Circa 2003 I found myself with a very fast heart palpitations. The sort that can lead to heart failure and death if your heart doesn’t settle down. I was told I had a 50/50 chance of surviving. This story is not about that particular type of heart, but instead the heartlessness of NHS staff at Addenbrooke’s A&E in Cambridge, UK.
I was in A&E in a bed for about five hours. After a couple of hours a man was wheeled into one of the bays in his bed. Obviously it’s not always easy to know what is wrong with people in A&E, internal injuries or other emergencies aren’t always as obvious as an external injury. Also confidentiality stops us knowing what is wrong with each other.
I could hear the man suffering. After an hour or so it was time for the nurses to change shifts. This is where the current set of nurses hand over their shift to the others by telling the new nurses what has happened. Part of this is to tell the new nurses who has got what condition. As you know some people can’t whisper well! I could easily overhear these nurses. It was along the lines of:
So patient X has… his kidneys… etc etc
Patient Y has been given … milligrams of …. etc
They then came to the other patient
Nurse 1: He’s taken lots of vodka and other drink, and has also taken lots of paracetamol.
Nurse 2: So basically he’s fucked
Nurse 1: Yeah
Later on I heard them talking to him.
Man: I’m scared. Will I be ok.
Nurse: You’re in here again are you? You’re wasting our time AGAIN!
Man: Am I going to be ok?
Nurse: You’ve done it again, and it’s all your fault, this could well be it this time.
Anyway as far as I could work out he died, and the empathy just wasn’t there.
Today the Care Quality Commisions results came out based on a survey of people with mental health issues. The results show that A&E is diabolical at dealing with mental health patients:
Let’s hope some changes start happening. We’ve heard excuses too many times. It isn’t lack of funding, it isn’t compassion fatigue, this is downright ignorance and stigma, with a total lack of compassion and professionalism. Unfortunately making professionals often make out that people with mental health issues who complain are awkward or problematic. In this way complaints aren’t taken seriously and no changes are made. The highly damaging status quo that remains keeps costing lives. Let’s hope the ignorant wake up soon.
Copyright MEN HEAL 2015
The Samaritans provide confidential emotional support: http://www.samaritans.org/