"Nurse ignored my palpatations"

About: Mill View Hospital Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust / Working age mental health care (inpatient)

(as the patient),

I have tried complaining but I feel it is pretty useless.

I have been suffering from depression for most of my life but I was first diagnosed in France when I had a break down in 1990. It was the early days of Prozac but after several methodical trials with other antidepressants I was prescribe Prozac which worked very well and within couple of weeks and I returned to being functional.

Because of illness, however I resigned from my job and as advised by my psychiatrist in France I returned to UK for psychotherapy. However the therapy didn't turn out to be that beneficial and I became ill again in 2001 due to number of tragedies in my life.

I went to see a private psychiatrist in UK (Priories) who suggested ECT. But when I told him that it was financially impossible for me he said that he would write to the NHS and recommend me for ECT. My NHS psychiatrist sent me to hospital for a minimum of six but up to 12 sessions of ECT. I felt it was all done cheaply and with the minimum of after care which included a cup of tea and long walk back to the ward.

After the third session I came around feeling not very well and getting steadily worse. By the time I arrived at the ward I had this terrible palpatation which kept getting worse and worse. I complained several times to the nurse but she didn’t seem to recognise the severity of it and kept telling me that they would come around soon to give my anti-depressants and then she would tell the doctor.

I pushed my way forward towards another nurse and while in terrible pain I screamed over the rest of the people about my palpitation. He had a puzzled look on his face and then he said something like wait a minute, I'll deal with you once I have given this lot their medication.

I felt I was about to collapse and I told him about my really, really, painful palpatation. He told me that I should take my antidepressants and that they would make me feel better. But I insisted that I wanted to see a doctor as soon as possible. So he told me to go to my room and he will send a doctor. I did as I was told and waited in agony and waited, and waited.

Anyway I don't know how long it passed but it was getting dark when I decided to crawl out of my room again. When I did, I found the ward completely deserted! I could hear the patients in the TV room laughing and talking but apart from them I couldn't see anyone else. I went into the TV room and asked if anyone had seen the nurse and no one said anything.

I wanted to leave the ward and get a taxi or something to get out but I was in too much pain. So I made it back to my bedroom and just lied down.

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Response from Rachael Kenny, Head of Involvement, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

I am really sorry that you had such an upsetting experience - I am getting some advice about current ECT practice from one of our psychiatrists which I will post early next week that I hope will be reassuring. It is not clear from your post when what you described happened - if it was recently and you would like to complain the PALS service at Sussex Partnership can help you through the process. You can contact them by email and they can arrange to phone you. Thank you for taking the time to post - all the views that we receive through this website are included in information which goes to senior managers in the organisation. Their job is to ensure that everyone who uses our services has a good experience - knowing what happened to you is important as it means that they can take steps to improve what we do when things are not going well.
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Response from Rachael Kenny, Head of Involvement, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

I just wanted to let you know that it is taking a little longer than I anticipated getting the information about current ECT practice - I am sorry for the delay and will post it as soon as I get it next week

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Response from Rachael Kenny, Head of Involvement, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

It is clear from the discussions that I have had with a number of our staff over the past few days that ECT is a controversial subject - the treatment provokes very different views and it is clear that while some service users find it helpful, others like you have a bad and frightening experience and would prefer to use alternative means to address their mental distress You may know that the changes to the Mental Health Act which came into force in October 2008 introduced stronger protections for people for whom ECT may be seen as an option and this trust along with all others administrating the treatment has to follow strict guidance around gaining consent - there is some excellent information about ECT on the MIND website - it also addresses some of the physical health concerns that you highlighted in your post. You might also want to think about preparing an advance directive stating you do not want to receive ECT even if you are detained under the Mental Health Act ( 'sectioned') and are deemed to lack capacity as this gives you an extra layer of protection in these extreme circumstances – I would really urge you to discuss what you have posted here with whatever clinicians you are currently working with as understanding someone’s views on what works for them and their past experiences is key to us getting things right for you in the future
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Update posted by Jake59 (the patient)

The ECT took place sometime towards the end of 2002 or beginning of 2003.

My last letter was to the doctor in January 2008 after a meeting in which I felt she treated me like an idiot and avoided all explanation. She did say that the Palpitation was not due to caffeine, it could have been due to the anaesthetic! I feel sure that she was being evasive and wanted me out ASAP because she recognised that there had been a screw up.

This particular doctor left Mill View a long time ago, but I feel that the replacement is no better. I am sorry but my opinion of mental health care in Sussex is very poor.

It is not a question of whether ECT is good or bad or even suitable. I am concerned about the aftercare I received – it was minimal and uncompassionate and when I felt extremely unwell, I was left to manage the pain alone. This is unacceptable.

I had the chance to see ECT carried out in a private clinic. A nurse stayed with the patient for the next 12 hours by the bed. I am sure if in that situation the patient complained about palpitation the nurse would have called a doctor who would have come and administered the appropriate drug to prevent damage to the heart or even death.

I am angry because I feel like you have deliberately missed the point and are all in it together.

Response from Rachael Kenny, Head of Involvement, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

I hope this further information helps; The trust has a policy outlining how ECT should be administered at all of its sites. The policy is based on a set of standards published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists under their ECTAS (ECT Accreditation Scheme). There are specific standards about aftercare and adherence to them should prevent the situation you experienced. Briefly, there are very specific criteria covering who is responsible for a recovering patient and the sort of care and reassurance that should be offered as well provision for accessing more specialised help if there are problems in the recovery process. It also details the level of orientation and comfort that should be met before someone is discharged from the recovery suite to a ward or home as well as how a persons experience of each session of ECT should be followed up. As I said before, I am sorry that you had a bad experience and hope that this response goes further to reassure you that things have changed since you had ECT. If there are further issues that you would like to discuss please contact our at PALS team and they will do what they can to help you.
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