I dropped by the Ceres Centre in Stratheden Hospital the other day, to say hello to an OT who had contacted me by Email. I went first into the shop area which has tables, chairs and sofas where patients sit and pass the time of day. Especially the long-stay or "left behind" patients.
And right enough there were a few of them sitting or snoozing. I noticed that nothing had been done about the toilet doors that open out on to the lounge area. No spring to automatically close them, still cardboard labels saying Mens and Ladies. But if one is occupied then the other will be used, regardless of gender.
They've put down a new carpet in the lounge area but the smell of urine still persists. I think it must be in the floorboards or coming from the toilets. The patients will have got used to it over the years. That doesn't make it OK.
The patients were telling me that they were getting moved out "into the community". Glenrothes and Newburgh, it seems. No choice, or at least only a choice between the two. The woman who I've spoken to a lot and who wants Burntisland, where she was born and brought up, where family members live, isn't getting what she wants.
With £1.5 million for the 'Stratheden Rehabilitation Redesign Programme' you'd think that at last the patients would get person-centred care or choice. But no, it looks like they will all be herded into units where they can be kept an eye on "in the community". After years of chemical lobotomisation the forced treatment continues. Locked doors of one sort or another.
No surprise there then.
However I spoke to one male patient who said he isn't for moving. Stratheden's been his home for many a year. He knows everybody and knows what's going on, and is a campaigner for justice in the confines of his environment. He told me that there is money sitting in a fund that should be for patients, from when there was a user-led collective advocacy group in the hospital. I'll need to check this out.
Now we don't have independent advocacy in Fife. The statutory agencies did away with the user voice. Much easier just to get us to rubber stamp their decisions, after the fact. They don't have a clue about what involvement really means. Because then they would have to change the way they work and they don't want to do this. They've got away with it for too long.
As I was waiting in the queue for the shop I noticed one of the long-stay female patients go into the Mens toilet after a long-stay male patient and flush the pan, closing the door afterwards. I suppose it's something she is in the habit of doing. Looking out for her fellow patients.
Someone has to.