'I feel like they have taken away my hope'
The letter that arrived out of the blue letting Rachael Graham know she was being discharged from her mental health treatment left her stunned.
The 30-year-old, from Bispham, said she is in the middle of her “biggest crisis for years” but the shock decision left her partner of 10 years Stuart Clayton fearing for her life.
“I have been made to feel nothing but an NHS number, a burden, a no-hoper,” said Rachael, who has been under the care of the Blackpool Complex Care and Treatment team for six years.
Since getting the letter discharging her, Stuart said he has had to take time off from his work at a Layton betting shop to care for her full time.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has declined to say why Rachael had been discharged suddenly and why they were told via letter rather than face-to-face.
Rachael, who has previously attempted suicide, has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following a childhood trauma, obsessive compulsive disorder, mixed anxiety and depressive disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. She is unable to leave the house by herself and four years ago had to be resuscitated in hospital after taking an overdose.
Emergency services and an on-duty psychiatrist were called to the couple’s home in recent weeks after Rachael suffered hallucinations following several sleepless nights.
She has also attended the emergency department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to have self-harm injuries treated and Stuart has been in regular contact with the Complex Care and Treatment team imploring them to do more to help.
Now, he feels the discharge letter is the last straw in terms of poor support for Rachael from the local health authorities – and he is living in constant fear that she might commit suicide.
“We were so shocked when it dropped through the letter box – completely out of the blue and with no warning,” said Stuart.
“I was so glad I was at home when it arrived – if Rachael had been on her own, I really think she could have harmed herself.
“Being under the care team hasn’t been ideal and lately it has come down to a fortnightly visit from a psychiatric nurse and a twice-yearly review with a psychiatrist but it was a safety net that has now been taken away with no warning.
“We would have thought there should have been some kind of meeting or consultation before the decision to discharge Rachel was taken, but nothing – just the letter completely out of the blue. We have tried asking why but no-one will give us a reason.”
The discharge letter, which the couple showed to The Gazette, says Rachel will still have ‘access to the crisis team’ and ‘will remain under the care of social care’.
But Stuart said: “That is nothing like good enough.
“Those crisis contact numbers are available to anyone and in our experience, not always instantly answered so this is just yet another example of the inadequate care in Blackpool for people with such conditions.
“An appropriate home treatment plan or hospital admission are the best options but there is a waiting list for specialist hospital beds, with psychiatric patients waiting on general wards, supervised by security guards.
“It’s just not good enough.”
Rachael, who worked as a deputy manager at a betting shop up until her problems forced her to quit six years ago, said: “I have been stuck on this system, this joke of a service, for six long years and I am nowhere near recovered.
“The small amount of stability I have achieved has been because of the love and support of Stuart, family and friends, a lovely GP and the STAR Blackpool Mental Health Support Group, which I co-run.
“I am having one of the biggest crises I have had for years and Stuart is now having to be my carer as much as my partner.
“I have been made to feel nothing but an NHS nunber, a burden, a no-hoper, a troublemaker but I am ill and I am trying my best in a system that is breaking under the pressure of too many in dire need and not enough funding to cope.
“That discharge letter had taken away my hope.”
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which specialises in mental health treatment across the county, said it could not comment on Rachael’s case.
However, it said that following a ‘multi-disciplinary team’ meeting, the decision was taken that she should be discharged.
In a statement, a spokesman said: “We are really sorry to hear that Miss Graham has not had a positive experience of our services.
“It would not be appropriate for us to go into detail about this case however our Hearing Feedback Team is exploring the concerns that have been raised and will respond to Miss Graham directly.”