Mental illness: My experience of NHS negligence

It’s not a secret that in the UK the NHS is experiencing a massive crisis in services for mental illness. Even the specialist teams are ill-equipped and short-staffed. Knowing this, I thought A&E would be a rough experience. But the ignorance, bullying and general lack of care of the staff there were even worse than I expected.

A couple of months ago I got drunk and took an overdose of Paracetamol. In the morning, I regretted it and took myself to A&E for treatment. I was admitted and put on IV drugs to counteract the effect of the Paracetamol on my system. This meant staying in hospital for a couple of days. The entire experience was horrific for me.

I wrote an extensive complaint letter to the hospital. You can read it here if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. If not, here’s a summary of the main problems:
• I suffer from major depression. My regular medications were withheld from me for over 24 hours, creating unnecessary anxiety and exacerbating my symptoms.
• I was treated as though my being in hospital was my own fault and therefore I did not deserve to be cared for. There was only one single member of staff who showed me compassion, something that is supposedly enshrined in the values of the NHS.
• There was no attention paid to my mental health. No psychological assessment or risk assessment, or informal enquiry about my state of mind were made.
• My wife was forced to leave the ward, while relatives of other patients were allowed to remain all day. This discriminated either against my sexuality or my mental illness.
• The details of my mental illness and history were spoken about publicly with no regard for confidentiality or my dignity.
• I was threatened with being sectioned, even though this would have been hugely disproportionate to the risk I posed to myself. The staff used this threat to bully and intimidate me, knowing it could not have come to pass.

After waiting 6 weeks for the hospital to conduct an investigation, I got a response to my letter. In short, they concluded that I fabricated those complaints. They denied everything. The medical staff colluded to cover their backs. And so it is just my word against theirs. I’ll type the letter up and share it when I get time.

I have always been very anti the culture of suing medical professionals unless they’ve really harmed you in a serious way. But I am so furious at this insensitive and insulting reply that I’m thinking of taking legal advice on what to do next. I will at least be forwarding the correspondence to the ombudsman. Yes, it’s another thing I really shouldn’t be stressing about right now, but you know what? I need to get closure on this and I need to feel like they won’t treat any more vulnerable people this way.

In no way is this letter an adequate response to the humiliation and bullying their staff subjected me to.

Image from Creative Commons, courtesy of Rob Walker

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