Thursday, 9 October 2014

on speaking out about Stratheden Hospital

I've been speaking out about issues at Stratheden Hospital, Cupar, Fife, since 1995 when I first had a family member in the acute ward, Lomond.  I made a complaint back then about an incident that happened in the ward, a medical action, or lack of, and I got an apology.  There was also a much more serious incident that resulted in my family member being rushed to Ninewells Hospital and we were called for.

This was to do with one treatment of ECT "going wrong".  We didn't get the details, whether it was the anaesthetic or the electric shock.  But I remember that my husband wrote down everything in case we had to bring it before the Mental Welfare Commission.  However my family member survived and I spent the next year supporting him into recovery.

Then  in 2002 I found myself a patient in Lomond Ward, firstly voluntary then detained and made to take the drugs.  I thought it a very risky place for a woman.  The dormitories overlooked by single rooms, down the same corridor, that had male patients in them.  The nurses' staff room was nowhere near and it felt very unsafe to be drugged up and having to sleep beside people I didn't know.

In between times my middle son became mentally distressed and I made sure to take him to Dundee for I didn't want him to be in Lomond Ward after the earlier experiences of my family member.  Too risky.  So he went into Liff Hospital, in both 1999 and 2000, which he still speaks positively about.  We can't say the same about Stratheden Hospital and the nursing staff.

My youngest son has had 4 inpatient stays in Stratheden Hospital due to experiencing trauma from serious physical health issues.  He was treated with antipsychotics, different ones, and each hospital admission was more stressful and less therapeutic.  Not least because of what was happening in the ward.

In the summer of 2010 he was an inpatient of Lomond Ward for the third time and I spent longer periods visiting him, observing at the same time what was going on in the ward with other patients and by the nurses.  I was concerned to see a number of issues and poor practice, and I reported these to the senior charge nurse in the ward, to NHS Fife managers, copied in to the head of the Scottish Government Mental Health Division who I knew personally from phone calls and Email contact.

I spoke out about a young female patient, a Russian masters student from St Andrews University, who had been brought into Lomond Ward by the police, unwell.  When I first saw her in the ward she was not keeping her clothes on.  How do I know this?  Because the nursing assistant who was "observing" the student was telling her to keep her clothes on.  I heard this and so did the male patients walking by.  I could also see that she was in her underwear, through the gap in the curtain of her room window.  Others would also see this.  

I saw a number of other concerning behaviours by nurses and reported these too.  You might describe me as a whistleblower but I didn't see myself like that.  I couldn't stand by, observe and do nothing.  It was the female patients I was most concerned about.  I saw one older patient, a woman I know, about my age, who was a friend to me when I was a Lomond Ward patient, walk down the corridor in her underwear and an older male nurse take her back to the dormitory.  I saw this same male nurse stand and receive an embrace by another young female patient as if it was the "done thing".  He saw me watching this happen. 

On 1 February 2012 this same older male nurse unlocked the Lomond Ward door at around 6am and let my son out into the dark with his suicidal thoughts when I was standing there.  I asked this nurse why he did this and he said nothing.  I think he expected me to follow my son out into the darkness but I didn't.  I stayed in the ward and made a complaint about it to the nurse in charge.  The police were sent for a second time to bring my son into Lomond Ward in his mental distress.

Later that same day my son was cornered in a back room of Lomond Ward by three male nurses and his hand was broken.  One of these male nurses was the son of the male nurse who I had complained about in 2010 and who had let my son out of the ward earlier that day into the darkness.  Father and son working in the same ward at Stratheden Hospital, at different times.  I later heard that this "son" had come down from the IPCU ward where he usually worked. 

One of the three male nurses who detained my son in a back room of Lomond Ward when I was standing outside in the car park later emigrated to Canada, so I heard.  I had complained about this male nurse in the March when my son had been transferred back into Lomond after 4 traumatising weeks in February in the IPCU/Ward 4.  I didn't realise at the time that he was one of nurses with my son when his hand was broken. 

In fact I didn't know the full story of what happened to my son in February 2012 when he was an inpatient of Stratheden Hospital until he was discharged in April 2012.  From Saturday 4 February 2012 when I was bullied by 5 nurses in the IPCU for trying to take a photo of my son's broken hand and bruises I advocated for my son whenever he asked me to in the IPCU.  And I kept a close eye on him when he was transferred to Lomond Ward at the end of February.

I kept up a barrage of complaints when my son was an inpatient of Stratheden Hospital in February and March 2012.  I did not trust the psychiatric nursing staff to behave in an appropriate way with my son or that clinical management would behave professionally.  I had no evidence of this in my previous dealings with them.  And I knew many of them from having participated in the Fife Mental Health Strategy Group and from running events funding by statutory agencies.  

I also did not trust the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland to act in my son's best interests.  I did not feel that they had any authority or power in terms of what was happening inside the walls of the Stratheden IPCU/Ward 4.  They had no negative feedback from patients or carers, so they said, although they had declared the IPCU to be "not fit for purpose".  Which had no impact on the actions of NHS Fife. 

The upholding of my complaint against NHS Fife by the Scottiish Public Services Ombudsman is only a start.  I am not happy with the inaccuracies in the Ombudsman report made by NHS Fife.  I am not happy about the accusations made against me in an Adult Protection Investigation report.  I am not happy with certain senior uncivil servants who have been targeting carers because they haven't done the job right.

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