Friday, 21 September 2007

Agoraphobia & the NHS local mental health team

The phone rang. Marie answered got to it first. When the call finished, she told me what was said.

-Hello, can I speak to Marie, please?
-This is Marie speaking.
-Oh, hi there, Marie. Kevin here from the Xxxx mental health team. I'm the new team leader. I believe you wanted to speak to me. You have a problem with your appointment with our psychiatrist, Lisa Dee?
-Yes, I want to get some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and my doctor told me that I had to be seen by one of your team first.
-Yes, that's correct.
-The doctor said that he would refer me, and a couple of months later, your team sent me out an appointment. I rang up a few days ago to see what room my appointment would be in, and when I was told which one it was, I told them that I couldn't get to it. I asked if another room close to the main entrance could be used. They said I had to speak to you.
-And why could you not get to this room? It's on the ground floor, only about 15 metres from the entrance.
-I've got agoraphobia. That's what my appointment is all about! I think that I can get into your building, but I couldn't go 15 metres down a narrow corridor. Sorry.
-I don't think we can change the room.
-Then I won't be able to come for my appointment.
-Well, that would mean that you would automatically come off our books. And you would have to get your doctor to refer you again to us if you wanted to see someone in the future.
-Yes, but I can't get to Lisa Dee's room.
-I'll have to have a word with her, then.
-Good! She knows my situation - well actually, it's deteriorated since I last saw her - she did an assessment on me a couple of years ago.
-Ok Marie. I'm not making any promises, but I'll get back to you.

The phone call took place about a month ago. Kevin hasn't called. The date of the appointment has passed. Isn't the British National Health Service brilliant?


Anonymous said...

Robert thank you so much for getting in touch with me.

I have spent a great deal of time reading about your wife, and can only imagine how hard it is for you also because I know what my own wife goes through dealing with the problems I have associated with Agoraphobia.

I was unaware of your Blog but having read it I did draw a lot of strenghth from it, and it is good to read the side of a Partner such as yourself, and how you deal with it.

I've got so much work to do on my Blog, updating all the links, photos, and other things, but I'll make sure I add you as I feel it's important that your side of the story get's heard as well as a side of the Agoroaphic themselves.

Take care, and I'll keep reading.

Darren (AgoraphobicEnglishGuyDownunder).

Aff said...

I agree completely that it's brilliant to see the partner of an agoraphobic blogging. Sufferers so often forget about the most special people - our carers and those who love us.

As for the British Health System, I've given up. After giving me a few sheets of paper and telling me to try breathing exercises, they seemed stumped. They've never helped me to try and get to the route of my anxiety.

Good luck in the future although sadly, I doubt I'll come back here to see that you've made any progress with them.

Robert said...


Thanks for dropping by, and for the kind words. I be visiting your blog again soon.

Robert said...

Affers -

I think the NHS does passably well at most things...but it's crap with mental health issues.

One problem is that the NHS like to pigeonhole you with a specific condition which they can treat using this specific method. But mental health problems are rarely that simple.

Another problem is that the finance required for effective mental health provision is seriously lacking.

Aff said...

Yup, I agree with all that. Most definitely.

I'm the type who always defends people in the NHS / The Police etc when the fashion to slate them kicks in whilst in a group of people.

But, as you say, the mental health side of things is severely lacking. I was thinking about it yesterday and I worked out that I'm not actually as 'well' as I thought I was and I'd love someone to try and help me move forwards.

Bah, going into blog entry mode...

*Picks up blog and takes it home*


Elanor said...

this makes me want to scream! I work in mental health and have worked in the public and private sector. (in australia)
there is just no excuse for this kind of stupidity and arrogance! I would like to slap this Kevin guy myself!

can you make a complaint? I have worked with people with this problem and it's very simple, you ask them where would be a good place to meet? can we sit outside or would you like me to come to the house, maybe we could so an initial assessment on the phone.

sorry to rant but I just get so angry, our job it help people, not to make it even more difficult. I am not sure of the English system but I can only recommend you make a written complaint and then keep looking. What your wife asked for is perfectly reasonable and easily addressed by any professional health worker who understands the condition and cares about their clients.

Ok I'll stop ranting now. Good luck I really hope you find someone decent.

Robert said...

Thanks for your comment Elanor. I hope you're feeling a bit more upbeat now?

I COULD make a complaint - there are even official channels to do this - but, ultimately it's Marie's choice. I let her make all the decisions about what to do about her agoraphobia; if she REALLY wants to be referred for CBT, she'll do something about it.

However, this doesn't excuse the attitude of many of the administrators in the provision of services for people with mental health problems. It seems more prevalent in this area of health care than any other. I mean, can you imagine the outcry if someone confined to a wheelchair was told that they wouldn't have their legs looked at if they didn't WALK up the stairs to see the doctor?

Anonymous said...

wow thats no good at all.... ive been trying to get my GP to send me for a mental assessment for some years now but im told that i must go private for such things (i cant afford private), with that my GP sends me away with pills. he did refer me to Suffolk Mind but it would be upto me to make arrangements, which i cant as i get massive panic attacks when making contact. seem silly? welcome to my world!! i have problems which i feel are seriuos and they are driving me mad and towards eventual self harm BUT NO my GP does not seem to have anything to offer.... anyway, good luck =)

Robert said...

Hi there anonymous (25/03) -

You are ENTITLED to be seen by a mental health professional. If your GP won't play ball, get another one!

Email me if you want more info!