Crisis mental health care in the NHS must improve

I was struck by a blog in my Facebook timeline this morning. It was actually written a year ago today by Becca Plenderleith, who joined the Lib Dems in the wake of the election last year. She’s already contributed so much to the Party, writing for our Scottish members’ newsletter, making thoughtful and insightful contributions on mental health – and she’s also written for LDV, too. We are very lucky to have her.

In the post she shared this morning, she shared her experience of what passes for mental health crisis care in Scotland – and it just simply is not good enough. The experience she had mirrors other people’s experiences. I have heard of Accident and Emergency doctors, who clearly have no training in mental health, berating a shut-down self-harming teenager and tell them that they are wasting their time.  In that example, when the Child and Adolescent Mental Health people got involved, things improved remarkably, but it should never have happened in the first place.

I am horrified that a young person in crisis could be treated in such a callous way. I’m quoting from Becca’s post here with her permission:

The paramedics were some of the most understanding people I’ve met in my life. Unfortunately, that’s where my positive experiences with the NHS emergency services regarding mental health stop. I won’t tell you how long I waited before I was seen because for I don’t know. I don’t remember. What I do remember is when I eventually got seen, my only feelings were that of “I wish I’d not phoned for help.” I wasn’t allowed my mother to stay with me in the room because the doctor wanted to ask me “sensitive” questions. Apparently that’s code for “I don’t want witnesses to hear what I’m about to say.” Because the doctor told me that I was a drain on the NHS and that I wasn’t an emergency and it clearly wasn’t an accident so I had no right to ring 999. All this before he looked at my arm. When he eventually looked at it he said, very condescendingly, “What do you expect me to do about this? Do you want a plaster?” By this time my mother (a nurse) was allowed back in the room and I remember her saying “Oh, that looks deep. It might need a paper stitch at least.”  I didn’t get that. I got a dressing and sent on my way with the most random pieces of advice I’ve ever been given in regards to my mental health and that was “Don’t drink caffeine after 12pm.” Thanks, doctor. I’m sure it’s the caffeine that made me want to cease to exist.

I’m not sure what the situation is in England, but I do know that Norman Lamb established a multi-agency crisis care concordat to ensure that people got the care that they needed when they needed it.

On a day when the Duchess of Cambridge is doing so much to tackle the stigma around mental health, in much the same way that her mother-n-law tackled the stigma around HIV and AIDS by visiting a ward and shaking hands with patients without wearing gloves, we should reflect on the many ways mental health services are failing our children.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Feb '16 - 2:02pm

    Such compassion and sense from Caron and Becca

    Liberals or Democrats , both , who place blind faith in institutions are missing the point.An institution should serve the individual person , not the other way round.For two long the centre left in politics has worshipped at the alter of the NHS.I think it is something to do with the prevalence of secularism.It is true , too , on the BBC , and , as I am fond of saying lately , on the EU, too!

    We should value all these great bodies.But that is what they have at times been , and can be again. Great. They are often not in good form , now.Whether or not they know it, they need slimming down or maybe bulking up , definitely , to be fitter.They do not need to be revered as saintly or in of themselves special.Life is very often not what you make it. Corporations are. They are man made.Humanity is what is needed.

    Becca shows us .

  • Unfortunately, I think there is sometimes a tendency for A and E staff to see mental health issue especially amongst the young as attention seeking and because the waiting time for specialist treatment can be so long the distress of the sufferer can be overlooked. To be fair to A and E they are there to deal with a high volume of physical injuries and more immediate the danger the quicker they need to react Paramedics deal with people much on a one on one basis.
    I think one of the problems generally is that people think that because something is going on in the brain then it is very wrongly dismissed as an imagined illness. Depression and distress can be killers, as well as being devastatingly debilitating to suffer from. The other side of this is that a physical brain condition can also be misdiagnosed as mental health . My mother, for example, was treated for depression for years and it turned out her mood swings. lack of concentration etc were caused by a very large tumour that was only spotted because my Dad and younger brother insisted on a brain scan when she collapsed.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Feb '16 - 7:31pm

    Sorry to hear about Becca’s experience. The doctor’s comment “What do you expect me to do about this, do you want a plaster?” is really awful and completely misses the point.

    If anyone needs any help or knows anyone who does then here is a good website for people:

  • Caron, I find it hard to see an article such as this on the same page as one that wants to follow Beveridge. He along with Keynes wanted to disenfranchise the mentally ill and prevent them from parenthood. In fact I find it disturbing, don’t you? You can’t disassociate Beveridge from this aspect of his character. Farron perhaps is unaware when he calls himself a Beveridge liberal? Sends chills down my spine.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 18th Feb '16 - 3:55pm

    @Anne Beveridge’s stance on mental health is irrelevant. Nobody, least of all Tim, is suggesting we follow his lead on mental health. I think Churchill was a good PM, but apparently he was a racist, so there you go.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Feb '16 - 12:51am

    Thomas, I do not agree with you on this on one aspect , which is saying to Anne it is irrelevant.I think it is , in the sense that some people do not warrant the support they got then , let alone so many years later . If others had got their way he would not have got to write his report as he was not a worthy candidate to do so , based on previous and even long , very long held views .

    Of course we would agree on your sensible comment that no suggestion is being made that Tim or anyone today agrees with such views, of course historical context is important , but many , like the writer Gk. Chesterton, then , criticised the Eugenic view as his quotes show , as an awful view .A reflection of Beveridge in the light of this , and those mentioned herein is something to encourage.

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