"My experience at the Brandon Unit"

About: Families, Young People and Children Division / Leicester Recovery Partnership

(as the patient),

I suffered severe anxiety and depression after the birth of my second child and due to the environment I was living in (with an alcoholic husband), and the need to prove to him I could cope, I self medicated with alcohol to deal with the constant anxiety and ended up with a chronic alcohol problem.

I was admitted to Stretton Ward on several occasions mainly to deal with alcohol detox, but also for depression. The unit is first and foremost set up to treat patients with drugs and I think very little else. What I wanted more than anything else was to TALK to somebody professional and to actually get to the root of the problem rather than merely be a drug receptacle and be monitored.

The staff I encountered were very much unavailable and spent a lot of time in the office 'doing handover' and the staff on the desk, although very pleasant seemed to be mainly there to chase escapees and fill in charts of what patients have eaten and when they slept.

I felt pretty much on my own at a time when I have never felt more vulnerable, frightened and anxious. Other patients may have severe psychotic illnessess with quite bizarre behaviour, but staff do not seem to monitor this or provide duty of care to others on the ward.

Ward rounds are positively medieval and totally demeaning whereby the patient is paraded ( a bit like a Victorian freak show } in front of an audience of social workers and associated professional workers as if to demonstrate just how mad they are. I personally found ward rounds the most anxiety provoking demeaning experience of my whole stay.

I also experienced abuse on this ward. I had leave out and went for a coffee with a fellow inmate to the hospital coffee shop just to escape the eternal boredom on the ward. I overstayed my leave time and on return to the ward I was alcohol tested. It proved, according to the staff member, to be positive for alcohol and no other member of staff monitored the testing. I know I had only had coffee and the only logical answer is the member of staff fixed the result. I was told I was not allowed any more time off the ward and I was to remain locked up 24/7 if I wished to stay. I protested and asked for a blood test as I knew I could prove I had not been drinking but I was told to keep quiet by other staff. I am happy to name the member of staff who did this to me. I am totally shocked that this happened in the NHS whilst treating an extremely vulnerable person. This person had the power to restrict my freedom and did so without impunity. Even worse, I was told by them that if I didn't like it I should leave and they pushed the forms in my face for me to sign. I was tempted but I knew if I left I would probably have attempted suicide.

To sum up psychiatric care at the Brandon Unit, I felt it was woefully inadequate. There are some very good members of staff but I felt the majority spent most of their time dishing out medication and filling in charts and avoiding communication with patients. We are treated as if we are troublemakers if we protest or question our diagnosis. Of course we are mentally ill and are not capable of having an opinion and that means that everything can be swept under the carpet.

Eventually after years of admissions to the Brandon Unit I went into rehabilitation treatment for alcohol problems and through counselling developed a greater understanding of my underlying problems. This has led to a full recovery from depression and alcohol problems. Why on earth couldn't the Brandon Unit achieve this? Not once did anyone ever take the time to get to the root of the problem.

It's my opinion that the whole culture of psychiatric care needs to change. Of course drugs are vital but there needs to be a more person centered holistic approach which meets the needs of the patients. I know that time spent talking with patients is costly, however that is what I needed most to sort out my problems which led to depression anxiety and drinking.

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Response from Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust We have made a change

Hi JoJo, We've read your concerns and because of the serious nature of your account, we would want to investigate further. It is not very clear when you were treated at the unit or whether you have spoken to use directly about your experience, but we would ask you to get in touch, please, so that we can look into it properly for you. We appreciate there might be reasons you wish to use a pseudonym here but without more specific information from you this isn’t possible.

What we can say is that our staff and we, as a Trust, work hard to provide the best care possible. We’ve not actually provided acute inpatient care at the Brandon Unit since early 2012, and we have also made several significant improvements to care over the past couple of years. This includes implementing daily reviews, changing the role of consultants so they are now dedicated to inpatient care, ensuring we have therapeutic liaison workers and occupational therapists on all inpatient wards to provide daily activities on and off the ward, plus we are planning to review the number of registered nurses on wards to ensure they have time to care for patients.

The easiest way to get in touch with our Trust is through our customer services team. This is a small but dedicated group of customer care specialists who are there to listen and help you. They are available from Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm on 0116 295 0830 or 295 0831, via email at customerservices@leicspart.nhs.uk or by mail at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Customer Services Team, Lakeside House, 4 Smith Way, Grove Park, Enderby, Leicester, LE19 1SX.

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