Snapshot of the BBC coverage of the Khyra Ishaq case in Birmingham

Social services' neglect led to the death by starvation of Khyra Ishaq in Birmingham. If the way Nottinghamshire County Council is dealing with my case is anything to judge by, children in Nottinghamshire are at risk too, as social services appear to be all over the place in their handling of things.

Hi, everyone.

Ridiculous farce

This morning I received a letter from Notts County Council social services apologising for not inviting us to a core group meeting on 17 August. We should have been invited to this in order to discuss the child protection plan that has been imposed on us. Again, Andrew and I haven’t had a chance to have our say regarding this ridiculous farce.

Not allowed to cook for my daughters

I have spoken to the manager at NCC social services this afternoon who has informed me that the social workers assigned to us will be in touch shortly. I told her I was appalled that no one had been in touch for weeks, even though they think the girls are at risk. I informed her that the girls don’t wish to speak to them and Andrew can only meet with a social worker on an evening or at a weekend. I also said that I would consult my solicitor before speaking with them. The child protection plan states I have to be supervised at all times with the girls, and must not be alone in the car with them or cook for them.

Manager also questioned plan

I informed the manager that we cannot adhere to the plan, and won’t be doing so. I also told her that I informed social services of this on 23 July when I was discharged from hospital. She actually admitted that she had questioned the plan herself, and said that I would have to discuss this with the social workers assigned to us. Apparently, the social workers want to meet us on a three -weekly basis, so it looks like we are going to have fun and games over the next three months.

Taxpayers’ money

I am disgusted that the department is wasting taxpayers’ money on a series of errors and unnecessary assessments. I am standing my ground and determined that NCC are not going to disrupt our lives. I am not going to make things easy for them.

Wasting resources on my case

I spent the day with Laura, my older daughter, and we talked about the current situation with social services. Laura is 17, nearly 18, and even she has commented on how irresponsible and inadequate NCC social services are. We reflected on the poor girl in Birmingham who starved to death, partly due to social services’ lack of input and mistakes. Social services complain that they are overworked and under-resourced. Perhaps if they didn’t waste time on cases like mine they would have more time for those families that really do need the help?

Does a 17-year-old have any right to privacy?

I also passed on to the manager Laura’s concern about her health records being shared without her consent. The response I got was as there was a child protection issue and Laura is still deemed a child her records can be shared with anyone involved. Surely Laura has a right to privacy and confidentiality just as much as an adult? If anyone reading this has any thoughts on this issue or any knowledge of children’s rights I would like to hear from you.

I’ve been told a social worker is going to contact us today to make arrangements to see us. I won’t hold my breath and will keep you all posted.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

The tragic case of Baby P as described on Wikipedia

The way Nottinghamshire County Council are dealing with my case makes me fear that local authorities have learnt nothing from cases such as the death of Baby P. Not only are NCC wasting time, energy and resources on someone who is no threat at all to her children (me), but, if they really do believe I am a threat to them, they are demonstrating negligence as, after ludicrously claiming that my daughters need protection from me, they have not contacted us for many days. Am I right to suspect that they do not genuinely fear for my daughters' safety and that the fact that I am suing them for what they did to me when I was a child in their care explains what feels like their persecution of me?

Hi, everyone.

I hope you are all well.

I am sorry I have been away for a while. I have spent the last few weeks trying to make sense of the past couple of months and, more importantly, spending time with my family, trying to restore normality for them.

Shambles – spoke in my absence

Various things have happened since I last spoke. As mentioned in my previous blog, I was waiting for the child protection conference with Notts County council (NCC). It was held on 9 August at 2 p.m. I forecast that it would be a shambles and that no one would turn up. I was right on the first point anyway. A lot of people turned up, which, to be honest, was quite intimidating and embarrassing. Apparently someone attending the conference wasn’t happy I was there, so asked to speak in my absence, so Andrew and I had to leave halfway through.

My husband libelled

We were all handed various reports, including mine and the girls’ health records. No one had sought consent from the girls or me to release these records. This is surely required, especially if they were to be shown to people who are not healthcare professionals. In fact, even my younger daughter’s school representatives were given copies! The school admitted that the comments made in the documents about Andrew being aggressive when visiting the school were wrong. The social services report had various other mistakes and inaccuracies which we raised with the chair of the conference. She asked us to make notes and hand them to her when we left. Andrew and I were not in the meeting long and didn’t really have a chance to say much as we were asked to wait outside until the end, which is when we were told we would be informed of the outcome.

Told of conference outcome in a public place

An hour and a half later we were told of the chair’s decision in the reception area of the building (not exactly the most private of places). The chair told us that both girls were going to be placed on a child protection plan as she felt they were at risk of physical harm, and a further conference will apparently take place in three months. I was furious and protested, saying that the whole thing was a farce. I also raised the issue of the reports being incorrect and requested our copies back. She assured me that they would be sent to us in the post, along with her decision and the minutes of the conference. She also urged us to make a formal complaint in writing if we were not happy with the process.

Breach of daughters’ confidentiality

We arrived home and both girls asked how things had gone. They could see I was unhappy and when I informed them of the outcome they too were unhappy. Both girls mentioned the aspect of confidentiality and how they felt their right to have their health records kept confidential had been breached. Laura said that although we are all honest and open with each other, and there are no secrets between us, she still had a right to privacy and, hypothetically, the records might have contained things she didn’t want to share with Andrew or me, such as the use of contraception.

Wanting peace, not resurrection of the past

I was issued a leaflet informing us of what happens next. According to the leaflet written by NCC, and also their webpage, the next event would be a core group meeting, which would include Andrew and me, and which would be held within ten days of the child protection conference. During those ten days we were informed that we would receive the chair’s decision in writing, along with the minutes of the conference and the social services report. We were also told a social worker would be assigned to us within that same ten-day period to check on the family and make arrangements to speak with us all and do an assessment. As a family, none of us wanted the intrusion, and I, in particular, wanted some peace to concentrate on getting better and back to work. The last thing we wanted was the resurrection of the past! Nonetheless, we prepared ourselves as best we could for the next meeting and also for the intrusion of a social worker into our lives. Andrew said he would keep his diary pretty free as the social workers don’t work evenings or weekends.

No contact from NCC, although daughters supposedly at risk!

We waited for the letters and phone call, and guess what? We haven’t heard a dicky bird from anyone at NCC. To claim that the girls are at risk and then not to be bothered to check we are all OK is an absolute joke! No wonder we keep hearing of stories such as that of poor Baby P, or the little girl in Birmingham starved to death! Fortunately, my girls are not at risk and never have been, but I am concerned about those children who are at risk and being left for two weeks without social services’ input. The whole thing is a disgrace!

Fighting for my career and reputation

During the past two weeks I have been focusing on getting back to work. My job is a huge part of my life and is a real protective factor for me. Due to NCC contacting my my employers and telling them that I was a risk (because of the access I have to various dangerous drugs) I was suspended from duty, pending an occupational health assessment. I feel it is inappropriate to discuss anything related to my current position at work, however, and, in any case, the suspension agreement does not permit me to talk about it. What I can say is that I am doing everything in my power to get back to work, and my employers are supporting me continuously. Mental health services and NCC, however, are not being supportive at all, and I am currently fighting to save my job and career as well as my reputation.

Conflict of interest?

I may be being paranoid, but I am of the opinion that if I didn’t live in the area that is governed by NCC, life would be somewhat easier. As it is, at the moment they have control over my health status and also my children’s lives, via their schools. Consequently, Andrew and I have decided that once I am back at work we are going to move from the area. My younger daughter, who is still in compulsory education, has asked to change schools and requested to go back into the independent system at a school out of our locality. I have made enquiries at the school she wishes to attend, and hopefully come September she will not be returning to a school run by NCC.

We also have decided as a family what we are going to do if social services make contact. Andrew has said he will speak to a social worker only if they are prepared to see him after 6 p.m. during the week or at the weekend, as he cannot take any more unnecessary time off work. Laura has said she is going to write to social services complaining about the breach of confidentiality in respect of her health records, and to tell them she doesn’t wish to speak to them. Jenifer has asked Andrew to tell them she doesn’t want to see anyone as she doesn’t trust them. I have informed her that she will probably have to tell them herself but, for now, Andrew will keep them at arm’s length. I have decided I have wasted enough time and energy speaking with NCC, and also feel that as they are the authority I am suing (for exposing me to paedophiles when I was in their care as a child) there is a conflict of interest here. Therefore, I don’t wish to speak to anyone employed by NCC in the future. If they need to speak to me I will refer them to my solicitor.

All I have to do now is concentrate on the future, and hope we can get back to normal family life and how we were pre-2001.

I will keep you all posted and, hopefully, my next post will be positive and contain good news.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Hi, everyone.

Case dismissed!

Good news at last! The police rang me on Friday to tell me that the CPS have discharged the case against me and said they are not pressing charges. The relief I felt was amazing and the investigating officer even sounded pleased that I was finally free of the stress the whole case had caused me.

Names, places and facts wrong

Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) social services visited Friday also. They came to show us the report they are submitting to Monday’s child protection conference. As a family we had all received letters inviting us to the conference. Bizarrely,  however, they got names, places and facts wrong. Laura received a letter to say she was going into care but the conference was about her sister. I received a letter detailing the girls names incorrectly and inviting a GP, whose name is unknown to us, and who is certainly not at our practice, to attend the meeting. Andrew received a letter saying Jennifer was the child being investigated and not Laura, and Jennifer received a letter detailing the purpose of the conference on a leaflet titled “For parents”.

The wrong parents described in report!

The social worker presented me with the report she was submitting. As I cast my eyes over it I wasn’t phased by the errors jumping out at me straight away. Dates, times and names were wrong, as well as grammar. NCC had spoken to Jennifer’s school and managed to write a report about the wrong parents. Facts about all of us were incorrect and both social workers seemed embarrassed. They kept reminding us of the complaints procedure when I kept mentioning all the errors that were being made. I was furious and said, “NCC have a nerve to question our parenting abilities. They can’t even write a report correctly. How on earth are we expected to have faith in the system?”

I also queried a key element in the report, which was their supposed concern about my daughters’ emotional wellbeing. I raised the question, “If you are so concerned, where have you been for the past seven years, never mind the past six weeks for that matter?” I have been experiencing mental health problems for seven years. During this time we have pulled together as a family and helped look after each other. We have never been offered any help or support by social services, even in the past six weeks when they started all this trouble. Surely if they were so concerned they would have done something to help? Instead they waste time writing silly and incorrect letters and reports.

