"My mixed experiences at the Becklin Centre"

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

(as the patient),

Having been an in patient on a mental health health unit for almost 8 weeks I felt my life as I knew it was over. I never believed I could get so low that life was not worth living, I could see no way out. Mental health problems left me with such confusion, hopelessness, fear and distress. Being on the ward provided a safe place for some of the time and was necessary to keep me alive.

As I became more unwell the thing that gave me comfort was the kindness and compassion of some of the nursing, health care assistants, medics, OTs, students, admin staff, cleaners and dinner ladies.

- The wonderful ward clerk each morning smiled and encouraged me to face the day.

- The consultant and SHO who listened with empathy and tried to understand my distress without judgement.

- The centre's receptionists who smiled and encouraged me each day.

- The healthy living team and activity worker who all encouraged me and offered compassionate care without judgement.

Kindness, encouragement, understanding and hope that this was not how my life would continue to be was the one thing I needed to begin to recover.

On the ward some of the nursing and HCA's were incredible and just sat with me in my distress or helped me to see a glint of hope through encouragement, insight and help to process the distress and trauma. You know who you are and how grateful I am for the care, encouragement, insights and compassion you showed consistently.

You gave time when you could, listened and tried to ease my distress and encourage me to have faith, when you didn't have time you smiled or gave a word of encouragement. The OTs and their student provided consistent encouragement, support and holistic care without judgement. Many of the staff have excellent skills and if the ethos of the unit was followed would aid recovery in an incredible way.

Sadly a part of the ward experience was re-traumatising and I am still trying to recover, the staff who were indifferent or harsh, who said they were too busy when you asked for help or turned their back physically to me, or some of the bank staff I came into contact with who did not seem to know how to care and just sat behind the desk. Being given male carers daily when you asked for female workers as I was trying to address rape issues, or not having consistency with who cared for me to help me begin to trust and heal.

Some of the male nurses though have also restored some of my faith in men, the one who came to my house to pick me up when I left the ward in such distress, the ones who encouraged me in the medication room or who distracted me with a game of scrabble with others.

Not like those who looked at my behaviour rather than the distress behind it and were punitive or negating. Those who labelled me rather than understood the traumas that had led to my admission caused significant distress and hurt and at times led to deeper distress and self harm. The way notes were sometimes written which were negative rather than trying to focus on the achievements of just surviving in deep distress each day and trying to get through.

Mental health problems cause enough stigma and distress to an individual. I am still struggling to believe I can get better and to have hope. My experience on the ward has left a wound and fear of being labelled rather than being understood by mental health services.

My hope is that the staff who already provide compassionate, person centred care would continue to provide that despite the demands of the system, that patients would always come first and that they would be proud of the care they offer irrespective of their grade, many of the HCA's in my opinion appeared to feel devalued despite being excellent.

I commend those who simply listened, cared and who showed me compassion and hope. To the staff who are disillusioned, burnt out, preoccupied with their own progression or role and who have lost that compassion I would ask that they take stock, reflect on how their lack of care wounds already vulnerable patients and remember the call of their vocation and try to just consider what it would be like if they were in the shoes of the patient on the ward who is terrified that the pain, confusion and distress will never end, that their life is destroyed and they cannot face another day!

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Response from Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Hi Mel,

First of all I’d just like to say thank you for sharing such a considered and powerful story with us. We’ve already started circulating it round the relevant staff – and like all posts here on Patient Opinion it will get seen by our Board of Directors as well.

This is just a quick note to let you know that there are a couple of managers on annual leave this week. We’d very much like to show it to them and I know they’ll want to give you a proper reply - so if you could just bear with us for a few days that would be really appreciated.

Kind regards,

Alastair Sutherland

e-Communications Officer

Response from Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Mel

I am Phil Sunderland, Clinical Service Manager for Adult and Older People’s Inpatient Services.

Thank you very much for your thought-provoking comments. We have two female wards at the Becklin Centre, both of which have been given your posting and been asked to specifically reflect on the valuable points you have raised.

You raise a very important point about admission to hospital being difficult for some people, as it occurs at a time when they are feeling most vulnerable and many familiar comforts are not available.

It's gratifying that the actions of our staff were appreciated by you at this time. It is particularly nice to read your comments about the reception staff who, though they have little mental health training, have an important role to play in offering a warm and open welcome both when people first enter the unit, and throughout their admission. I have of course made sure that they, and their managers, have seen your kind comments.

All of our clinical staff receive the same level of training and are held to the same standards of care, but we are all individual human beings. Whilst this brings a lot of strength, because we are all individuals we bring our own personalities into our work (which enriches our clinical practice), and the levels of rapport we develop as human beings changes from person to person.

I think your experiences show that often we connect with some people on an individual basis more than others, an inherent consequence of being human. Having said that, I fully agree that we should all strive to work effectively and compassionately with everyone under our care.

For all staff on the wards, there are supervision structures and reflective forums in place, which provide staff with space to explore and develop their practice. These are an important part of both the support for staff and the development of the service we provide.

I would like to once again thank you for sharing your story with us, and if you would like to explore or discuss these issues further then please don't hesitate to contact us through PALS either on 0800 0525 790, via e mail to pals.lypft@nhs.net.

Kind regards,

Phil Sunderland

Clinical Services Manager

Adult and Older People's Inpatient Services

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