The NHS and I

by Sarah Myles

During the course of my life, I have used the NHS a lot.

From teenage to my early 20s in London, I received great care from hospitals and GPs alike for both chronic knee and stomach problems. In my mid-20s in London, I had my first child. With the support of a thoroughly magnificent team of NHS midwives, I had a glorious planned home-birth. The physical care of my newborn son and I was simply exemplary.

So far, so good. Up to this point, problems that I had sought help for were physical in nature, but suddenly, I required the assistance of Mental Health services, and that didn’t seem to happen quite so easily.

Following the birth of my first child, my previously untreated and undiagnosed mental health problems spiralled out of control. One health visitor was unable to deal with me and so left me to it, and it was up to me to seek out another and ask for help. She asked me a set of very specific questions and, based on that, identified me as suffering from Post-Natal Depression. She recommended I see my GP. I did, and was prescribed the anti-depressant Escitalopram to begin taking while I waited for a course of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with a counsellor at the local surgery.

I waited 16 weeks for 8 hours of CBT. Apparently, this was the “fast track”, due to the fact that I had a young child. I have no idea how long the waiting list was for other people. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the CBT was effective at improving some symptoms and providing long-term management strategies, but the counsellor was tied to the provision of 8 hours only, with no option of extension. Many issues were brought to the surface, but not fully dealt with.

I was left to manage on my CBT strategies and anti-depressants, with occasional follow-ups with my GP and visits from my health visitor. After 18 months, I decided to come off the medication – the side effects of which withdrawal required medication – and ‘go it alone’. Success!

When we moved to North Yorkshire, another wonderful team of NHS midwives supported us through another glorious home-birth and helped us settle in with our new addition.

A year later, I was sitting in my new GP’s office, unable to speak coherently. Within 2 weeks, I was having weekly visits at home from a Community Psychiatric Nurse who was conducting an assessment of me over time while I was waiting for an appointment with a psychiatrist.  My CPN delivered my diagnosis in conjunction with her team leader, and always made sure I was aware of her communications regarding my condition and care. My psychiatrist appointment came within 5 weeks and was at a local clinic.

This appointment was a complete disaster and I left feeling dangerously worse than I had when I arrived. I was made to feel there was no hope for me at all - that I was always going to feel like this so I may as well just get on with it. I explained this to my CPN and I never saw that psychiatrist again. Nor did that informal complaint delay my treatment. Within 2 weeks I was off to see another psychiatrist – the team leader – who assessed me and stated there and then that she was referring me for psychotherapy with one of her team (who was present at the assessment). Apparently, the waiting list for this treatment was 2 years, but because of my state and the fact that I had 2 young children, I would begin treatment in 3 weeks.

I underwent psychotherapy for 3 months, and now generally manage my condition myself, safe in the knowledge that if things become unmanageable, I can either call my GP or go to A & E and get straight back in to see my Mental Health Team.

So, what points am I trying to make here? Firstly, you may have used many different kinds of services through the NHS, but when you get into Mental Health, it’s a whole new ball-game. When you are at your most fragile and vulnerable, you can find yourself at the mercy of a system that does not always function in the best way, or with the most appropriate professionals. And the success of your experience often depends on where you live.

Secondly, Mental Health stigma exists within the NHS. Fact. This means that sometimes, service users feel they cannot complain, which exacerbates their problems, or discourages them from seeking help at all.

Make no mistake, the NHS is a flawed service, and this is particularly the case with its Mental Health Services. Many Mental Health Service users across the country struggle to access the care they need, and experience problems with the care they receive. The nature of their health problems means poor service is particularly traumatic. This certainly needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, and many Mental Health organisations and charities are working hard to make this happen.

However, even on its worst day, the NHS provides good quality care to hundreds of thousands more, many of which are Mental Health Service users. And it does much of it for free. When the system is problematic, it can be devastating, but when it works, it is brilliant. Yes, the cost of prescriptions is ridiculous, but if I had experienced my health problems as a citizen of the US, I would have been filing for bankruptcy long ago. Or worse, my condition would have continued undiagnosed and untreated with potentially disastrous consequences for me and my family.

The thing that concerns me most about the current government’s attitude towards the NHS is their desire to introduce “competition”. To me, this means profit, and when you introduce profit, that takes priority over everything else. I despair of the effect that would have on Mental Health services. Will we all just be handed a pack of pills from a giant, profitable pharmaceutical corporation and be sent on our way?

It is the nature of society that we usually only hear or remember the horror stories. A system where horror stories are a thing of the past is certainly what we should be striving for. But let’s also celebrate the success stories of the NHS as it is today, the people that dedicate their lives to providing it, and be thankful for having a national – not private - health service at all.