Again I was told to highlight my concerns with the chair of the conference on Monday and follow the complaints procedure. Surely the time that has been spent on our case, and dealing with any complaints we have, would be better spent on protecting children who are starved to death by their parents?!

One failing authority assigned to prop up another?

The shocking fact is that the social worker who has been assigned to our family is from Birmingham. She claims she has been asked to work for NCC as they are a failing organisation! Again, they don’t make any sense and, to be honest, the whole service has been a joke. Birmingham has been big in the news as a failing authority, so God help us if NCC have requested their social workers to come to our area.

Conference will be a shambles

Tomorrow at 14.00hrs the child protection conference is taking place. There have been fifteen people invited to discuss concerns about the girls and to decide if they are placed on the child protection register. All this sounds very formal and official! In reality, I imagine that the conference will be a shambles. I think we will be the only ones on the invitation list to turn up, and the conference will consist of us questioning the authorities’ abilities and them making themselves look foolish. Let’s wait and see?

Will keep you all posted.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Hi,  everyone.

The last time we spoke I was still in hospital waiting to be discharged or be reassessed for a further Section 3. On Friday 23 July I was discharged at 16.00hrs. I attended a care plan meeting to discuss my future care. Various health professionals were present. A representative from Nottinghamshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Department arrived late, during the meeting.

Minimal care on offer

I presented to the professionals a care plan I had written myself, and after a lengthy discussion I agreed to what care was on offer (which was very minimal). A potential admission to The Retreat was discussed, but I was told it would be some time before funding could be secured, if any. The psychologist I have been seeing explained he would have to cut my therapy short as he was leaving, and he admitted there was no one to replace him. Therefore I was left with an open out-patients appointment with my psychiatrist, 72-hour support from the crisis team if needed, and then admission to the acute ward if necessary.

Daughter considered to be at risk

The social worker said a child protection conference had been arranged for the following week. Whilst I had been in hospital there had been an agreement in place between Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC)  and Andrew to the effect that I couldn’t be left unsupervised with my daughters when home on leave. I informed the social worker that now I was discharged from hospital I wouldn’t be adhering to the agreement. She asked if I could remain an in-patient at hospital until the date of the child protection conference. I was horrified, and explained that a hospital bed is for someone who is ill, not to be used as a babysitting service for NCC. The social worker said that as one of my daughters was considered to be “at risk of harm” (because of her age), she would have to speak to her managers. The meeting ended, and I left thinking, “At last I can start to get on with my life again!”

Frustrated and offended

No such luck! I’d been at home an hour and the social worker rang to tell me the child protection conference had been cancelled and her managers would be in touch on Monday to discuss the agreement. I felt so frustrated and offended. The authorities were claiming that my younger daughter was deemed to be at emotional and physical risk because of my mental health. Andrew and I have done everything for the girls, and made sure their emotional and physical needs were met. I thought social services had a cheek as I have been suffering with mental health problems for the past seven years and there has never been any contact with services or offers of help with parenting and the like.

Feeling victimised by NCC

It seems so coincidental that NCC has become heavily involved in my life and instigated other agencies’ involvement only since I decided to sue them (for placing me in the care of paedophiles when I was at their mercy as a child). I may be wrong, but I can’t help feeling victimised as there have been some serious errors made by the Department and they appear to be doing everything in their power to cause me stress and worsen my mental health. Furthermore, NCC has never once offered any family support, which would have been the obvious thing to do if they had truly been concerned about my family’s wellbeing.

Left to enjoy family life last week

Anyway, last week I spent most of my time catching up with household chores and enjoying my daughters’ company. The social workers’ manager didn’t ring. In fact, we heard nothing at all from them, so much of last week was pretty calm and we were able to settle down as a family to our old routine. Feeling mentally and physically well, I spoke to my employer and reported fit for duty, even though I am still suspended.

Over the weekend I took stock of what I have to face in the imminent future:

  • I have a medical with occupational health on 12 August so the doctor can pass me fit for work.
  • In order to go back to work, I need a decision from the police on whether they are going to charge me or not (with threatening my daughters’ lives).

Ten years in prison!

Thinking about the second item, I rang the investigation officer to take some advice, as it is worrying knowing that if I am charged, depending on the sentence, I could lose my job. I rang on numerous occasions and left messages but had no luck in reaching him. I set about doing some research on the Crown Prosecution Sevice (CPS) website and my blood ran cold when I saw what sentence I could receive if I’m charged: ten years!!! In prison!!! I felt sick all weekend, hoping and praying the CPS would throw the case out. As I hadn’t heard anything from social services I assumed we had heard the last of them. I just hoped and prayed Monday would bring some positive answers.

No advice, no answers to calls

Monday was just a day of frustration. I spent most of it on the phone ringing people and leaving messages. I wanted advice from the police about how the investigation is going and the prospect of being charged. I tried my solicitor, dealing with the criminal case, but he wasn’t available. My worries about my future increased. I couldn’t face prison and losing my job. I also rang social services, as I wanted to confirm that the case with them had closed. Again there was no answer there too, and my calls were not returned.  I tried to put my anxieties to the back of my mind and hoped that I would get some answers the following day.

