"Failed for Mental Health and Physical Injuries."

About: Hillingdon Hospital / Accident and emergency

(as a relative),

A Family member was brought to A&E by ambulance with paranoia and distress after severe physical assault. Bruised, frightened and dazed they had apparently been assessed by a psychiatric nurse and discharged with no help offered at all. They were in a total dissociative state, rambling, dishevelled and crying. They went out into the road after discharge and we're brought back by concerned members of the public but were put alone in a side room with no help, no water, nothing. Police had informed us of the whereabouts & we rushed there. We were horrified by the hospital's inaction. No investigation of the bruises, black eyes or head injury. No police called. Nothing.

Some A&E Nurses were having a personal chat by the reception & didn't seem to like me interrupting them. At my second request they asked the psych nurse to come and see me but she refused to come down. I spoke to her by phone and she sighed when I told her I needed someone to re assess the patient. She promised someone would come along but didn't come herself.

For a long time no one came into the room where we were waiting. After asking again a member of staff arrived and looked at the injuries and sent for a doctor. Two psychiatric doctors arrived and did eventually take us through to majors to investigate the physical injuries. The nurses there seemed more sympathetic and professional and after 9 hours in total in the A&E the case was taken seriously. By this time it was almost 5pm. I was advised that we should really go to a specialist unit in another hospital ( in Central London ) but that I would have to take us in my car. They wouldn't transfer as it was nearly 5pm (?). It was impossible to take such a sick & injured person across London ourselves so we remained in the cubicle.

After physical exam, a psychiatrist sent us to a side room for observation which was a nightmare. The patient was trying to sleep, was restless and was awoken many times by psych doctor for more chats. We needed police help over the attack but the psychiatrist said this wasn't possible as the patient lacked capacity to request this themself. I now think I should have called police myself but was too concerned to think this through. Unfortunately one feels one has to rely on the psych doctor knowing what is best for the patient and in this case they apparently did not.

To add to the stress, the relationship between the A&E nurses and the psych doctor seemed obviously troubled and the A&E nurses told me that the patient should not be there and they were not responsible for the psychiatrist's patients. There ensued a long struggle between psychiatrist, A&E staff and bed manager about our case. I heard, at one point a nurse wondering why the bed manager was being so obstructive. There was a short conference outside our room about whether the patient should be admitted and where we could be put. This was quite distressing.

Eventually, in the early hours of the morning it was decided that the patient was to be transferred to a different hospital unit. I was told that I would be able to stay through the rest of the night with the patient at the new unit (otherwise I said we refused to go) and that the bed manager/ negotiator guaranteed this. This turned out to be a lie. On arrival at the new unit I was required to leave my relative. This was distressing.

At about 3 am I returned to Hillingdon with the ambulance and spent the rest of the night awake on a bench in the main A&E waiting area until I could go and find a hotel room in the morning and then visit my relative in the new unit.

I have kept a record of the names of the staff members involved in this incident and it is only to protect the anonymity of my family member whose health is still precarious that we have not yet made a formal complaint.

Since this event I have been with my family member in two A&E attendances at different hospitals for mental health crisis and the care was as far removed from the awful Hillingdon experience as it was possible to get. Those two times although the units appeared stretched they never once treated us with the uncaring attitude we experienced at Hillingdon.

I have never been back to Hillingdon hospital and never would ever again. I would advise anyone having a mental health crisis, especially if they have physical injuries too, to avoid this hospital at all costs. If your experience is anything like ours you will be treated with indifference, lack of professionalism, lack of compassion and a disregard of the immediate and long term best interests of the patient.

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Responses

Response from Hillingdon Hospital

We are sorry that when you accompanied a family member, who had paranoia and distress after a severe physical assault, to A&E you felt that the whole experience was overwhelmingly negative. There are many points that you raise, but without actual dates and times it is not possible to respond to them, which we would like to do. We would not be able to alter your experience, but could investigate what learning our staff can take from this in detail. You mention making a formal complaint. If you have not done this but would wish to discuss this with someone from the Emergency Department first, then the Matron, Consultant Nurse or Emergency Services manager can be contacted vis switchboard. If you wish to make a formal complaint the information on how to do this is found on the Trust's internet or by calling switchboard and asking to speak with the Patient Advice & Liaison Service. We hope that your family member is in better. Health now.

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