Comments

I don't see any date on this blog. I guess it must have been written back in 2005 when "any willing provider" was about to be introduced by New Labour (as a result of a European Union directive in 2004). Well, now it's 2012, and at last there's a government willing to do something about the situation. When the new Health and Social Care Bill becomes law, healthcare providers will no longer be allowed to complete on price, only on quality of care, and at long last they'll all be subject to the same regulations as NHS trusts.

Thank you for sharing your views. To clarify, the blog was written same day - 14th March 2012 - with the aim of sharing mine.

Having read through the reams of reports, commentary and discussion from many sources about the proposed Health and Social Care Bill, I remain deeply sceptical. I guess we're going to find out though, after yesterday's events in Parliament.

I am heartened that the NHS still elicits such a passionate response from all quarters, though. Long may it continue.

Sarah Myles

My daughter has had apalling care through local NHS services. Medication is what is mainly on offer and this has not worked in her case. Apparently there are hundreds and hundreds of diagnoses in the Diagnosic Statistical Manual. I would urge anyone to watch the dvd Diagnostic Statistical Manual - Psychiatry's Deadliest Scam. There is more than one diagnosis in my daughter's file and she has been put on over 6 anti-psychotics commencing with an anti-depressant. She is suffering from a serious condition as a direct result of all these drugs. These drugs are very harmful and patients are told they must stay on them for the rest of their lives. THIS IS NOT TRUE. HOWEVER YOU NEED SPECIALIST HELP TO COME OFF THEM. I appointed an Orthomolecular Psychiatrist as I was apalled by the care and have set up a website detailing my daughter's progress in coming off harmful drugs that have not worked in her case and she has begged time and time again to come off. They lead to long term health problems and high risk of h eart problems/diabetes. My website psychiatricabuseuk explains more and you should look at the dvds on offer from the CCHR and look at the drug awareness website. There is much abuse going on under the mental health and it is all down to money - the drugs are given to patients who are given a diagnosis without any scientific evidence and there are interviews in this dvd by top leading professionals which would shock anyone.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Sarah Myles

I have been a client of wotch for the past 7 years and i am so grfueatl to them they have saved my life and provide an amazing service. My worker has been there every step of the way and has been my biggest supporter and has helped me to find myself and be off medication for 2 years and out of the hospital for 3, and i agree that the hospital system treats us like criminals when all we are looking for is understanding, thank you wotch from the bottom of my heart

I did a quick search to clarify for other readers - is Wotch the Western Ontario Therapeutic Community Hostel? I'm happy to hear you have found an organisation that has such a positive impact.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Sarah Myles

What you have written in your blog is being mirrored across the country and I totally agree with you Sarah re the proposed health and social care bill.... very sceptical. I'm fighting for funding for ongoing treatment for D.I.D - and its all about the money unfortunately... instead of quality and patient choice..

Thank you for your comment, and good luck with your fight. I think we're all going to need it!

Sarah Myles

Hello Sarah are you still writing your blog? I like what you write about and it is clear that you have put a lot of thought into your writing. I am new to blogging and want to write about my own difficulties with the NHS. I also want to write about agencies that are supposed to be there to help us access services and yet don't. I also want to write about the negative attitude of the church toward the mentally ill as a Christian. Would you be OK helping me out with learning how to set a blog up? I can more or less see how to make a 'comment' as I am doing just that now, aren't I? All the best to you John

Hi John, I think I just replied to your comment on another post of mine? I am still writing - yes. I posted 2 entries just this week.

My public email address is; sjmyles79@gmail.com if you'd like to get in touch. I'm not an expert, but can probably point you in the right direction. smiley

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Myles

I live in North Yorkshire and have been left without any support at all, despite being suicidal. I've asked for help countless times and failed, now what do I do?

Hi there, sorry to hear about your experience. Obviously, I'm not a mental health professional, so can only speak to my own experience. I'm not sure which avenues you have already tried, but I would suggest looking at www.mind.org.uk as your local branch may be able to help with advocacy.

SANEline number is: 0845 767 8000 (they also have a website: www.sane.org.uk)

If you are North Yorkshire, you might want to look at: http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=12007 which is the County Council website with some useful links to further help.

Other than all that, I can tell you that the bottom-line instruction I was always given by my care team was that if I was in crisis and felt immediately unsafe, I should just go to the local A & E, who should always have a mental health worker on shift.

I hope some or any of that info is helpful to you, and that you are soon on the road to recovery.

Best wishes,

Sarah Myles

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