and refusing to record that I was staying under duress, they classed as ‘administrative issues’ – a cynical misunderstanding of facts if ever there was one.

Did I feel a twinge of guilt, reporting a young psychiatrist and potentially damaging her career? No. I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect other vulnerable patients from a doctor who sat there and refused to let me assert my legal right to leave the ward, despite me asking. And asking. And asking. Who wilfully role roughshod over mental health law and the safeguards put in place to prevent unlawful deprivation of liberty. I felt worried that a young woman, not long out of medical school, could feel the need to assert her authority to the extent that she cynically deprived me of my human rights. If she showed no compunction in doing this to me when I was quite calm and coherent then lord knows what she might be capable of doing to someone who lacked capacity. There are many, many ways mental patients can be abused by authoritarian doctors, and although pursuing this complaint has been stressful and upsetting, the treatment I’ve received at the hands of Camden and Islington shows that we need to continue holding NHS staff to account to prevent the abuse of vulnerable people.

Finally, I spoke to a solicitor. What happened to me was undoubtedly a legal breach, but sadly there’s little or no money in such a claim, and so they weren’t willing to represent me unless I paid for myself. Since the amount of any compensation would be small, I would be putting myself through terrible stress and expense to pursue this any further.

The only thing I have left, really, is to record my account here in the hope that others who have suffered in a similar way might not feel so alone.

Stay strong and keep fighting.

 

 

 

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Hospital Fun

My experience of being in the Royal Free hospital following an overdose.

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Theres not much fun about being in hospital, the exception being that this morning I got the see the Bristol Stool Chart in action.

Otherwise, it’s been a series of SNAFUs, FUBARs and other WWII based acronyms.

From my arrival at 6:45am A&E yesterday morning, my care has been nothing short of Bristol Stool.

Someone turned up at 8am and tried to introduce himself but wouldn’t be specific about why he was there. He was wearing a lanyard from another hospital so I assumed he was on a placement of some sort. He proceeded to sit at the entrance to my bay with his back to me all day. At no point did he mention I was on one-to-one observations (I was only aware of these happening on psychiatric wards) and when I was finally transferred to another ward I shook his hand to say goodbye only for him to say he was coming with me. He pulled up a chair within 50cms of the end of my bed, which felt like an uncomfortable invasion of my space.  I explained I was extremely tired (after a night of overdosing, like durr) and wanted to go to sleep, so would be pulling the curtain round.

No, I was not allowed to do that, he replied. I had to be visible to him at all times.

No way, I said disbelievingly. There was no was I going to sleep with a complete stranger peering over me, especially one I’d only exchanged three words with all day. And where were these “vital” one-to-one observations when he’d dallied off for his lunchbreak earlier on? (there was no replacement).

We continued in much the same vein for a few minutes with me closing the curtain, him opening the curtain, like a really crap game of hide and seek. Eventually I asked to speak to the Duty Psychiatrist. They sent me a Psychiatric Nurse. I asked again, could I see the Duty Psychiatrist. Eventually I got to speak to the duty team and explained that I thought it was completely reasonable to want some privacy from the rest of the ward to go to sleep. Appaz not folks, hospital is the place where you arrive depressed, beaten and exhausted, only to lie in a brightly lit room with a complete stranger staring at you. I believe the NHS could probably have a sideline in teaching the Chinese more elaborate forms of torture.

The Duty Psychiatrist never turned up with what I’d asked for, which was written justification for my denial of right to privacy and a copy of the “hospital policy” where this information was iterated. Instead I found that my carer had changed shift and I got to close my curtain. Result! Victory had been brought about not by application of common sense or our of respect for me as a patient, but by complete inertia on the part of one bank nurse handing over to another and not bothering to let them know I was meant to be on permanent observations.

It would have been a victory, except new Registered Mental Health Nurse didn’t know how to work my drip machine, so I when unplugged it to go to the loo (as I’d been shown to do) and it kept bleeping , she told me it was my fault for a) not holding my arm straight; b) moving and c) not pressing the override button (I did say I’d been told – quite sensibly I thought – not to touch the buttons) but this was the sage advice of the trained professional.

The not-sage outcome was that actually the machine wasn’t drip feeding me, and I’d spent two hours without my medication. Way to go CANDI, you’re really maintaining that reputation for excellence and quality of care!

Things I learned today:

Don’t expect to be treated with respect as a mental health patient;

Don’t expect to be provided with written hospital policies informing you of your rights upon request;

Don’t expect your medication to be administered correctly.

Sadly, my experience went from bad to worse, but thats a tale for another day.