Police seeking evidence!

On Tuesday morning there was a message on my answerphone from the police. It said that the CPS had requested further information and their investigations are ongoing. Therefore I still have to answer my bail on 12 August. I was worried! My solicitor had previously said the case wouldn’t go anywhere, yet they are obviously taking things seriously by wanting more evidence. I rang my solicitor, who couldn’t give me any answers or speculate as to the outcome of the police case. I asked him about what sentences I could receive and he just said it would depend on what I am charged with.

NCC persist in claim that my daughter is at risk, after leaving us alone for eleven days!

The post arrived.  There was a letter addressed to me.  Andrew kindly read it for me, and told me that we had been invited to a child protection conference next Monday, 9 August. You can’t imagine how angry I felt. The authorities were claiming in the letter that one of my daughters is at risk of harm or abuse. It stated that the social worker would have to write a report about our family circumstances. I’m puzzled as social services have known I’ve been at home for eleven days. I’ve had no offers of help or support and, as for the written report, I can’t understand how the social worker can write anything about my family as she has only met me once briefly and the same for Andrew and the girls. Again, if my daughter is placed on the Child Protection Register I stand to lose my job. I rang social services all day leaving messages. I wanted to discuss why the conference had been set up and what to expect. Again, no one returned my calls, so I’m left with feeling alone and in a world of the unknown.

All I want is to try and get on with my life with Andrew and the girls, and have some positive news for a change

I will keep you all posted as the next week’s events unfold.

Love and best wishes

Angela

The Acorn Programme at The Retreat

The Acorn Programme at The Retreat, York. After a long struggle it looks as if I might get the funding I need to go on this excellent programme, which offers specialist treatment to women suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, such as myself. A big part of the treatment is the therapeutic community approach.

Hi, again.

Qualified staff tied up

Over the last four weeks I have spent time thinking about my care and the future, which felt bleak. During my admission, I have met some very nice people and on numerous occasions we sat together complaining about our level of care and our feelings of hopelessness. One of the main complaints was the lack of therapy and treatment, and it was apparent that the way the acute ward is run is based on observations, containment and medication. The qualified staff were tied up with administrative duties, and the support staff spent time with those patients who were under observation and needed personal care such as washing, dressing and feeding.

Patients left to cope with anxieties themselves

Those patients who didn’t need observations and personal care were expected to occupy themselves during the long days with very little to do, and to cope with their anxieties and mental health symptoms themselves. Support from most of the staff was limited, as staff reguarly claimed they were too busy. At times there was a lot of noise on the ward due to patients trying to abscond or presenting with psychotic symptoms. Staff often seemed to use control and restraint procedures and drugs to calm down the most challenging patients. Over the weeks it seemed that the only support some of us were getting was from each other, or from one of the activity groups coordinated by a lovely lady from an organisation called Rainbow Learning.

When I moved areas four years ago, funding for my care at The Retreat was withdrawn, and I had to access local services. Although the Primary Care Trust (PCT) states that its employees should not be treated locally, my new consultant was insistent that the local services in the area in which I work were the only option available to me. Services that were available were:

  • out-patient appointments with my new consultant
  • 72hr crisis support, and
  • admission to the local acute ward.

Focus on containment, not therapy

My new “care-provider” seemed to focus only on containment and not on therapy and treatment. I have endured various admissions to our local acute ward, formally and informally, and while the staff are generally pleasant (although not all of them always engage with me), I have never had any therapy or treatment during my stays. My fluctuating condition, which I think is best described as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (the same thing many war veterans are afflicted with), has therefore tended to deteriorate over recent years, and ultimate recovery has seemed doubtful.

Therapeutic communities and aspecialist programme focused on recovery

During the present admission I reflected on The Retreat Hospital and the type of care they provide. My experiences in the acute ward at my new hospital are hugely different to my experiences at the acute ward at The Retreat. There were many types of group therapy during the day, as well as regular one-to-one care with variously qualified members of staff. As patients, we were encouraged to look after each other too, and the ward was described as a “therapeutic community”. The Retreat also runs a specialist programme –  the Acorn Programme – for women who suffer with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, such as sexual abuse survivors. The programme operates as a therapeutic community, and there is even more group and individual therapy than the acute ward. The main ethos of the programme, in my opinion, is that everyone works together during therapy and supports each other in or out of therapy. The programme is about recovery, and is run by some excellent therapists.

A suggestion

During my current admission I have noticed how we as patients have been supporting each other and sharing our experiences. This type of interaction between us as patients has got me thinking. Surely if patients are lucid, orientated and want to recover from their illness would it not be more cost-effective to run more therapeutic communities in hospitals, to provide therapy groups throughout the day and daily one-to-one therapies, and to focus on recovery before discharge? Surely this would reduce admissions to hospital and the drain on resources in the community, A&E and general medical and surgical wards who provide care for those who have repeatedly self-harmed?

Consultant now looking for in-patient treatment for me

Talking of therapeutic communities, following the MDT meeting on Tuesday when my consultant asked to see me she gave me the news I had so longed for. She discussed my care over the last four years and voiced her concern that my admissions to hospital had increased and that my condition seemed to be getting worse. Out of the blue she began to tell me that she felt that all local services available to me had been exhausted, and she feels I would benefit from in-patient therapy. She told me she had made enquiries at St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton who run a specialised programme for women. However, they only accept patients who are on a section 3.

