Thursday 26 August 2010

Maudsley Shame

Shocking news that the Maudsley is puffing the "success" of its scheme to shackle vulnerable mental health patients with electronic tags (see my previous post here and the latest BBC news here). They are now talking about extending use of this demeaning and anti-therapeutic device.

The Maudsley, with whom Hafal has had a long and mutually respectful relationship and which has pioneered so much in terms of progressive treatment, has got this one badly wrong. The Maudsley NHS Trust runs hospitals not prisons; people are there as patients to receive care and treatment.

Hafal's members are well aware of the issues of risk (many have experience of severe restrictions on their freedom and in many instances they understand and support that restriction) but they also understand the overwhelming importance of maintaining the right relationship between services and patients with a serious mental illness. The Maudsley's folly is to jeopardise that whole relationship for a limited (and anyway suspect) reduction of risk. Such is the reputation of this famous hospital that patients' perception of mental health services will be affected for the worse.

Here is the rub. When for the first time (or on a subsequent occasion) a person begins to recognise in themselves the symptoms of psychosis or other serious difficulty they have a choice about whether to seek help and from whom. That choice is obviously informed by what they believe will be the attitude and approach of the people they seek help from. At present there is considerable distrust of services which patients often see as shabby and insensitive (or worse) even if they observe decent and caring practitioners trying to make the best of it. Will they be more likely to seek help from mental health services if they have observed that a leading mental hospital attaches tags to patients as a cheap way of keeping an eye on them?

The tags are a disgrace and will increase the risk of patients choosing not to approach services for fear of humiliation and repression.

It goes without saying that Hafal's advice is always to seek help if you have symptoms of mental illness.