"Mental Health Referral "

About: Surrey and Sussex Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

(as the patient),

When I went to my GP in July with symptoms relating to depression following tests for under-active thyroid, I was asked to fill in a depression/anxiety questionnaire, which she said I scored very high on, and was having symptoms indicative of depression, and was then referred to Time To Talk for counselling (without being diagnosed with anything).

I was contacted by them and underwent a 45 minute phone interview which was quite difficult, as I was expected to reveal very personal things about my history of mental health over the phone to a total stranger. I was then told that I could access a CBT group, which was being held in East Grinstead during a weekday. I explained that I would be unable to go to this group, as I had a full time job and had to rely on public transport, and that I'd had CBT before from a private counsellor and had found it unaffective, and wanted a different approach that was more based on discussing my past and childhood in order to help me with my mental health.

From this point I heard nothing from Time To Talk until 3 months after my referral, when I was contacted by a different person with the offer of 6 over-the-phone CBT sessions. I agreed as the person mentioned the possibility of further face-to-face counselling once these sessions were completed. I completed these sessions, which were useful up to a point, but I again found it difficult having to speak about these issues over the phone, especially as I've always been anxious about talking on the phone anyway. This meant that most of the CBT work I did was only 'skimming the surface' of my problem. The Time To Talk person I spoke to was very supportive and tried his best, however I wasn't offered the choice of having a female counsellor, and the face-to-face options I was given for the CBT sessions were again impossible for me to get to due to work/transport.

After these sessions I was offered six sessions of face-to-face counselling, which is what I had been waiting for. However, again timing was a big issue, and I have had to delay this counselling as I could not be offered any appointment times when I wasn't working. I was told that this would be fine, and that I could delay the counselling until May, when my work schedule would be less intense. However, Time To Talk phoned me back the following week saying that because it would be a long gap when I wasn't retrieving treatment from them, they would have to discharge me from the service and I would have to go back to be referred from my GP.

The GP I originally dealt with (who was sympathetic and interested), no longer works there, so I will have to choose between seeing a GP who I think is unsympathetic (from seeing them for other, related symptoms), and seeing a new GP. I'm very nervous that I won't be referred or that the GP will dismiss my worries. I haven't been given an email address for the Time To Talk person I did CBT with, and when I've phoned for them in the past I've found it almost impossible to get hold of them. I feel unsupported and left to 'fend' on my own. I still haven't been diagnosed with any mental illness, and am still waiting to be offered my preferred treatment method.

I get the impression that the people at Time To Talk are trying really hard to offer a good service, however they are clearly understaffed, their opening hours are too short and do not cater for people working full time, and they don't have the resources to offer a range of mental health services.

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Responses

Response from Nick Fairclough, Head of Marketing, Communications & Intelligence, Sussex Community NHS Trust

I am sorry to read this account and the difficulties the person describes. I would like to invite them to contact our service experience team (Tel: 01273 242292 Email: sc-tr.serviceexperience@nhs.net) so we can explore their experiences with them in greater detail.

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