News got better but four years wasted

The news got even better! She then told me that she had also made enquiries at The Retreat Hospital about the Acorn Programme, and was willing to apply for funding from the PCT for me so I could have The Retreat’s specialised treatment. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me! The sense of relief flowing through my body was amazing. The light at the end of the tunnel had finally appeared. Although I realise the process of gaining funding and waiting for admission will take some time, just the thought of knowing that treatment will eventually be available has made me feel more positive about the future. If one had applied a common-sense approach to my needs, then surely I would have been referred to the Acorn Programme years ago?  The money that has already been spent on my admissions to hospital over the past four years plus on medication, the use of  the local crisis team and admissions to hospital generally, would have amounted to far more than the Acorn Programme would have? I can’t help feeling aggrieved that I have wasted the past four years of my life because it has taken that long for a consultant to realise the treatment I need is specialised and that a therapeutic community is more appropriate for me. I can’t help but worry that there are many others like me who are still only receiving minimal and inadequate services and that recovery is therefore not an option for them just now.

Local treatment inappropriate

In order to strengthen my case to the PCT, my MP is writing to the PCT to support my application. The solicitor I have been using, who specialises in mental health, has written to my consultant informing her that it is inappropriate that I am treated locally in the future. I have had to treat many patients during my duties as a paramedic and then to have to see them again in hospital as a patient is not only embarrassing but I feel it could also compromise my professional position. Thank goodness I work with very supportive colleagues, a fact that helps enromously and means a lot to me!

My consultant granted me home leave Tuesday to Thursday, and requested that I see her on Thursday morning at 9.15 to discuss discharge and the future. In a new post I will let you know how that meeting went and what further hurdles I have to face over the next few months.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Hi, everyone.

I hope all is well.

MDTs – humiliating and intimidating

As you may be aware from my previous posts, Tuesday afternoons are when the Multi Disciplinary Team meetings (MDT) for patients under my consultant are held. Personally, I find these meetings intimidating and humiliating, due to the number of people in the room. They cause me further stress rather than serve a therapeutic purpose.

If you don’t attend, what little voice you have won’t be heard

On Monday 19 J uly 2010 I had a think about how I could avoid the stress of the meeting, and although I had previously asked to meet with my ccnsultant alone she had insisted that she needed certain staff members to be present in the MDT. I was in a quandary as to what to do, which was causing me anxiety in itself. I then realised that the best way I communicate is through my writing, so I formulated a plan. It is not compulsory that one attends the MDT.  However, if you don’t attend, what little voice you have won’t be heard. Therefore, I set to and hand wrote a letter to the team, detailing my apologies, my reasons for not attending, and what my requests and intentions were.  I ended my letter saying I would be happy to discuss any points in the meeting with my Consultant on a one-to-one basis. The letter was photocopied by my named nurse and I asked him to hand it in to the team on Tuesday afternoon.

At last I had been listened to!

Throughout the afternoon I was calm and relaxed, as opposed to feeling worried about a forthcoming MDT. It felt really good that I had taken back some control. At 16.30 my consultant approached me asking if she could see me. At last I had been listened to!  I discovered during my meeting with her that she had done far more than listen. At last services planned to do something helpful and were beginning to think about my future. Details in my next post!

Love and best wishes

Angela

19 July 2010

Care worker “suspended for affair with patient”

I was sitting in the garden at the hospital with some of the patients and I asked if anyone knew where one of the male staff members was, as I’d not seen him since my admission. One of the women I’d become friends with said, “Oh, he has been suspended due to having an affair with a patient who is a friend of mine, and he has now left his wife for her.”

…For the second time

A male patient who has known the staff member very well for some years said, “Yeah, it’s the second time he’s been suspended. At a previous mental health establishment he worked at he was caught doing the same thing, and he’s been out with numerous patients.”

Came on to me when I was sedated – disgust

My blood ran cold. About a year ago I was admitted to the same ward during the night and was very poorly and distressed. A female staff nurse on duty sectioned me until a dcotor arrived and administered intramuscular tranquillizers to calm me down. The male member of staff in question took me downstairs to the garden for a cigarette and sat me down on the bench, put his arm round me and tried comforting me – or that’s what I thought he was trying to do! He asked how things were at home and I confessed that things were difficult between Andrew and I, due to his frustration related to the pressures of my illness.

I mumbled on about the abuse I had suffered and how it was affecting me as an adult, and became quite distressed. The staff member’s arm moved further round and he pulled me close. Although I felt uncomfortable, I had difficulty resisting him due to my sedation. For a second, however, I really thought this cuddle was genuine and that the support worker was just comforting me until he suggested we go out together when I was discharged. I remember feeling horrified but was unable to express my disgust. Despite me being nearly half the man’s age, and being married, he had stepped over the line of being a healthcare professional. I asked to go back up to the ward and went to bed.

Made excuses for his behaviour

The following morning I tried to reflect on the previous night, which included the staff member’s behaviour. Because of my previous experiences (of not being believed, at best, and setting myself up for further abuse, at worst) I put the incident to the back of my mind, and decided simply to steer clear of him. He continued to be tactile when he could, and was with other female patients too, but never explicitly came on to me again, so I put my experience down to the effects of the drugs I’d been given and internally made excuses for his behaviour.

