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World Mental Health Day - services in Medway ‘out of control’

A woman suffering with bipolar disorder feels “in despair” after being left without a mental health support worker for more than 10 weeks.

Lindsey West used to have weekly meetings with a care coordinator, but she left in July and has not yet been replaced.

Mrs West said without this support she has got to the point where she feels like she cannot carry on.

The 38-year-old, of Windsor Road, Gillingham, said: “I have suicidal thoughts all the time.

“I have been a danger to myself in the past – I have counted out pills, and another time I went outside in the snow without my shoes on because I wanted to throw myself under a train.”

In a letter, Mrs West has been told she has not been given a new care coordinator yet because of staff shortages and the recruitment process is ongoing.

Cllr David Brake, chairman of Medway’s health and wellbeing board, said mental health services in the Towns are “out of control”.

There are 35,000 people in Medway living with mental health problems and this is predicted to rise by 2,500 in the next five years.

Medway CCG, which commissions healthcare for the area, has said it is committed to improving mental health services.

Its key aims are to reduce waiting times, reduce the number of people going into hospital in crisis through early intervention, and offer better rehabilitation to support people to return to work.

Cllr David Brake
Cllr David Brake

Mrs West said without a care coordinator she cannot get any alterations to her medication, which she feels she desperately needs, and it puts her at risk of needing crisis care.

She is also due to have a back-to-work assessment which a care worker would usually attend, so now faces that alone.

She said: “My GP can’t tweak or prescribe me any medication as it is controlled by my psychiatrist and I haven’t had a review since July.

“I have encountered three bipolar relapses since the beginning of the year.

“I have been contacting the mental health team and promised calls back, but they never do. I’m desperate now, I feel like I’m at crisis point.”

She added: “I have the support of my husband and my mum, but there are people who don’t have support and they are very vulnerable.

“If people don’t get the help they need from the community team, they end up having to go to the crisis team.”

The latest figures show 130 officers had at least one long-term absence of more than 28 days
The latest figures show 130 officers had at least one long-term absence of more than 28 days

Cllr Brake said: “It is very worrying to hear a case like this.

“The issue of mental health was discussed at a recent board meeting and it was clear that the whole thing is getting out of control. There are many failings in the system.”

The health and wellbeing board, which brings together health and social care organisations, will hold a mental health summit on Wednesday to discuss gaps in services.

A spokesman for Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust declined to comment on Mrs West’s case.

She said: “Due to patient confidentiality we are unable to comment on the specific detail of this case and would like to advise any of our service users with a complaint to follow our formal complaints procedure.”

The lack of inpatient mental health beds in the Towns is continuing to cause delays and disruptions, according to a recent report.

"I’m desperate now, I feel like I’m at crisis point"

bipolar sufferer Lindsey West

Medway’s mental health unit closed in December 2013. Patients are instead sent to Dartford, Maidstone or Canterbury.

Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust, which ran the unit, has also spent millions of pounds sending patients out of the county.

In 2015/16, there were more than 600 mental health assessments carried out in Medway. Of these, 85% led to hospital admissions.

But according to a report by Medway CCG, a number of assessments were delayed due to a lack of beds and, of these, 88 were delayed by more than 24 hours. The knock-on effect is that healthcare professionals are unable to respond to further assessments.

The report states: “The reassessments due to the lack of beds is creating a huge burden on the resources of both the in-hours service in Medway and also the out-of-hours service and subjects the service users to repetitive experiences of assessment.”

According to the report, mental health services in Medway are “disjointed and fragmented”. It calls for services to be better aligned and centrally coordinated.

The health and wellbeing board agreed unanimously to hold a workshop, with the aim of developing a more integrated approach to metal health, and this will be held on Wednesday.

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