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"Steady as She goes: Overview by a life-long service user"

About: Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust / Adult Mental Health Services - Community (City)

(as a service user),

I’m A Catherine Wheel and I’ve been a regular in the world of mental health since 1979. I started out here in Local Mental Health Services Nottingham,(currently accessing the Stonebridge Centre, Team East), returned sometimes, and came back here to keep a promise. I’ve overstayed, and will soon be off to live at the seaside! However I’d like to post some  musings about my life and times here with LMHS Nottingham and follow them up with more detailed posts on some of them before I leave.  My services begin in 1979, but the subsequent detailed posts  will concentrate solely on now. 

Since 1979 LMHS Nottingham’s been like this for me:

Back then

port in a storm

A time of

sailing by


rocking the boat

making waves


woman overboard - clueless about how lovely the water is

My recent LMHS Nottingham experience has been disappointing, mixed, good, and great. Like this:-

The good:

Ace people: all recent: Much loved Vivienne, (now gone), Gordon (hanging on), Kieran (now gone), thank you.

Alex who is putting up with me: this pain in your neck, giver of disproportionate sticks, eater of all the carrots (being a veggie! ).  I don’t know how you are doing this. Can’t think why you haven’t refused to work with me. Glad you're around .  Coming off Seroxat is really something else!

Cafe Art: Lovely staff; great latte! Pity about the telly and the QI Hive take over. 

Those unforgettable consultations with Dr Sara, (once consultant psychiatrist of these parts to around 2016):

The aaaaaafternoon tea at the Ritz ones, and the greasy spoon consultations you gentled me to when required.

The time when Sara, and I swept the board and the carpet saw red at the Oscars, for that rant of a lifetime far exceeding expectations. (Thus also worthy of an Ofsted). Your quietly confident line: “Is there anything else you would like to tell me today?” 

You listened and you helped.  Despite your abrupt leave taking I hope you too are having a ball. Many happy retirements Sara!

The mixed and some of the disappointing

Having to DIY my mental health as much as I am expected to do here. I would have liked connection, and a woman counsellor to talk to. Alex is trying to get counselling for me now. I have though felt alone with it all. Lost. Missing. Absent. Standing next to myself often. There has been unnecessarily deep hurt, pain, yearning, struggle. I did have a social worker and support worker in Wales right until I came back here.  Yet it gave, does give, me the freedom to make my own decisions, try things beyond the present thinking here. To think and see more widely with others on the outside of health and social care. To be mixed up, making things up, muddled, mistaken, and rounded. Like life is.

The Trust’s involvement, co-stuff, peer stuff. It’s good to make improvements to what there is, keep up and raise standards. But can other things be done? How about looking at how distress, anguish, pain, despair, sorrow, fear, suffering, uncertainty, grinding down, etc become “health” issues? How about involvement with and co-production of a paradigm shift? Perhaps around how can we live together and organise life so we don’t need services like these in the first place? 

Sometimes I’ve longed for a space for us to question and debate. To think critically and broadly on topics, reflect, and represent things together. Things affecting us here like: Recovery, Journeys of Recovery, stigma, ableism, individualism, …..“The system”, so many locked doors, rationing and limiting access policies, organisational kindness, communication, provision of information, sharing knowledges. And the smartness of bees, not the QI ones, with their more flexible approach to collective wisdom. There’s so many ideas, ways to see, to relate to issues, to express them, and make them accessible to everyone.  

The great stuff of here:

People I’ve encountered along the way. 

Voicebox: a group for voice hearers, thanks everyone you are just amazing.

Learning that there’s a lot more to equality than opportunity.

Appreciating that not everyone, irrespective of dreams, trying and grafting, will necessarily make it.

Realising that we carry each other’s weight. 

To be given opportunities to use my privilege.


Handing it to myself that the choice between a journey of recovery and that armchair, slippers, and good book, has been the swiftest decisive decision I’ve ever made.  

Being able to be openly honest about how I think, feel, and dream. Yes, even being able to say that at times I do lie through my wisdom teeth about the contentious matter of the medications!                      

Thinking, well, maybe, you’re not that bad at LMHS Nottingham, deep down, perhaps. Having my ambivalence accepted and validated.

Writing wish letters to Mother Christmas of our Trust. 

Laughing. Having fun. Celebrating. Lots and lots of this!  

Posting on Care Opinion and seeing that it does get results in Nottingham! Many thanks the Service Manager of City LMHS Teams East and South.