Rescued from his clutches on another occasion

A few months later and a while after I’d been discharged from hospital, I was at work one day and in the A&E department cleaning the stretcher. I felt someone’s arms slide round my waist from behind. I thought nothing of it, as I thought it was just my crew mate messing around as the patient we had dropped off thought we were married. You can imagine my horror when I turned round, laughing, to see it was the support worker who had hit on me during my last admission! Fortunately, my crew mate arrived in the nick of time and rescued me from his clutches. That was the last I saw of him.

To report him or not?

Whilst listening to the patients I battled with myself as to whether I should say something to the ward manager. I felt I owed it to any other vulnerable women who might come into contact with him if he was allowed back to work again. However, my experience of speaking out is that it almost always caused me more problems, and if the new allegations were found not to be true I might be made to look pretty stupid. A part of me felt relieved that this man had abused his position of trust with other women, but only because that made me feel I wasn’t the only one, not because I wanted anyone to come to any harm!

Relieved and proud

I decided to speak out, very tactfully and carefully. I asked to speak to the assistant ward manager in private. I explained to him what I heard and told him that I understood that he was unable to confirm the support worker’s suspension or discuss anything concerning the member of staff. I also explained that I felt compelled to speak out in case the allegations were true . I then briefly told him what I had experienced. The assistant manager was surprisingly supportive, saying that he appreciated me coming forward and understood how difficult it was for me to do so. He explained that the information would form part of an ongoing investigation and at some point in the future I would be asked to give a statement. I felt so relieved and proud that I had maybe helped protect other female patients.

Views and opinions?

This episode just goes to show that abusers still manage to work in such positions of trust. Surely it’s about time the authorities tightened up their screening of applicants wanting to work with vulnerable adults, and then provided training setting out clear boundaries between patients and staff? Nothing seems to have changed since I was a child, apart from the introduction of the CRB check. If anyone has any ideas on how the authorities could improve their screening process I’d be interested to hear your views and opinions!

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Angela Bayley with Father Christmas

Here I am with Santa. Many children are traumatised by meeting Father Christmas (Santa Claus). However, what caused my complex post-traumatic stress disorder (or borderline personality disorder) was far more disturbing. In this posting I discuss these diagnoses. I hope healthcare workers will read it.

Hi, everyone.

I hope your weekend has been as good as mine.

Off like a shot

I didn’t tell you in my last posting, but I had originally thought I would be leaving the ward at 10 a.m. yesterday, not 1 p.m. I was set ready to go home at 9.30, full of excitement, and so I was absolutely horrified to hear that my section 17 leave was to start at 1 p.m. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, time passed slowly, but Andrew eventually appeared at 12.45 and as soon as the clock struck one I was off like a shot.

A cuddle and a whirlwind

I arrived home and the first thing I did was cuddle Laura. Her face was a picture of happiness to see me home. I felt motivated to crack on with the chores Andrew hadn’t managed to get done due to the pressures of work, caring for the girls and visiting me. It’s been a long since I felt interested in my surroundings or motivated to look after the home we have built together. Yesterday I was ready for action and determined to get back to normal, put my Mum and wife head back on, and make up for the things I had overlooked. I went through the house like a whirlwind, cleaning, washing, ironing and changing beds. The house felt clean and fresh and I was looking forward to getting into a nice clean bed.

Mid-afternoon, Sarah and Charlie (my childhood social worker and her husband) came to see how I was before they went on holiday, and they brought me a lovely scented candle for the lounge. We all sat together in the kitchen, putting the world to rights, and we also discussed my current situation with the police, social services, mental health services and work.

Positive – no flashbacks or alcohol

For once I managed to engage in a positive conversation and not be haunted by flashbacks and avoidance tactics, like medication, self-harm and alcohol. Andrew had bought me a bottle of wine, based on our agreement that I would only drink at weekends. I managed to forget it was sat in the fridge.  Compare this to a few weeks ago when I’d have finished it within hours of it being bought and would be well onto my second bottle! With Andrew’s support, I was determined to stay focused and positive as well as tackle my problems head-on.

My stepmother is harmless now

Not long after Sarah and Charlie had gone, a blue car pulled up outside the house. My heart sank as I saw Lillian (the stepmother whom I describe at length in Disruptive) get out the car with her mother. I didn’t want anything to ruin my weekend, and I knew her presence could trigger bad thoughts and feelings. Although she is harmless now, and has certainly repented her sins, she is a clear reminder that I had a troubled childhood and that my father abandoned me on more than one occasion.

Not swamped by uncomfortable feelings

Anyway, I opened the front door with a big smile and told myself that Lillian’s visit was with good intentions and she wasn’t going to trigger my emotions or cause me any harm. She handed me some beautiful flowers and I led her and her mother to the kitchen for another cuppa. We had a good natter about “this and that”, and then she told me my father had been in touch with her to tell her about my book Disruptive, which she hasn’t read. This was the first time it had been mentioned since I had started writing it. I managed to push my anxieties to the back of my mind and explain the process of my writing and how useful it had been. I told Lillian what my aim was – that it wasn’t to apportion blame but to help me understand things that had happened to me in the past as well as help other survivors similar to me. I really stood my ground, whereas normally I would pussyfoot around Lillian, feeling guilty if I upset her and caused any disruption. It was an achievement to believe in myself and not be swamped with uncomfortable feelings and maladaptive behaviours.

