Sunday, 3 November 2013

there is no excuse for human rights abuse in psychiatric settings

It's now more than 18 months since my son was detained in the locked ward/ward 4/IPCU at Stratheden Hospital, Fife.  When he was forcibly treated and denied basic human rights as an inpatient, and I was forcibly treated and slandered in psychiatric notes, for standing with and advocating for my son.

It started in the early morning of Wednesday 1 February 2012 when my son was walking through the grounds of Stratheden.  Having tried for over a month to access crisis support in Fife, he couldn't sleep.  Although he had a CPN and was known to mental health services, neither he nor I could get any help for him.  We had nowhere to turn.

At 1.45am my son waved in the window to Lomond Ward staff who he knew from previous inpatient stays.  A female staff nurse phoned the police, saying that ex-patient ......... from ...... was walking about in the hospital grounds.  Naming my son and where he came from.  My son was put in handcuffs, taken to a police cell, stripped, had to put in a blue suicide suit, tested for drugs and alcohol (none) and taken back to Lomond Ward.  My son didn't resist and described it as "adventure".  He wasn't well.

[This same female staff nurse when on back shift used to smoke in a room at the back of Lomond, along with colleagues, when on duty.  Patients were well aware of this.  We whistleblowed on this nurse and another.  Not sure what the outcome was.  I also reported other staff who I saw smoking within the hospital grounds.]

Throughout 1st February an assessment on my son was not completed and he wasn't admitted as an inpatient.  My son had phoned me in the early hours of the morning to come and advocate for him at a meeting with the doctor, so I entered the ward at about 6.00am and was there the whole day until 5.00pm, apart from the 45mins at lunchtime.  Some of the time I had to wait outside in the car park.

I went into the ward at 6.00am and the door was locked behind me.  Shortly afterwards, a nursing assistant unlocked the door and let my son out into the darkness, with his suicidal thoughts.  I stayed in the ward to question the nurse in charge as to what was going on.  Meanwhile the police were sent for, again.  

I phoned down to my house, a policeman answered the phone, saying they were bringing my son back to Lomond.  It was now about 7.30am and the police upon entering the ward with my son, for a second time, told me to "keep an eye on him".  I tried my best to do so all that day.  

But the ward was in chaos.  Joinery work being done on the front door.  Cleaners washing carpets.  Nursing staff nowhere to be seen.  Distressed patients.  No consultant psychiatrists available, only junior doctors.  I was told later that it was a "changeover" day.  Still not sure what that means.

I left the ward at lunchtime to complain about the male nurse who had put his arm around me inappropriately earlier that morning, in front of my son.  This was the nurse who later that day, when I was out of the ward, assaulted my son and authorised the face-down restraint on him.  This was the nurse who was in the habit of speaking to female patients and nurses inappropriately.  

At 4pm my son was forcibly taken out of Lomond Ward in only his underpants and bare feet, escorted by 2 porters, into a minibus and up to Ward 4/IPCU.  He had a broken hand but I wasn't told about this until 2 days later.  I was told, in a phone call earlier, by the Mental Welfare Commission's Fife worker, that the Stratheden IPCU had no negative feedback.  Therefore I thought my son would be safe and well looked after.  I was wrong.

After my son was taken up to the IPCU, having been forcibly injected with Midazolam, he was locked in the seclusion room, given another injection of this benzo and left there for hours.  The  light switch was outside the room and flicked on and off at will by patients/nurses.  My son didn't know what time it was.  He was mentally distressed and locked in a room with no toilet or water to drink.  And left there.

I thought he was being well looked after.  The IPCU senior charge nurse said to me on the phone the next day that in her ward it was all about "relationships".  I believed her.  Until I saw my son 3 days later, with bruises and broken hand, and had to organise a doctor in the ward to check him out and for an X-ray to be arranged.

I had to insist on seeing my son that Saturday evening.  Five nurses had denied me access on the Saturday afternoon and said I couldn't photograph his injuries.  At that point my son was lying in the ward corridor covered in urine.  He told me later about this.  He didn't know I was visiting as the nurses hadn't told him.

My son was locked in the seclusion room 3 or 4 times through the night that first week, no observation sheets in response to an FOI (freedom of information) request that I made.  On the 4th time he needed the toilet, no-one came, he had to defecate on the floor and still they didn't come to his aid.  Patients shouted "slops out".

When the night nurses found out what he had done they were very unhappy and my son was treated even more harshly.  A face-down restraint by 3 nurses in the seclusion room while they forcibly cleaned him up.  Rubbing his nose in it.  A bank nurse stood by in corridor.  A young woman, recently qualified, she described the seclusion room as a "naughty step" and soon after got a nursing post in the south of England.

They cleaned up the seclusion room, put my son back in it and forcibly injected him with haloperidol, until he would take the drug voluntarily in pill form.  My son lost balance, fell over, the nurses said he was being silly.  I said it was side effects and to give him procyclidine.  

My son caught an infection, swollen glands, was put on antibiotics.  He also had a spate of verrucas on his feet, requiring months of treatment by the podiatrist, in the hospital and out in the community.

I only found out the full story about my son's treatment and human rights abuse in the IPCU when he was discharged from Stratheden Hospital in early April.  For months after he had flashbacks of the dehumanising treatment and talked it through with me.  

We had no other support apart from occasional meetings with the psychiatrist as my son reduced the haloperidol by small amounts every 3 weeks, coming completely off psychiatric drugs within 5 months.  The priority for me was to support my son in his recovery.  However I also started complaints against NHS Fife from 1 February 2012 onwards.

A few months later I started complaints against Fife Council and then against the NE Fife police who were involved in my son's treatment and adult protection investigation.  Throughout 2012 I was involved in these complaints processes .  This continued into 2013. 

I will speak more about what happened in the Fife IPCU and Lomond Ward, the complaints and the outcomes in future blog posts. 

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