Archives for the month of: July, 2011

Hi, everyone.

I thought it was about time I updated you on my condition and the hurdles I keep facing.

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

You may remember in July last year me talking about a treatment programme that is available at The Retreat in York for people who suffer with complex post-traumatic stress disorder and (PTSD) borderline personality disorder. The reason I spoke about it was because in 2004 Dr Chris said the programme at The Retreat would be ideal for me and suggested I think about joining the programme when the time would be right for me to be able to concentrate fully on getting better without distraction.

Yo-yoing

Since moving to the Nottinghamshire area services have made it clear that there is little help for people with my condition and in fact they do their best to write people off as hopeless cases. Whilst I was in hospital when I started this blog my consultant gave me hope by telling me that she had made enquiries at The Retreat and said the programme there is suitable. However she would have to speak to the head of the personality disorder network to gain clarity on funding and an application for funding treatment at The Retreat would need to be made to the local Primary Care Trust (PCT). I was so thrilled that services finally recognised I needed specialist help to improve my quality of life so I could go onto to live a more happy and fulfilling life instead of yo- yoing between crises and moments of despair.

Experts refuse to recommend treatment

In September I met with the head of the personality disorder network who simply kept asking, “What is it you would like to happen?” I tried to tell him that he was the expert and he should be helping me and prescribing the right treatment. The meeting ended badly as I became upset as I was told that until I had decided what treatment I wanted there was nothing services were prepared to do. I was given a care plan which consisted of an appointment with my consultant periodically and 72-hour crisis support in the event of a crisis. I was refused psychological input as the therapist had left the service, and I was told there were no Community Psychiatric Nurses (CPNs) available. The local crisis team does not operate a 24-hour service so in the event of a crisis outside of their working hours I would have to go to A&E. There was no plan for therapy or treatment despite NICE guidelines laying down very clear plans for people with my illness.

They put the phone down

Since this meeting I’ve managed to get through the months with the help of Dr Chris on a private basis. Dr Chris helped me look at what treatment I felt I needed and has also helped bridge the gaps between crises. When trying to access services in times of crisis I’ve had to face staff putting the phone down on me, the crisis team refusing to visit and medical staff requesting I use my inner resources to cope or I have to pay to see Dr Chris.

Formal complaints before I got a meeting:  my letter ignored

In March enough was enough and I wrote to the head of the personality disorder network detailing what my treatment requirements were in line with NICE guidelines. He ignored my letter and it wasn’t until I’d made various formal complaints about the service I was receiving that a meeting was set up with this head of department. The meeting took place in May and I was told the only thing on offer was a group therapy session once a week in my local area, where I work, and I am aware that many of my patients attend this group. As well as my concern about my personal and professional life being compromised, I also raised my worries about the type of therapy he was offering. It was clear he had ignored my letter as I had said to him that I wanted to discuss my letter of request, which he had chosen to ignore. I explained that in order for me to recover successfully I felt I needed intense, in-patient psychotherapy. I said in order for me to have a successful life and be able to do the job I love and contribute to my family I had to recover with expert help. The response I was given was that the only thing available was the hour-a-week group therapy.  However they are short-staffed so it might not be available anyway. I was then told people with chronic illnesses just have to accept them and live with them. I asked about funding for The Retreat and I was told, “You will have to make your own application yourself”. My husband I left the meeting horrified at the lack of help offered, knowing that if I don’t get the treatment I’m entitled to I may never recover and the Health Professions Council (HPC) will never allow me to work.

I spoke to Dr Chris who was very concerned and also puzzled that a patient would be expected to apply for funding themselves from the local PCT. He said this is the job of a consultant, not a patient.

At my last HPC hearing a concern raised by them was that I wasn’t engaging in any therapy which would reassure them that I was helping myself to recover. They said that once I could demonstrate that I was engaging in therapy they would consider me practising in the future. Consequently I asked my consultant to refer me to the once-a-week therapy group as this was the only thing available.

Guidelines ignored: tried fobbing me off

I also raised my concerns about applying to the PCT myself with the head of the personality disorder network. I wrote to him asking him how I would do this, and expressed my concerns about others who may be more vulnerable than me or less educated and not able to put pen to paper. I also said I should have the help of a doctor when making the application, particularly with regard to medical terminology and reports. The message I had back was: “I thought patients had to make their own applications as I’d heard this at a meeting I attended a few months ago. I may have misremembered what was said so I will have to speak to someone who knows about the correct process.” I think what he meant was “I tried fobbing you off and knew you might not be well enough to push for treatment so I gave you a task that was impossible”.  I quoted NICE guidelines for treating my illness and the head told me “Well, they are only guidelines”.

