"I left hospital in the middle of the night, alone, totally exhausted and feeling hopeless about the future."

About: Whipps Cross University Hospital / Accident and emergency

(as the patient),

Background information:

I had recently moved to London to start a new life but had found myself in a particularly abusive and violent relationship and going through a very emotionally difficult time which had been problematic on and off in my life for some years.

Whilst living in Wanstead I finally plucked up the courage to visit my GP to ask for some advice. I was incredibly pleased that the doctor at this practice had shown great empathy and was pro active in referring me for an assessment to see what help could be offered.

In the meantime, whilst I was waiting for my referral to come through, I began to experience a breakdown and very strong suicidal feelings.

In mid May after being attacked and having my phone stolen I found myself unable to function, lost in central London and can only describe the state that I was in as ‘broken’. With the advice of a family member over a long distance phone call I attended Whipps Cross Accident &Emergency department. On entering, I was surrounded by a number of patients and an incredibly open plan. First contact was with the reception area where I felt unable to report my feelings. I was very aware that there were a number of staff and patients listening to everyone reporting into reception and that there was little scope for privacy and confidentiality.

Frustrated by this, I left the department.

I returned home feeling even more hopeless and called the emergency mental health team to where I was waiting for my referral. I spoke to a nurse and explained the situation. They advised me that they would make contact with the mental health nurses at Whipps Cross Hospital and would give me a call back with further instructions. They called back to say that they'd spoken to a nurse who would be expecting me at Whipps Cross Hospital after I had registered with reception and that I would be seen urgently.

I made my way back to Whipps Cross Hospital.

The Complaint:

My first contact at the reception desk was with a member of staff who seemed to me completely disinterested in communicating positively with any patients. Sitting next to this member of staff was a nurse who looked bored and seemed to just be listening in to everything that they could. When I explained my problem briefly, with no privacy, they showed little interest or empathy. They took my personal details, gave me a red card and told me to queue up at the next set of desks.

I queued for a further 10 minutes where I was seen by a seemingly disinterested receptionist who went through my details on a computer screen. I explained that a mental health nurse had been contacted and that they were expecting me. The receptionist sent me to a waiting room further down the corridor.

I was sitting in this waiting room for approximately an hour before I was called into a side room by a nurse. They didn’t say a word to me. They proceeded to put a blood pressure pad onto my arm. They still didn’t say a word. They then started to look at the veins on my arms. I had not given they permission to touch me and they had not explained anything that they were doing. Angrily I asked what they were doing. The nurse replied that they needed to take some blood. I asked why and they said, ‘It’s just standard procedure. ’ I told they that I didn’t want any blood taken and that I was here to see the mental health nurse as had been organised via the telephone. I explained that I didn’t need blood taken as my condition was not physical. They walked over to their telephone and said that they needed to make a phone call.

Whilst on the telephone another nurse came into the room. They did not introduce themselves, did not acknowledge me and they sat down on another chair in the room, chewing gum and started talking to another nurse about their personal life. They exchanged comments in a joking manner. Frustrated, angry and confused I put my hood over my head to try and hide away from the situation.

The original nurse put the telephone down and said that they couldn’t reach anybody. They told me to wait back out in the waiting room.

I was in this waiting room for approximately four hours whilst people came and went. The nurse continually walked past me and made no attempt to update me on what was happening. When I am in good health I would usually question situations like these but in this ‘broken’ state I sat, waited, drifted in and out of sleep and became more and more hopeless in feeling that I was never going to get anyone to help me.

Approximately six hours since I had come into the department for the second time I was called into the Accident & Emergency cubicle area. I was lead to a cubicle and chose to sit in a chair. I was unable to make eye contact with anyone and sat with my hood over my head. I was aware of the commotion here and the many patients being seen to. This environment made my symptoms worsen and I was finding it hard to think clearly. I wanted to close the cubicle curtain but in my despair I was afraid and unable to leave the chair that I was sitting in.

After about thirty minutes a nurse of came into the cubicle and closed the curtain. They told me they needed to take my blood. I asked why and they responded the same way as the previous nurse. It was standard practice for anyone coming into the department. I agreed and they began the procedure. They then looked at my notes and in a trivial manner confirmed that I was feeling depressed. I didn’t feel confident or capable of going into any further detail with them and just agreed.

They then asked my age and said, ‘A young man of your age, you shouldn’t be depressed! Life is hard for everyone; we’ve all been a bit depressed. My best advice to you is to go home and get a few bottles and drink your troubles away, it works. ’

This comment turned my stomach, I asked them to leave the cubicle immediately.

Thirty minutes later another nurse came into the cubicle and looked at my notes. They did not acknowledge me at all, they left the cubicle without a word.

Ten minutes later another nurse came into the cubicle and told me that I was being taken to a ward with no explanation as to why. As we left the cubicle a doctor shouted for us to wait one minute. I went back into the cubicle and the doctor came in a few minutes later. This was the first person in the department in over seven hours to show me any empathy or consideration. In the brief conversation that we had this doctor acknowledged that I was feeling incredibly low and explained that I was going to be taken to a ward to wait for the Crisis Team to be called in to assess me.

I left the cubicle and was taken onto a ward where I laid on a bed feeling incredibly exhausted and hopeless.

Approximately two hours later I was assessed by a doctor and a nurse from the Waltham Forest Crisis Team. It was agreed that I would attend the Larkswood Centre the following morning at 10am and would be put under the care of the Home treatment Team. I walked home from the hospital in the middle of the night, alone, totally exhausted and feeling hopeless about the future.

Subsequent to the complaint:

I have since left London after three suicide attempts requiring attention in Accident & Emergency departments, two of these being at Whipps Cross Hospital in July 2012.

I have also had two inpatient admissions into mental health assessment hospitals and have been diagnosed with ‘Borderline personality Disorder’ and severe depression after initially suspecting a diagnosis of and treatment for ‘Bi Polar Disorder’.

I am absolutely disgusted in the way I was spoken to, some of the comments made and the way I was dealt with by the ‘professionals’ working in the Accident and Emergency Department. I am incredibly unhappy with the processes and the time it took to get me, as a very vulnerable person in a state of crisis, seen by the correctly qualified person. I am disappointed that the stigma surrounding mental health is very clearly still a problem in Whipps Cross University Hospital.

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