Father's fight to get his daughter the mental health treatment she needs

“It has been hell on earth. It is absolutely horrendous as a family to have gone through what we have in just trying to get help for our daughter.”

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By Sarah Ward

A distressed father had to take to social media to get his daughter help in the middle of a severe mental health crisis.

The Wellingborough father - who NN Journal is not naming to protect the identity of his daughter - says he has just been through the worst weeks of his life and that his 20-year-old daughter has been badly let down in the middle of an extreme mental health crisis.

In the past two weeks his daughter, who until last year was working as a healthcare assistant, has made numerous attempts on her life, including while in the care of mental health services and shortly after being discharged from the care of Kettering’s acute hospital.

The father of five, says despite his daughter and the family insisting to mental health professionals employed by Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT) that she is a severe risk to herself, they have not been listened to. 

Instead of being sectioned and given the necessary mental health treatment they say she needed, she was discharged back into the community for treatment from doctors within St Mary’s Hospital in Kettering, on a number of occasions. 

He and other family members have had to be on constant suicide watch, but have been unable to prevent his daughter from leaving the family home, due to her age. Over the past ten days she has gone missing on several occasions and the family have frantically joined police on searches to find her after she has disappeared. When found she had often harmed herself or attempted to.

Yesterday, after many intense days of crisis and numerous cries for help on social media, his daughter was finally admitted by NHFT to a different psychiatric hospital for intensive treatment.

The father said:

“It has been hell on earth. It is absolutely horrendous as a family to have gone through what we have in just trying to get help for our daughter.”

His daughter’s crisis began at the start of the year after she was admitted into Northampton General Hospital with repeat vomiting. After a five-day stay she was diagnosed with bulimia - the family insist wrongly - and after attempting suicide within the hospital she was discharged the next day.

Since then she has been in and out of St Mary’s Hospital, which has a number of different psychiatric wards. She was detained under section 2 of the mental health act in mid February, which can last for 28 days under the law.

But after a few days she was allowed to voluntarily leave the hospital while an inpatient.

Her crisis has become worse over recent weeks and the family say from April 13 she has been a severe danger to herself.

The father is particularly upset by an incident last Thursday when she was in the care of Kettering General Hospital (KGH).

His daughter, who has Aspergers, had been admitted to the hospital after another suicide attempt. He received a call from the hospital requesting he take in her medication so she could be stabilised. He says when he returned home to Wellingborough from Kettering, he was told by his wife that their daughter had made a distressed call after being discharged. She was later found on hospital grounds having attempted to take her life again.

The father says he thinks despite his daughter being discharged by the NHFT mental health doctors based within KGH, the acute hospital has its own safeguarding responsibilities to his daughter and should have not have let her be discharged.

Director of Nursing and Quality at KGH Leanne Hackshall said:

“Kettering General Hospital works in partnership with mental health care services provided by Northamptonshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (NHFT).

“Where a patient with mental health difficulties attends Kettering General Hospital we would address their medical needs.

“Plans for discharge are then managed by our partners at NHFT who can access specialist care where required."

The father only has praise for Northamptonshire Police whose officers have helped find his daughter on a number of occasions in recent weeks.

After he posted their family ordeal onto social media at the weekend he had a response from many other families.

He said:

“I have had responses from about ten people who said they have had similar experiences. Two people said that what I had written, they could have written word for word.”

What he would like to see come as a result of going public with his daughter’s mental health crisis, is a change in the way people are listened to and communicated with by St Mary’s Hospital, a change in the discharge procedure of mentally unwell patients by Kettering General Hospital and also a change in the complaints procedure.

A complaint he made to NHFT through its Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) marked urgent when his daughter was in the midst of her crisis, was not dealt with quickly, which he says is useless at a time of emergency.

The family has now made complaints to the regulator, the Care Quality Commission as well as the General Medical Council. An internal complaint with NHFT is ongoing. 

Yesterday the father was informed by NHFT that they have lodged a safeguarding complaint against him in connection with his social media posts.

An NHFT spokesman said:

“Patient confidentiality and safeguarding is a critical priority for the Trust, we are therefore unable to comment on individual cases, in line with patient safety and information governance requirements. The treatment of mental health difficulties is often highly complex, with numerous contributing factors which influence decisions on the individual’s care plan.

 “At NHFT we are committed to working with our patients, service users and carers to provide outstanding and compassionate care; working with individuals to assess their needs. Our team, including experienced psychologists, nurses and therapists, work across community and in-patient services. Decisions on the placement and treatment of our patients and service users are based on clinical and therapeutic assessment decision-making. Where concerns are brought to our attention; the services involved have direct ongoing dialogue with the service user and their family or carers to ensure that the care being provided is appropriate. 

“We have established processes in place if service users, carers or families have any concerns regarding care; we encourage them to speak to the service managing their care in the first instance or raise this with our patient advice and liaison service. We are dedicated to delivering high-quality services, and safeguarding our patients and service users remains our core focus. There are a number of services across the county for anyone facing difficulty with their mental health, for details of support visit www.nhft.nhs.uk/mentalhealth.”

If you have concerns about NHFT services please get in touch with Sarah Ward at sarahward@nnjournal.co.uk or on 07887 500545. All conversations will be treated confidentially.