MP helpful

Finally, I received an appointment last week for what I thought was the local once-a-week group therapy program. When I discovered in fact that this appointment was just for an information hour and that it could be many many months before I start the program, if at all, I contacted my MP, Mark Spencer.

I met with Mark on Friday. He was very helpful. I tried to tell him everything that’s happened since writing this blog. He has said he is going to contact Nottinghamshire Healthcare and also Nottinghamshire County Council to find out exactly why both services have been behaving the way they have and why I am being given such substandard care: being forced to go private and being refused the treatment anyone with my diagnosis deserves. I will keep you all posted when I get a response.

Please share your experiences

If anyone would like to share their experiences of mental health services or offer any advice of programs of recovery it would be great to have feed back. Life is very lonely right now as I have little professional support and if I do access that support I’m either judged as a parent and professional for needing support or my requests for help are rejected. I just want to live a life worth living and move on from the trauma of the past. Happiness is all I dream about and it seems so out of reach at times.

The head of the PD network also told me the NHS is not a free service so I shouldn’t expect treatment to be handed on a plate. Who are these people in these positions making such stupid comments! No wonder the UK is in the mess it’s in!

I’ll blog again when I have more news.

Love and best wishes

Angela

Hi, everyone.

I thought it was about time I updated you all on the events that have happened since January.

NCC and my daughters

Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) are still playing silly games with me and my family. Social services held a child protection conference in January and stated that because they had not completed a parenting assessment and managed to gain a risk assessment from my consultant it was necessary to continue to keep my daughters on a child protection plan. The representative from Laura’s college disagreed with the decision, stating that she felt that as she was 17 she was surely old enough to make her own decisions. The chair of the conference disagreed, but did say that Laura would automatically come off the plan in April as she would be 18.

As for Jennifer, the social worker claimed that because she had hit a wall with her hand in temper it could be a sign of deliberate self harm. Other agencies confirmed I had had no mental health problems since July 2010, that the girls were doing well at school and college and both girls did not want visits from social workers. Despite this, the chair confirmed that because the parenting assessment wasn’t complete and social services wanted to ask more questions about my health, the child protection plan should remain in place for a further six months. Needless to say, the girls were furious, to the extent that Jennifer has since enlisted her own solicitor and although the plan states she has to be visited three-weekly by social workers, she refuses to see them, as did Laura.

Laura reached 18 on April 8th and is relieved to be off the child protection plan.

Social workers won’t make allowances for people in work

In February, Jennifer’s solicitor advised my husband and me to participate in the parenting assessments, as it would be the only way Jennifer would come off the plan. I informed social services we were willing to do the parenting assessments but that this would have to be after 4pm or on weekends as Andrew works full-time. The social worker said this wasn’t possible as they don’t work after 4pm or on weekends. I asked what happens when other parents work and the response given was “the people we usually work with don’t work”.  For the sake of Jennifer, Andrew took time off work. Despite this, social services didn’t get round to doing the assessment until the end of May.

Child protection plan despite my daughter’s refusal to see social workers

In June a further child protection review meeting took place, which Jennifer attended along with her solicitor. Despite Jennifer speaking to the chair and stating that she does not want to be on the plan the chair said the plan should continue. Her justification for this was that social workers had still not obtained a risk assessment from my consultant even though they had had 12 months to complete this element of the plan. Social workers confirmed that they had not seen Jennifer since December as Jennifer had refused to see them. The chair said she was unable to remove Jennifer from the plan simply because Jennifer didn’t want to see social workers.

It’s the social workers who threaten my younger daughter’s wellbeing

Jennifer’s solicitor asked the chair to clarify if the authority will be considering care proceedings if all of us didn’t comply with the plan. The chair said no to this, and Jennifer’s solicitor then challenged the purpose of the plan if the family are not willing to engage, pointing out the waste of resources and public funding. Jennifer was so upset and none of the professionals batted an eyelid. Social workers had been questioning the impact that my health has on Jennifer emotionally. However, they failed to see the emotional impact they were having on her. I tried to protest, stating that Andrew and I have protected Jennifer whenever I have been unwell and that my mental health should not be judged any differently to any other chronic illness. Social workers disagreed, saying people with mental health problems are different.

Once Jennifer had calmed down, we agreed as a family to stick together and if social workers visit we will just simply tell them to go away if we don’t want them to visit. Since the last review, luckily for us (especially for Jennifer) social workers have been nowhere to be seen and we have been left alone.

