A Sorry State.

After writing in my last post about how the Tories, under Theresa May's leadership, seem to want to convince us that it is they who are the true party of social justice, I thought I'd just give a taste of what's happened to mental health services in Stoke-on-Trent since the Conservatives took office. It's a sorry tale, told from my own perspective, full of sound and fury and signifying, hopefully, a great deal. As I take the pulse of our beloved NHS, it's once mighty pounding now seems but a faint, hollow, weak ticking, drowned out by the roar of the philosophies of free marketism and austerity.
It has always been my aim in this blog to give a positive spin on people's ability to recover from even the most severe of mental illnesses. By using my own experience as an example, I have sought to say, in numerous posts, that leading a so-called "normal" life is possible, given the right support and treatment. However, as I look at the sorry state mental health services appear to be in within my own locality, I am beginning to think that such things, if not entirely eroded, are certainly becoming more difficult to achieve.
I was actually discharged from secondary care for the second time around 18 months ago. By all accounts, this should really be a success story. I have recovered well and achieved many things. But, not everyone shared this perspective. My GP, for instance, said to me that he was "extremely annoyed" that I'd been discharged as, according to him, I should be being monitored, if only because of the nature of the medication I take. Indeed, I have been told in the past that my condition is a chronic one which would require life-long support, but this belief seems to have soon faded in the light of the many cuts that have been made to our mental health service. Those in practice have argued that these are not the days of the long-stay asylums and when well enough, people have to be discharged. However, with the central government policy of austerity cuts came thick and fast. Around 34 nursing jobs were lost, our local resource unit was closed, and the group I attend once a week was forced out into the community and the staff who once facilitated it were withdrawn. Indeed, the group remains my one avenue of help, but without professional support and dwindling numbers of attendees, it is hardly the dynamic aid to people's recovery it was in days of old. So, it may be suggested that this is merely progress by some, but to others, my GP for example, it is an abrogation of responsibility on behalf of mental health services. He sees it as people being wrongly discharged back into his care, and we all know of the strain faced by GP surgeries. Even within our group, it has been noted that more and more people are being discharged from secondary care, only to find scant support beyond that point.
After expressing his anger at the way I had been dealt with, my GP, who had been with me for many years, also seemed to let me down, leaving to work at a different surgery. So  now it seems as if any professional who really knew or understood my history of illness has gone from my life, and I'm left feeling slightly unsure about the quality of the care I'm receiving. In fact, you could say there's very little care or support there at all. Indeed, with the group as my one avenue of help, my life may well rapidly descend into one of loneliness and isolation. The voluntary work I once did has all but dried up, so I'm left with plenty of time to ponder just where my life is headed and to wonder what is going to happen. Will I find a way out of this, or with the way things are going, will it just become increasingly hard?
Even the group I attend, as I've suggested, is not without its problems. To give one example, a new member was introduced to the group (a couple of years ago now) by an Occupational Therapist. It so happened that she had discharged him from secondary care and had sought out our group as something which may have given him at least some support. We welcomed him in, as it is a rarity that those who come to our group are not made to feel welcome. He liked the group and so was left with us, but after only a couple of weeks began to complain of suicidal thoughts and indeed, had harmed himself with a knife which he had taken to his stomach, wrists and neck. This was no empty bleating either. I saw the marks which had been left myself. He asked me for advice, to which all I could say was that he should return to secondary care. But he didn't want to and the result has been that, on occasion, other members of the group have had to act as some kind of de facto nursing team. We asked for help but in the long run received none, and I still can barely restrain my anger at the OT who saw fit to not only discharge a clearly unwell man, but to bring him to a group which she must have been aware was a  user-led entity without even the slightest bit of professional support.
So, as  our mental health service seems to decline more and more, it would appear that more and more unwell people will be left to virtually fend for themselves. And I wouldn't begin to feel safe even if your problems are of the physical kind. Only yesterday I read of another local hospital losing beds. Management justified their loss by saying that this would give more people the opportunity to be cared for at home. Without adequate social care one wonders how this will happen without disastrous consequences, and indeed it was the same rationale which was used by mental health services to try to paper over the fact that cuts were being made and it was going to hurt. Our local drug and alcohol service is also going to be affected, and as many feel such addictions are self-inflicted one can't imagine any great public outcry over that.
However, a public outcry is exactly what should happen, Our beloved NHS is being dismantled and is falling apart in front of our very eyes. It is sometimes hard to know who exactly to be angry at when one receives shoddy care, but for me one must trace things back to the source of the problem, and that is our current Conservative government. Welcome to the era of Tory social justice.                  


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