Ah…. the bubbles and the sparkle though belong to those days long gone: To

Jane (when we psychotherapied together, last century)  

You said about fur-lined ruts. I said that one day you would be wise. I think you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Dr Price. 

Thank you all,   

A Catherine Wheel, in the Certain Ages, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. 



Response from Jane Danforth, Involvement Team, Involvement & Experience, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

picture of Jane Danforth

What a read! I really like the way you acknowledge the good, the great and the disappointing. It’s been real mixed bag. I was so pleased to read that Care Opinion has helped. It has massive potential for our patients, service users, carers, families and friends. We reply to every story and we can certainly use it more in the way you have suggested to bring about changes and to try different ways of working. We are listening and learning from your experiences continuously.

All the people who have helped you who are still around in the Trust will appreciate your thanks for their support. Your brilliant suggestions for Involvement, recovery, co-production and peer support will be shared with our team and beyond. Doing things together and collaborative working is embedded within our Involvement Team but it doesn’t mean we are complacent. We can always do better. Thankfully we are tenacious!

I know that there will be another reply posted soon from the services whose life you have touched in so many ways and I look forward to reading more.

Wishing you good health and happiness by the seaside! (beside the sea):-)

Thank You


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Response from Sarah Toone, Service Manager, City LMHT East & South, 145 Thorneywood Mount, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

HI, sorry for the delay in response Catherine Wheel - your post has given me much to digest and ponder upon. What a journey you have had since 1979 - how much have we all (hopefully), learnt and grown since then to be who we are and where we are now? Services may have changed by name but what I read from your experiences, there has ultimately been someone there with whom you have been able to connect with to help you make sense of this roller coaster journey of life we navigate our way through as best we can. For that, I am glad but I did read with some sadness that accessing services, particularly taking therapy, remains a challenge. Perhaps, if we all adopted your paradigm shift our communities would be a more acepting and healing place for all of us. Dreams we must keep alive along with the commissioning conversation about what people would like from services in Nottingham.

In spite of the pain and struggle that life has brought you it sounds that you have also found a space for joy and lots of laughter too. You mention a number of our staff that you have been able to share a laugh with and as Jane says, your feedback and thanks will be appreciated by each one of them still here. As a clinician, the best thing you can hope to achieve is to have provided a safe space for somone to say how they think and feel and express their dreams. It is even better to know that you may have been a contributor in supporting somone to take the brave steps required to actually go on to realise those hopes for recovery and dreams - however distant they may feel at times. So, thank you on behalf of all of them for your appreciation and recognition.

I would like to sincerely wish you all the very best in your next chapter by the sea. I am sure Alex will support you to leave us Seroxat free, if that is what you wish. I would also like to take this chance to belatedly thank you for your gift left at Highbury reception - it was shared with colleagues and the star shines brightly at Marlow House, a heart felt thank you.

Take care for now and we will all keep on keeping on


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Response from Amy Gaskin-Williams, Service User and Carer Involvement and Experience Manager, Involvement Team, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

picture of Amy Gaskin-Williams

Hello 'A Catherine Wheel',

We are really quite taken by your writing style and the enthusiasm with which you share your views and stories on Care Opinion. They're always a pleasure to read, and we're very grateful for you taking the time to articulate your experiences in the way you do.

In that spirit, I wanted to suggest something to you..

We (the patient Involvement, Experience and Volunteering team) are hosting a session at next month's Leadership Council. The Leadership Council brings together the 150 most senior leaders in Notts Healthcare to discuss and debate how we plan and run services and how we provide clinical care. Our session will focus on the importance of listening and responding to feedback and stories from patients, their families and carers.

Your long term feedback-giving relationship with Notts Healthcare is incredibly interesting. It demonstrates what we'd love to have with more patients - a regular constructive dialogue which provides real insight (and in your case, a lovely touch of good humour!).

We wondered if you'd consider contributing something to the Leadership Council? You would of course be very welcome to come along, if you wished to (we could protect your anonymity if this was important). If not that, I wondered if you'd maybe write something for us on your reflections on the dialogue you've had with our services and the impact on you (perhaps the impact you hoped to have on services/staff)?

If you'd like to do this, or want to discuss more with me, best thing to do would be send an email for my attention (to Amy Gaskin-Williams) to and I'll pick it up (not keen to put my personal email on this response as I'll get spammed!).

Thanks so much for everything you've contributed so far,


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