Enjoying the moment

Andrew, Laura and I managed to sit down on the sofas with our pizzas round about 8 p.m. Andrew cracked open my bottle of wine as well as getting himself some pear cider. Laura wanted to watch “Casualty” so we selected the film we wanted which we put on at 9.30 p.m. It was so nice to just relax all evening with my family, climb into my own bed and enjoy the moment instead of dwelling on my difficulties.

The diagnoses of “Borderline Personality Disorder” and “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” and health workers’ reactions

Talking of difficulties, one thing I struggle to get to grips with is the label I’ve been given: “Borderline Personality Disorder” (BPD). One of the kind comments on the blog talks about mental health workers only able to care for those with simple mental health diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  My consultant when I was at The Retreat, Dr Chris, was very sensitive about the label BPD, and would use a kinder label “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (complex PTSD). My experience of mental health workers’ reactions when I tell them of that diagnosis is so different – it’s a lot more sympathetic! This just goes to show how discriminated against we sufferers of BPD are, and why there is such a lack of care.

Stigma: “attention-seeking and a nuisance”

NICE guidelines for some years now have included clear instructions for people with PTSD. However, it’s only recently that NICE recognised BPD, and, whilst they suggest that people with BPD are the highest risk group for suicide and that they can have terrible mental health symptoms, they are not very clear about treatment and appropriate care. Sadly, there’s a limited number of establishments that specialise in BPD, and they are usually private hospitals. The stigma of mental health is bad enough and workers are always wanting negative opinions to change. However, many mental health workers frown upon people with BPD, labelling them as attention-seekers and a nuisance. It’s clear that they have little training in this area of mental health and find it hard to understand or implement treatment. The feelings of not being understood are raw for people like me with BPD. I think services should start educating workers more in this area of mental health to prevent ignorance, discrimination and judgemental attitudes.

Please read about BPD!

As an NHS worker myself, I realise that many of us would like more training to deal with difficult situations and diagnoses but it’s seldom available due to cost implications and lack of resources. Therefore can I ask anyone who has an interest in mental health or works with people with mental health difficulties just to take a few moments to read up on BPD, and on how you can help? You would be amazed what a difference it makes to someone’s mood when they feel understood. Only 1% of people suffer with BPD but it would be useful if those 1% were taken more seriously.

User-friendly complex PTSD?

Maybe we should ditch the American label “Borderline Personality Disorder” and change it to the more user-friendly diagnosis, “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”? I would be interested to know what your thoughts and views are. I hope you can help.

Promised to be home soon

Today has been an easy day. I’ve done some more chores to ease the burden for Andrew. I also cooked a huge Sunday lunch, finished off with homemade apple and blackberry crumble and custard. It felt good to look after the family without considering it to be a big effort or chore. Time passed so quickly and before I knew it, it was 5.30 p.m. and time to go back to the hospital ward. I kissed Laura goodbye and promised I would be home soon.

Abusers have controlled my life for too long

Andrew dropped me off at the hospital and spent an hour with me. He seemed pleased that I was feeling better and encouraged me to stay in a more positive frame of mind. My abusers have controlled my life for too long and at times nearly beaten me. However, I’m still fighting and I am going to try and keep doing so.

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

My big sister and I as little girls.

My big sister and I before things went wrong for us. A happy family is so important, and I am looking forward to spending time with my family this weekend. I have been desperately homesick while in hospital.

Hi, everyone.

I hope you are all well and having a good start to your weekend.

You may be wondering how I got on at work yesterday at the meeting where I faced being suspended from duty.

No issues with my employer

I’ve been trying to come up with the right words to describe how things went and what my job situation is. The reason for my difficulty is that I did get formally suspended from duty and one of the conditions is that I don’t talk about the case. I am more than happy with this as I have no issues with my employer around the reasons for my suspension.  In fact, I understand why they have had to do it. I also value my position within the service and will do whatever is needed to return to work as soon as possible.

Professionalism

I can tell you about my meeting itself, but from now I will only be able to talk about my employment situation when anything positive happens during the process of my return. I arrived at work for 12.45 in order to meet my union rep. He arrived bang on time and looked very dashing in his suit, shirt and tie. I was impressed at his professionalism and it helped me have the confidence in him to do a good job. We discussed my current situation with the police and my admission to hospital under section. He was really understanding and reiterated that everything was confidential.

Immense stress in last three weeks – ready for a fight

After our discussion we invited my manager to the training room to commence the meeting. I was nervous and not sure what to expect. I’d experienced so many cloak-and-dagger situations over the past three weeks and been involved in meetings where I had no input or say in what was being discussed. I feel the last three weeks have caused me immense stress and have been very challenging. Therefore I was ready for a fight with my manager.

Issue not my professional conduct but Nottinghamshire County Council’s report

This fight wasn’t necessary as my manager was straight to the point and was also supportive and understanding. She informed me that my being stood down wasn’t due to any issue my employer had with me; it was due to an outside agency (Nottinghamshire County Council) reporting concerns to my Human Resources Department (HR) about my mental health and the implications this might have with regard to my safety with drugs.

