"How can they go from suggesting Samaritans to calling an ambulance?"

About: Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust / Adult Mental Health - Oxfordshire Oxfordshire PCT / Emergency GP out of hours service

(as the patient),

I would like to outline my experience of one day November 2012. Having not required the services of the crisis team since 2011, on this day, I was feeling low in mood and suicidal. I phoned Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and asked to speak to the crisis team, I was informed that their access policy had changed. The call taker asked me whether my call might be better directed to The Samaritans. I explained that The Samaritans provide only a listening service and I felt that I needed to speak to a qualified professional who could assist me. I was informed I needed to contact the out of hours GP in order to receive a referral to access crisis services.

I duly contacted the out of hours GP service and my call was taken by the triage service. As the call progressed, the call taker asked whether they might be able to send an ambulance to my house. I declined an ambulance and asked to speak to crisis services. The out of hours GP call taker asked for my permission for a paramedic to telephone me. Again, I declined this option and asked for a referral to the crisis services. My rationale for refusing the ambulance and telephone call was because neither specialise in treating mental health crises. However, the crisis team, the team I was trying to access, do specialise in treating people who are experiencing mental health crises.

Since the changes made in August 2012, the crisis team are now no longer under obligation to speak to callers unless they been referred by a GP from the out of hours service. I am grateful the out of hours GP triage service contacted CAS without the GP referral. I am also grateful that a nurse who was sympathetic to my need agreed to take my call without a GP referral. I was informed by the out of hours GP triage service that a referral to a GP can take several hours. In any emergency situation, time is of the essence. On the occasion I did not have hours to spare. I fear that lives will be lost as a consequence of this change of policy. I believe access to all mental health care should be available to all those who need it in a timely manner.

I am perplexed by how the system can go from suggesting a charity listening line through to sending an ambulance round to my house. It is my belief that Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust have made a decision to change access policies without consideration of service users needs. I have contacted the crisis team on numerous occasions in the past and we have been able to develop a plan to help keep me safe and avoid a hospital admission. I am disappointed as this change of policy has led to, what I believe is a retrograde step in the treatment of service users.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››