I received a newsletter by Email last week from the Tayside Carers Support Project (TCSP) and had a quick look through for any useful information, being an unpaid carer of a son living in the Tayside area. However what caught my eye and caused me concern was a report about a visit to the ECT "suite" at Murray Royal Hospital, Perth.
I wasn't bothered about the fact they had arranged this visit for carers but rather how it was portrayed in the write up:
"The project would like to thank Alistair McCluskie, one of the nurses involved with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), who provided a tour of the ECT Suite at Murray Royal Hospital on 16th June 2014 and explained the procedures. During our visit, we were shown the suite of rooms which are used for the procedures, which were spacious, light, and well equipped for the treatment. Alistair allayed many of our myths and misconceptions concerning the treatment and we concluded the information session feeling much more informed."
Firstly the observation about the room being "well equipped for the treatment". What did this mean? Then the comment about "myths and misconceptions" being "allayed". What did that mean? Finally the comment about "feeling much more informed". My concern is that this piece promotes ECT in a positive light without any of the risks associated with it. Not least the fact that people can be forcibly treated with it.
Electroconvulsive Therapy is a contentious treatment because it consists of an electric shock to the brain, performed under anaesthetic, causing a fit to the person, and doctors still don't know how it works. And it doesn't cure anything, rather it causes short term memory loss and also longer term memory loss for some people. (new pain for old)
Two thirds of people getting ECT in Scotland are women and the mean age is around 57. One third get ECT involuntarily, against their will, and a percentage of people get "maintenance" ECT which means they get it again. More details can be found on the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network website. Here is their latest summary report, with some quotes from it, words in brackets are mine:
"In 2012 there were 362 patients who received ECT, relating to 434 episodes of treatment"
"The majority (68%) of episodes involved patients who were capable of giving informed consent (therefore 32% were not capable of giving informed consent or were defined as "without capacity" and given ECT against their will)"
"Overall, 67% of patients showed a definite improvement after completing an episode of ECT (therefore 33% didn't show definite improvement)"
"Critical incidents occurred in five (0.1%) treatments"
I raised my concerns with the chief executive of Support in Mind Scotland (SIMS) who manage the TCSP and received a letter today in response. However I'm not happy with the response. It personalises my stance and takes a patronising tone. It's not the first time I've had this type of response from SIMS when raising concerns.
Here is my closing remark in an Email sent today to the chief exec:
"I am not speaking from "difficult personal experience" in this Email. I
am speaking as a professional, a reflective practitioner, a qualified
community educator and care lecturer, a writer, activist and
campaigner. Please do not personalise everything I say."
I recommended they train up their staff in how to write balanced and factual reports. Carers will have a wide range of views and deserve to be represented professionally and treated equally, with respect.