Blog reported, formally suspended

My manager told me that someone had reported the blog to HR too. She asked me if I was on a section, in hospital and if I had been arrested. I answered yes, and was honest about everything, and obviously they have read my blog so know everything anyway. My manager informed me that being stood down is only a temporary thing, and she formally suspended me on medical grounds.

No blame… approach really helped

She made it clear it was in line with the NHS Trust’s disciplinary procedure, but is not an indication of guilt or blame. She also informed me that it is in my terms and conditions that I have to report being arrested and admitted to hospital. I was therefore in breach of contract. (I wasn’t aware of this, and to be honest it would have been the last thing on my mind.) She said the breach issue will be dealt with once I have been assessed by occupational health and ready to come back to work. This calm and rational approach really helped; I have had enough stress caused by the thoughtless actions of people who know little about me and care even less.

Supportive

Finally, my manager informed me about the support service the Trust provides. I think I’m going to use them and make the most of what is on offer to speed up my return to work. Anyway, to conclude, both my union rep and my manager were very professional and supportive throughout the meeting. I have no complaints against them, only praise.

Really miss my family

Today I’m on weekend leave starting at 1 p.m. and I can’t wait. A night in my own bed, safe and secure with my husband, is something I can’t wait for. Andrew has been shopping already, and he, Laura and I are apparently going to eat pizza, veg on the sofa, watch a film and relax all evening. I am looking forward to having some time with Laura too, as I really miss my family and I am very homesick.

Psychologist leaving so will tackle problems myself

I am trying to work so hard to recover and get things back to normal so I can move on and away from mental health services. My psychologist has informed me that he is leaving his post for a new job and cannot complete my therapy. There has been no mention of a replacement psychologist so I have accepted that I have to tackle my problems myself with the support of my friends and family.

Things happen for a reason

My station manager said to me four weeks ago “things happen for a reason”, and maybe she is right. My psychology sessions were making me quite ill, so maybe it was time to withdraw from the therapy anyway and move away from the reminders of my past. The therapy I really need is out of reach, and gaining funding for it is near impossible. I have spoken to my MP’s office about therapy I need, as set down by NICE guidelines. However, I’m not going to stress over it. If it happens I will see it as a positive, and I’ll start it when the time is right.

I will update you tomorrow evening on how my weekend has gone. I hope your weekend is going to be as happy as mine is going to be, fingers crossed!

Take care.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Angel Bayley on a beach ball as a child.

This is me sitting on a beach ball as a little girl. In some ways I had more control over my life then, before things went wrong, than I do even now, when I feel as if I am being helplessly bounced around between various authorities.

Hi, everyone.

I hope you are all feeling well.

Thank goodness for my named nurse

I was going to talk to you more about my police interview but having read what I posted last night there isn’t much more to say, apart from thank goodness for my named nurse last night, and his understanding when things were difficult during the night.

Awkward and hostile, threat of Section 3

Today has been fairly uneventful, apart from a meeting I had with my consultant at 11.30. She arrived at 11.45 and we went into one of the side rooms. She wanted to talk about my dissociation. She couldn’t get to grips with what happens and was adamant that I need monitoring. I explained that dissociation wouldn’t happen while I was here and, more importantly, while staff remained in the office and away from where the patients area. She was insistent, and I feel sure now it was an excuse for her to stop me from going home on leave. She even discussed my possibly going onto a section 3, even though I wasn’t giving anyone cause for concern. After a very awkward and hostile conversation she agreed I could go home for:

  • 17.00 – 21.00 tonight
  • 10.00 – 18.00 tomorrow (Friday)
  • 10.00 Saturday – 18.00 Sunday
  • Hospital Monday and Tuesday ready for ward round (multi-disciplinary team meeting)

Utter rubbish

I really had to fight for this, and her only defence for not allowing long amounts of leave, despite Andrew being at home tomorrow and all weekend, was that she wanted me monitored for any dissociation. I’m so frustrated as she has to confirm with the police that I do dissociate, even though staff or her don’t witness it. Her theory for a section 3 also is that I am a potential danger to others (the girls), which is utter rubbish.

Patients left to sort out fight themselves

The day has been long with very little to do apart from drink tea. Time seemed to pass slowly as I was counting the minutes down until Andrew came to pick me up. He arrived on the dot and we went to our local for some tea and a drink. Laura was at her friends, so Andrew and I made the most of time alone at the pub and at home. We had a lovely time and 9 p.m. was upon me before I knew it. I arrived back at the ward bang on 9 and the staff had not even noticed I’d gone. Apparently, according to other patients, the staff had all been in the office all night and the patients even had to sort a highly fuelled altercation between two of them themselves.

Worried about losing my job

Tomorrow is a worrying day. I am due to be suspended from work, because it’s policy if you have been arrested for anything. I could even be disciplined for not telling my employers straightaway. My meeting is at my ambulance station with my manager at 13.00. If I am not gagged by the service I will let you all know how I get on tomorrow evening. Tonight is going to be difficult as I’m very worried about my job, which is very dear to me and is also a huge protective factor for me. Working is my best therapy. I have never performed badly on the job. In fact, I am often praised for my work. On the occasions when I’ve felt unwell I have always complied with the Health Professionals Council’s Code of Conduct, and reported sick.

I will speak to you all tomorrow and I hope you have a good day.

Love and best wishes

Angela x