Moving across borders within the NHS is somewhat like going on a pilgrimage for treatment. Before you go you are promised that things are brighter on the other side: more resources, more funding and more staff. My voyage -from an area which didn’t have a pot to put pessimism in as far as mental health services are concerned- was tough. The new team didn’t pick my case up for over a month. The team I had moved from, clearly glad to see the back of me, didn’t send any notes over at all. They probably burnt them all in a bonfire to celebrate my departure. Frustratingly this means I haven’t received the findings from the psychological assessment which I waited six months to complete. Three hours of shaking and crying and no one seems to have bothered writing it up. Ho hum.
One thing I have discovered about moving is that community teams like to do their own thing. They trust their psychologists and their psychiatrists, so even if you come brandishing a 100 page assessment they will likely still want to conduct their own. I’m in a bigger team now, so thankfully the waiting times are shorter. I’ve also, for the first time since leaving CAMHS nearly a year ago, been granted a community psychiatric nurse- something that a staffing crisis caused short supply of in my original county.
So I have a community psychiatric nurse, or CPN. A CPN’s job is to work with you towards recovery or towards getting some form of therapy. They know about medications and, hopefully, all the symptoms you experience. They are generally very useful people to have on your side.
When… Let’s call her *Sue… Turned up she had no knowledge of my background. No transfer notes and no discharge summaries- she didn’t even know that I had been out of children’s services and inpatient for six months. Nevertheless I was very glad to see her, with visits every fortnight and her specialism in mental health rather than social work she is the first mental health professional I’ve had regular appointments with since inpatient.
Being in a bigger NHS trust certainly has it’s benefits as there are more support groups and, though still not many, a lot more resources. Coming out of the first meeting with Sue I had a psychiatry and psychology referral- something which took an age to get in my old trust. Over the last few weeks I have been trying to get to know her as my CPN and tentatively hoping that the support won’t fall to pieces beneath me- a process I am too familiar with.
Obviously it is a drastic decision, one that is pretty hard to research, but if you are in a rural area and a smaller trust it might be worth looking into moving to a bigger area. You are playing with fire as if the area is too big and not split into separate teams the service might be swamped with high demand. It’s also worth remembering that you can ask for a referral to a suitable consultant anywhere in the country through your GP. If you live in or near a city I have found that they tend to have better resources with and without the involvement of NHS mental health services. Some have excellent services a like crisis cafes and support groups. Our NHS mental health resources are a postcode lottery, it needs to change.