"No information about panic attacks"

About: Glasgow Royal Infirmary / Accident & Emergency

(as the patient),

I went through a stage in my life where I would very quickly become unwell. I would vomit for hours until I had no energy to move and would sometimes pass out. I have since learned the vomiting brought on panic attacks which caused me to pass out.

I went to my GP and had to go to A&E a few times when the 'episodes' caused a person I was with to worry so much they would phone an ambulance. I went for test through my GP but nothing came of it and when I went to A&E they would take tests and discharge me. I am not complaining about the treatment I received as in A&E they did all they could to stop the vomiting and my GP prescribed me anti-sickness tablets. What I am upset about is that nobody ever explained to me what I was having was a panic attack and how to stop it. I would get into such a state my hands would go numb and my lips would turn blue. I only discovered it was panic attacks I was having when I went on a mental health first aid course for a new job! Doctors and nurses would ask vaguely about my mental health 'Are you stressed? ', 'Do you have a satisfying life? ' but it was never once explained to me. I know of 3 other people with a similar experience of having panic attacks and not being told what it was or how to cope in the future. Even if the medical profession does think panic attacks are silly, I still think they should be explained as it is a truly terrifying experience and people should be given the tools and advice to know how to cope with them.

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Responses

Response from Paul Cannon, Head of Administration, Acute Services Division, Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS

Dear breathingeasy,

thank you for posting this most harrowing feedback, it must be a very frightening period when this happens and I am very glad that you seem now to recognise the triggers and have good coping strategies. Its sad to hear that you do not think that the medical profession take these conditions seriously, I'm sure that isn't the case in every pocket of the NHS, but I can appreciate that this isn't your experience. I know that medical professionals read these postings, maybe it will help them to understand the traumatic impact of these very debilitating attacks.

I am sure there are self help type groups around and your GP might be able to point you to a local respurce so that you can share your experiences with others who are in the same position.

Thanks again for posting this feedback.

Paul

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Response from Craig White, Divisional Clinical Lead, Directorate of Health Quality and Strategy, Scottish Government

picture of Craig White

Dear Breathingeasy,

You raise a very important point about ensuring that staff working in our health, care and support services feel able to provide explanations and interventions for the wide array of distressing symptoms that might cause us to seek help. Your posting makes me wonder how many people are attending A&E services in NHSScotland for panic disorder symptoms, and how effective current systems and processes are in explaining what is happening - and how to manage/reduce future episodes. I will find out more about this and let you know if I identify any improvements or learning that might be of interest to colleagues working in these areas.

In the meantime the information at: http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/Panic.asp might be of interest to you and others who see this posting on Patient Opinion.

Best wishes

Craig White

Divisional Clinical Lead, The Quality Unit

Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates

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Response from Craig White, Divisional Clinical Lead, Directorate of Health Quality and Strategy, Scottish Government

picture of Craig White

Dear Breathingeasy,

I have received data from colleagues at NHS National Services Scotland and the Analytical Services Division within the Quality Unit at Scottish Government - which suggests that in 2013/14, for the NHS Boards who recorded this information, 843 people attended an Accident and Emergency Service with symptoms of a panic attack.

I will pass the information to colleagues working in this area to see if there are any improvements that can be considered in respect of the information available to support approaches taken in the future. Many thanks again for raising this issue through Patient Opinion.

Best wishes,

Craig White

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