"Neglect and poor care for mental health crisis"

About: Adult mental health (Lewisham)

(as the patient),

After a year of moving between poor GPs in Greenwich and Lewisham, I finally found one who took mental health seriously - she is no longer at the practice in question (New Cross Health Centre), but she deserves to be lauded for her excellent standard of care, never overbearing nor dismissive. I was referred to the CMHT, which filled me with hope of finally having multiple mental health problems treated, as I had reached the end of my rope and was actively suicidal.

The CMHT was a mess from the start. Ignoring the first referral until nudged by the GP (their excuse being that they had relocated to an office on the other side of the borough, highly obstructive to patients from north Lewisham seeing them), and eventually having me initially seen by a nurse who was grossly dismissive of problems ("that doesn't sound like an eating disorder", a sloppy conclusion reached when he decided to butt in partway through my explanation of what was happening to me) and told me I would not be seen by the CMHT but instead referred to Mind.

Over a month later, I had heard from no one. The GP did not understand what had happened. My workplace occupational health eventually nudged the CMHT as my situation had worsened during their silence, causing me to lose a month of work and take a hit to my income. The CMHT had changed their mind and wanted to see me again, fulfilling my earlier request to be assessed by a psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist was fine - personable and reassuring, and largely understanding. He recognised that as I had been actively suicidal between visits that I was at high risk and needed to be placed on medication. I was told I could pick up a prescription from my GP that day. For a week, I visited and called the GP, whose receptionists and doctors were confused and had no record of this prescription being sent through. My condition worsened. I was suicidal, let down, and now sure that the very act of seeking help was a negative trigger that had to be avoided.

When I complained to PALS and asked them to cancel a later CMHT appointment (I saw no use as this appointment was intended to discuss my experience with the medication I never received), I was discharged from the CMHT and left stranded. The explanation was nightmarish: the prescription for a suicidal patient had simply sat in their office for a fortnight before being sent.

I received an apology, but frankly the damage has been done and that the apology came with a discharge letter was a slap in the face at my lowest point. Two months later, I am depressed, anxious, and no longer want to be alive. Disordered eating and poor self esteem is destroying my social life and all of the above is conspiring to ruin my career. The toll it is taking on my body is stressful and upsetting, and to compound matters I have been the victim of violent crime and despite suffering nightmares, fear and anxiety following the incident, cannot seek help because I am equally as afraid of the mental healthcare this borough provides.

I believe treatment is vital for anyone suffering with mental health issues, and I would always urge others to seek help and seek it forcefully, remaining unforgiving of failure and demanding an adequate and timely response to their problem. My mistake was in being too forgiving and too passive (though when passivity is a hallmark of depression it seems odd for professionals to take advantage of this as an excuse to be lax), and I believe that this mistake will ultimately be fatal. I may never trust another health worker again.

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Response from Bill Berry, Patient Experience Manager, Patient Public Involvement Team Organisation and Community Directorate, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Whybother

I'm sorry to read that your experience of using our service has been so poor on this occasion. In order for us to look into the issues you have raised it would be really helpful to know what team you were referred and subsequently seen by. Once I have this this information I can coordinate a response. You can post the name of the team here or contact me directly.

Kind regards

Bill Berry

Patient Experience Manager

Patient Public Involvement Team

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Maudsley Hospital

Denmark Hill

London SE5 8AZ


M; 07925180472

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