Breach of confidentiality by a doctor

In terms of my position professionally, things have also been quite stressful. As you may remember, my employers suspended me from duty in June 2010, following a telephone call from a representative of NCC, stating they had concerns about my mental health and suggesting they contact the crisis team. My HR manager rang the crisis team and spoke to a Dr G_ who discussed my mental health history over the telephone without my knowledge or consent. Dr G_ also failed to tell me he intended to breach confidentiality and, furthermore, I was at home with my husband at the time so posed no risk to myself or anyone else. I have reported this doctor to the GMC who are looking into the matter.

I have never worked when unwell, but I have been suspended

NCC then had some meetings without my knowledge and invited my employers. NCC requested that my employer raise a concern with the Health Professionals Council (my professional governing bodies) stating my fitness to practise was impaired due to  mental health problems. In December I attended an interim suspension order hearing in London at the HPC offices. The HPC panel decided to place a suspension order on my practice due to these mental health allegations. Despite my telling them that I have never worked whilst I’ve been unwell, and never would do, they still ruled that I could be a danger to the public because of the allegations.

Psychiatrists say I am fit to practise, but the HPC won’t let me

In April I visited the HPC again for an early review hearing. I presented the HPC with two psychiatric reports stating that I was fit and well, and a detailed report from Dr Chris at The Retreat hospital in York stating in his opinion I was fit to practise. I’d not required any input from local psychiatric services. Despite this new evidence, the HPC still ruled the suspension order should remain in place.

In June I attended a review hearing again at the HPC and despite Dr Chris being present as a witness and a new care plan being put in place to help reassure them I would be OK, the panel still refused to lift my suspension order. Another hearing date has been set for the 26th August 2011 and I am still waiting for a date for my case to be heard at a full hearing where the HPC will decide if any allegations are true or false and if I am deemed mentally unfit to practise.

Disability discrimination

In terms of my position with my employer, things are quite frustrating too. My employer has been using a back-door approach when making a decision on whether I can work in alternative temporary roles. They have been waiting for the HPC to decide if I am fit to practise as a paramedic. The HPC have said it is not their job to decide if I am fit to work, it is the employer’s responsibility. Occupational health declared me fit for work in August 2010, but my employers have still not allowed me back to work. The occupational health doctor has also changed and the new doctor has been waiting for the HPC to decide if I am fit to practise before he will commit to me being passed fit to work as a paramedic. At my last HPC hearing the panel said that as they had no report from occupational health saying how my employers could support me at work in my role as paramedic they couldn’t consider lifting the suspension order. Therefore I’ve been off work now for over a year, and no one is willing to commit to allowing me back to the job I have done for over 11 years without any difficulties, problems or complaints.

I have filed a case with the employment tribunal for disability discrimination, which is ongoing. My employers have been encouraging me , via my solicitor, to accept a pay-off to make their lives easier. However I plan to fight them – NCC and the HPC – and be exonerated.

Dogs for the depressed?

As for life in general, things are pretty good. Laura has just finished college achieving straight distinctions. Jennifer has now finished her GCSEs and has found a lovely school to go to in September. We also have a new addition to the family. Despite my huge fear of dogs, I have a new puppy named Jack. He’s really lifted my mood, and his unconditional love is amazing. Despite the discrimination I have suffered from NCC my employers and the HPC, I’m still fighting and my family and friends are helping me to do this, especially Jack! Perhaps we should have dogs for the depressed as well as the blind?

Case against NCC progressing well

I also have some good news regarding my legal case against NCC for the abuse I suffered whilst in their care as a child. Following a witness statement that was obtained a couple of months ago, my solicitor is all set to issue proceedings against the authority once I’ve seen a medical expert, and is very confident that I will be awarded significant damages for the abuse and injuries I suffered as well as loss of earnings for me and Andrew, costs for treatment and compensation for me being able to progress in my career had my childhood been different and I’d not grown up in the environment I did.

No wonder there is little money for public services, the way they are wasting it!

Having read the above before posting it, I’ve reflected on it and it has occurred to me just how stupid the authorities and public services and bodies can be. As we all know, the UK is not doing so well financially and there is a lot of public sector spending cuts taking place. Is there any wonder we are in this mess, especially when local authorities spend time and money on unnecessary child protection cases and on trying to discredit someone professionally to avoid a law suit? The NHS pay for an employee on £35,000 a year to stay at home and do nothing for a year, and then consider a financial settlement to get rid of problem that they have caused and are too ignorant to deal with properly. The HPC are wasting money on investigating a person who was working competently and has had no conduct or competency issues ever while working for the NHS.  And to add insult to injury the Council will probably be paying me hundreds of thousands of pounds because of their incompetence years ago (which sadly has not changed – children are still dying).

Food for thought for you all!

I will try and talk again soon

Love and best wishes

Angela x