On Mental Health Wards

I just saw this on Facebook, about a ward I used to work on (I didn’t know it had been closed). And now I’m suffering from what feels very like post-traumatic stress.

I used to work on this ward and one of the reasons I ended up quitting was because something like this was bound to happen sooner rather than later, not because of incompetence but because of the gross mismanagement at all levels of the trust — but that mismanagement did include not paying any attention to what was going on on the night shifts (and anyone who’d read about the Stanford Prison Experiment could have told you what the night staff’s behaviour was like).

But this is definitely not just the fault of the staff member in question (although had I been asked to guess at a staff member who would be banned for malpractice he would be at the top of the list). Mental health has been chronically underfunded for decades — during the last government (I don’t have figures handy for this one) two beds a day, every day, were cut from mental health facilities for thirteen years straight — and Manchester Mental Health And Social Care Trust was rated the third worst trust in the entire country, and sacked at least one nurse (Karen Reissman) for doing her job as a union rep and sticking up for patients and staff.

When you underfund services, cut corners and demoralise people to the point that the most dedicated and conscientious of staff all wanted to get out because the conditions are too bad to do their jobs, this is the result.

I could tell horror stories — not about any of my colleagues (the people I worked with on the day shift were almost without exception among the most decent, hardworking, conscientious people I’ve ever worked with on any job) but about the way that the system was overloaded to the point where taking proper care of people became almost impossible despite superhuman efforts on the part of the staff (and I know about this from both ends — I’ve both worked on the wards and had close friends who’ve had to access services). I won’t tell them, because it would be a horrendous breach of professional ethics to tell many of them, but as an example fact that is in the public domain thanks to the Reissman case, it was a regular occurrence to have twenty or twenty-one patients on an eighteen-bed ward, simply because there weren’t the beds available.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Yes, the nurse in question was a bad one and deserved to be banned from practice, but the whole system of mental health provision in this country has been an obscenity for a long time.

ETA And I am now boiling with rage after seeing that Glenda Jackson speech, where she attacks Thatcher for closing psychiatric hospitals (see my post above for Labour’s record on that) and for not building new social housing (Labour built far less than Thatcher did). Jackson supported a government that did exactly the same things as Thatcher, and that’s why our mental health system is so bad it led to the horrible incident I linked above. I hated Thatcher, but the self-righteousness of Jackson’s attacks on her for doing the same evil things that the Labour government did even worse is sickening.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.