"Worried that mental health services in Cornwall are inadequate"

About: Cornwall and Isles of Scilly PCT / Primary care mental health service Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust / Adult mental health

(as a carer),

Mrs B is a patient, long term severely ill and suffering with depression and mood swings. She has a history with the mental health services.

This time (second in 6 months) Mrs B overdosed and was admitted into the local hospital in Cornwall. She had self referred to mental health team some days prior to this event as she was very afraid of how she felt and was refused an interview by the psychiatrist on duty.

I am a carer for a person with long term mental and physical health problems but do some caring of this nature too. Her husband/carer has been unsupported for decades. He works away to pay bills leaving his wife alone, afraid and unwell.

I am of the opinion this is a crutch as they are unsupported and the mental health team are proving ineffective in her case.

The hospital discharged this person after taking a large amount of analgesics within 24 hours and put her in a taxi and sent her home alone. No service seemed to see the necessity to engage with her. Her discharge letter was given in her hand to notify her GP which she could not do as had just been so ill.

I took the discharge letter to her GP, the receptionist informed me that even though this person was on her own and suicidal, the GP had a weekly meeting until 3pm and nothing could be done to change that. No other GP was available. After some diplomacy and debate about priorities and meetings before suicidal patients it was agreed the receptionist would enter the GP meeting to discuss. I did not want to leave this person alone when suicidal but had to leave.

I was contacted on my journey home roughly one hour later by a different receptionist on my mobile who to me sounded aggressive. I was being told I would have to contact the mental health services, I refused and reiterated I was asking the GP to go out to see the lady.

Her CPN that same morning had refused to come to the house unable to grasp the difficulties she would have with leaving the house. I could only assume this person was instructed to not to give a home visit, or perhaps there was a shortage of staff?

The CPN offered a meeting the following day in a public place which I think was a poor professional decision as the woman was in a dangerous state of mind and in great jeopardy of taking action to end her own life. I do believe the mental health team are pressured and short staffed and that this CPN may have been told to do this. The patient then felt abandoned once again by the mental health team. I am limited in what I can reveal as she has not consented to awareness being raised, consequently I can only expose certain failings.

Within another day the police had to be called and she was found in a dangerous position, posing serious risk to herself. She was assessed and told by the duty psychiatrist she warranted help but there were no beds in Cornwall.

The mental health services in Cornwall seem seriously inadequate to me. Ironically this person has been helping in the community as a service user to raise this issue and has worked hard to improve things. It’s my impression that the serious and gravely ill people are not being treated adequately.

I await with baited breath as I know she is unable to have good insight to what is happening and may still attempt to take her life although she is getting some treatment now. None of it from my perspective has been effective and I question how much longer before we may lose her and she goes in the stats as another case being investigated.

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Response from Sarah Fisher, Communications Manager, Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust

I am sorry to hear that your friend's experience was poor. I would like to apologise for the fact that our service did not meet the standards we usually expect.

We really try hard to improve our services based on the comments we receive from our patients.

We would like the opportunity to discuss your friend's experiences more fully. I would appreciate it if you, or your friend could contact my colleagues in the Customer Support Team on 01726 291109.

Thank you.

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