"My experience of Becklin Centre"

About: Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust / Inpatient mental health care

(as the patient),

I feel that staff do not appreciate how stressful a hospital admission is, especially on the 1st time it happens. It is upsetting for close family members as well, but staff were rude to my mother and my mother asked me why they were ignoring her and talking to her with hostility. I said to my mother, it's because they have issues with me not you - my mother was a visitor visiting me.

Staff say you can be escorted out for a cigarette hourly - but most of the time you had to wait up to 3 hrs – I started self-harming (never done this before and stopped after discharge) as a way to cope with cravings - scratching my arms until they bled. I felt better than holding the anger and distress I had whilst being shouted at for asking for a cigarette. I used meditation and breathing techniques as a coping strategy and was told that I was 'sitting funny' that was how they commented it in my notes - staff were supposed to respect religious beliefs but they recorded my meditation as odd behaviour of symptoms of psychosis.

I asked for vegan meals on 1st day of admission - it took over 2 weeks before I actually got a vegan meal - I felt that they were not respecting religious beliefs. I saw a staff member eating a plate of dinner in the dining room whilst telling another patient that she didn't understand vegans as I walked past her - I felt that this was targeted at me. Later I got my soya milk out of the staff fridge. As I walked away, the same nurse said a derogatory name, again I felt that was directed at me as there was no-one else in the staff room.

I was informed by a service user that after I was talking to a staff member and walked away, the same staff member was saying negative things about me to another staff member and both were laughing. This was in a public space where service users were around - in the courtyard actually. Just because we present ourselves as ill, this doesn't mean we aren't aware when staff don't act properly. I complained to PALS who helped make sure that staff were treating me well.

My risk of suicide went up after discharge. My GP, my community consultant and my social worker advised me to complete an advance directive saying not to put me in the Becklin centre again, as I found it detrimental to my health. And when mistakes were made, I felt that the staff turned the blame on me, rather than taking responsibility their mistake.

I used to sit behind the reception desk and was a pretty good support worker when I was well, glad to revisit the trauma of being a service user and remember what it's really like.

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Response from Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Agent for Change

Following on from your other post, although it's always nice to hear people’s positive stories I'm aware that there are times when people feel that we've not helped them as we should. It is just as (if not more) important for us to hear these stories, so that we can learn from them and use them to continue to develop and improve our services.

As Associate Medical Director for adult mental health services at the Trust, I'm involved in ensuring that our services, including those at the Becklin Centre, provide safe and effective care whilst respecting people’s individual preferences.

Therefore I am extremely sorry that you found your stay at the Becklin Centre to be stressful and challenging. The examples you give of staff members not respecting your preferences and life choices are certainly concerning, and it would be useful if we could look into this further together.

Admission to hospital is naturally an anxious time, and the support of family or friends (as well as the understanding of mental health professionals) is an important part of reducing this stress. As a mental health Trust we are always keen to involve families and friends in a service user’s care wherever possible, because we recognise the crucial part that they play in aiding recovery. I'm both sorry and disappointed to hear that your mother felt excluded from your care, as this is certainly not what we would want.

As regards your dietary needs, having to wait two weeks before you're given your choice of diet is of course totally unacceptable, and because of your posting I have already looked into the availability of vegan meals at the Becklin Centre.

Caroline Boocock, our catering co-ordinator, assures me that we currently have vegan meals readily available and if they should run out, they would be immediately available from one of our other inpatient units. If a service user has a particular dietary need Caroline will often visit the ward to speak to them in order to ensure that their requirements are being fully met.

However, I acknowledge that historically this may not have always been the case. It's not clear from your posting when you were at the Becklin Centre, but I hope this goes some way towards reassuring you that such things have improved considerably since your admission.

Just as the point of admission to hospital is difficult, the point of leaving hospital and returning home can have its own challenges. Because of this we ensure that Care Co-ordinators (who know service users well) visit people when they are in hospital, and work with inpatient staff to provide appropriate care when people leave hospital. This now includes contacting someone within three days of their being discharged, so they can help quickly if people are experiencing problems.

It does sound like the time after your discharge was particularly difficult for you, so again it would be useful to hear more about it to find out what we could have done better.

On a more positive note, I am pleased that PALS (our Patient Advice and Liaison Service) were able to support you in improving your experience of the Becklin Centre. But as I said, it would be helpful to meet up with you (and maybe your mother, if you/she would like) to hear more about your experiences.

I am hoping that, if your experiences are not recent, then we could demonstrate to you the vastly improved levels of care and involvement currently being provided at the Becklin Centre.

If you would be willing to do this could I suggest that you once again contact our PALS service. They could arrange a meeting with me or at least understand a little more about what your inpatient care was like for you. PALS can be contacted by phone (0800 0525790) or by e-mail (pals. lypft@nhs. net)

Should you decide to, I do hope that we hear from you soon. And again, thank you for taking the time to share your story here on Patient Opinion.

Yours sincerely

Guy Brookes

Associate Medical Director for Adult Mental Health Services

Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust