"the thought of staying on the ward was truly too stressful"

About: Arran War Memorial Hospital / General Psychiatry Ayrshire Central Hospital / Old age psychiatry

(as the patient),

Following a dreadful and unexpected marital crisis, after four days with little or no sleep nor anyone to speak to, I became distressed by fearful and uncontrollable thoughts of suicide to stop the overwhelming physical and mental pain.

As a former health care professional of 35 years who had been involved with many para suicide and suicides, I felt embarrassed, and increasingly distressed by the isolation. I phoned the Samaritans, who urged me to contact the local services, GP and CPN. After two calls, saying that I needed help, I saw the CPN and GP. I was given a room in the local hospital. Between the Friday afternoon and Sunday lunch time, other than meditate or play chess with myself, there was nothing to do and no one to speak to. No pictures on the walls, a chair and a bed. At 11am Sunday I told the nursing staff that I would go home in the afternoon, for a change of clothes and use the Internet. I left at 2pm having said again that I would be going out. About 3pm the police arrived. Then came back again with a GP. I was told I would be put on a section for 72 hours and if I didn't come willingly I would be physically removed.

Transferred to a mainland hospital, I was put in psychogeriatric unit with two others probably with dementia and another with an elderly psychiatric disorder. On arrival my blood pressure was 230/130, an overwhelming sense of anxiety, almost panic was a struggle to control. One nurse did give me the opportunity to talk to him, his skills seemed to be concerned about writing me up the case study. Nothing to do, chess and word games were quickly exhausted.

Thrice one morning I was almost barked at indiscreetly "are you suicidal? " end of conversation! After three days it was a relief to get out and walk the roads outside for two hours in the dark. I had been told that after 6.15pm on the Wednesday I would be "free" to go as I wanted. No ferries then, but transport could be arranged for the following day. Four times I was told after that I could leave on the following day by the nursing staff.

The hope of relief from the isolating idle tedium was very powerful. A sense of humiliation added to the awful depersonalisation that had haunted this experience over the last five days. Truly a feeling of being utterly lost, actually disorientated. On the Thursday morning when ready to go I meet, for the first time, the ward doctor, who asked some sympathetic questions. I said that I was been taken to the ferry later in the morning. She returned twenty minutes later, much to my surprise with a form to sign, absolving the hospital and health authority of any consequences and any future care, yes any future care! This unexpected turn was frightening and distressing.

The thought of staying on the ward, which was like "one flew over the cuckoos nest" was truly too stressful and unpleasant to consider. I signed. There has been no follow up or contact of any sort since, as one would have expected. The last five weeks have been very hard, I sought a refuge at a retreat centre, here there was a programme of training "listeners". I am still not sleeping, sweating a lot and find I have a tremor and palpitations. I'm learning ways to stop persistent cycling thoughts, some that I used to teach my patients. More difficult than expected. My blood pressure has come down though. The experience has left doubt about my sanity and even to question early dementia.

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Response from Andy Swanson, Clinical Operations Manager/Senior Nurse - Elderly Mental Health, Elderly Mental Health, NHS Ayrshire and Arran

Dear Randie McMurphy,

Hello, my name is Andy Swanson, Clinical Operations Manager/Senior Nurse in Elderly Mental Health Services.

Thank you for sharing your experience, which sounds to have been very distressing for you. There are many aspects of the care experience that I would like to explore with you and feel having a conversation would be of benefit. Please feel free to telephone 01563 826376 to arrange a convenient time for us to talk.

Kind Regards


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Update posted by Randle McMurphy (the patient)

Is this page personal or can all see it? If not, initially can I email you a reply?

Response from Andy Swanson, Clinical Operations Manager/Senior Nurse - Elderly Mental Health, Elderly Mental Health, NHS Ayrshire and Arran

Dear Randle McMurphy,

Thank you so very much for welcoming Carol and I into your home today and giving us the opportunity to hear first hand of your care experience. I appreciated the way in which you shared your story, your willingness to consider with us how improvements could be made and your generosity in offering help in the future based on your insights. The sensitivity of our staff to recognise feelings of isolation and to genuinely listen to patients is a learning point in which I will share with the ward team to ensure that appropriate interventions are tailored to meet individual needs that are meaningful, purposeful and respectful.

Following our visit, I am pleased that an outpatient clinic appointment has now been arranged later this week for you.

I am truly sorry that your experience of our service was not what you would have expected and offer you my sincere apologies and thank you for bringing the issues to my attention.

Kind Regards.

Andy Swanson

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Update posted by Randle McMurphy (the patient)

Dear Andy,

Thank you for your time and patience yesterday. Your attention and listening was very much appreciated. Thanks for being patient with my fragility. I am very aware of the weight of your professional activities on a day to day basis, as well as well as monthly. So I am all the more grateful for your unhurried visit to the island. Thankfully the often unpredictable ferries were running.

The only item we did not talk about much was the issue of inter staff communication. I had been told I would be free to go after 6.15 on the Wednesday. There being no ferries after 6.00pm I was informed that transport would be arranged the following morning. However as the "narrative" above notes I was given a "fait accompli" to sign the form absolving the health authority of any consequences or future care. I do realise the consultant had said he would like me to stay till the end of the week, if later only one person had said we, the doctors, the nurses, or whoever "really would like you to stay a little longer", instead of reinforcing my arrangements for departure.

Again thank you for your visit out of your busy schedule.

With sincere gratitude,


PS at a later time if I can help or advise, in any capacity with this challenge, I would be willing to do so. Like Alcoholics Anonymous and other organisations, those who have been through such distress have insight to help those going through the same experience.