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‘Slid to the bottom of the pile’ - patient’s anger at remote mental health services during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 August 2020

A Norfolk woman warned mental health patients have “slid to the bottom of the pile” during the Covid-19 lockdown, due to a lack of face-to-face appointments. Photo: Caroline Clancy

A Norfolk woman warned mental health patients have “slid to the bottom of the pile” during the Covid-19 lockdown, due to a lack of face-to-face appointments. Photo: Caroline Clancy

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A Norfolk woman warned mental health patients have “slid to the bottom of the pile” during the Covid-19 lockdown, due to a lack of face-to-face appointments.

Caroline Clancy, from Norwich, who suffers from bipolar disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, started trauma therapy via phone in June - after spending years on the waiting list for help.

But she has been left angry and disappointed that - despite being told her treatment would be face-to-face by August - she is yet to meet her therapist in person.

The region’s mental health trust has said face-to-face contact is increasing, with roughly 30pc of contact now delivered in person.

Miss Clancy, 54, described the situation as “ludicrous and dangerous” and said: “Like many others who suffer from mental health problems I feel very angry.

READ MORE: Mental health trust blasted for ‘shocking’ fresh rise in out of area placements

“The schools are opening, shops, offices, GPs and pubs. So why not mental health services?”

And Miss Clancy, mother-of-two and former teacher, added: “Yet again I feel mental health services are seriously putting such patients at risk. Face-to-face contact is essential for empathy, kindness and understanding.

“What I want to know is why mental health services are unable to work using masks like everyone else? We have once again slid to the bottom of the pile of problems.”

Miss Clancy is treated by staff at The Anchorage, based at Julian Hospital, in Norwich.

The site is run by the NSFT, previously dubbed England’s worst mental health trust, and Miss Clancy has been told the centre will not consider reopening until March 2021.

READ MORE: Report reveals mental health trust ‘culture of bullying’ as public excluded from meeting

Mason Fitzgerald, deputy chief executive of NSFT, said the trust was unable to discuss individual patients due to confidentiality but would look into her concerns.

He said: “As we entered the pandemic a priority for us was to ensure both patients and staff were protected from infection.

“This led to increased remote services via video consultation and telephone. Our clinicians assessed the risk for each of our patients to ensure appropriate contact was maintained and where possible, and safe to do so, offered face-to-face appointments.

“This was in recognition that video consultations are not a preference for all patients, despite clinicians delivering these with empathy and understanding.”

He said: “As restrictions eased, face-to-face contact has increased and approximately 30pc of contact is now delivered this way.”

READ MORE: Mental health service sends letter to 300 young people removing them from waiting list

Are Norfolk’s GPs offering face-to-face appointments?

A spokesperson for the Norfolk and Waveney clinical commissioning group (CCG) said: “GPs have continued to provide face-to-face appointments where this has been clinically necessary.

“However, since spring, all GP practices have also supported patients with consultations via video, their mobile phone or computer, telephone consultation or online advice.

“Many people appreciated different and convenient ways of getting help. But we also understand for some people this is not appropriate, so in these situations a face to face appointment can be discussed with your doctor or nurse.

“Practices are encouraged to continue increasing face to face appointments, where this is clinically appropriate.

“Changes were planned but were brought forward as Covid-19 developed. GPs can help many more patients than before, and often quicker. We would encourage anyone who has a health worry to ask for advice, from their GP or NHS 111. The NHS has made its premises as safe as possible for people to attend, within the Covid-19 pandemic.”


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