A mother and carer responds to the tragic death of Henry Curtis-Williams:
“Again another young person has died when he should have been protected from the dangers of mental illness. Assessed by a psychiatrist as needing no clinical care and released the next day without medication, Henry Curtis-Williams died and his mother and father have been left devastated. Due to confidentiality, they were not provided with the information and advice they needed to protect their own son as he ‘slipped through the cracks’ of the mental health system. His mother says it was obvious that the young man was a danger to himself and that he should have been kept as an inpatient until his condition was stabilised.
How many more people will be allowed to die due to this interpretation of the Mental Health Act? In my work, I meet many carers who due to confidentiality are not kept informed about the condition of their seriously ill relative. Requests for information are refused, even though danger signs are obvious and suicidal thoughts and behaviour apparent. Since the first ‘radical redesign’ at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), which entailed the dismantling of assertive outreach teams, a radical reduction of hospital beds and mass redundancies in the workforce, the care of people with mental ill health who live in the community has deteriorated to a dangerous level. Community nurses try their best but caseloads have more than doubled and are often unmanageable.
I care for my son whose mental health has, after the radical redesign, deteriorated gradually to what I consider an alarming level, but, due to ‘confidentiality’, I am no longer informed about his condition or care needs. I know many other carers in my position. A close friend of mine, a mother like me and the mother Henry Curtis-Wiliams, buried her son today. She was also cut out of the loop of caring for her son, constantly asking for guidance from the NSFT which was not forthcoming. Carers would like to have the confidence that our loved ones are receiving adequate care and that their condition is being regularly monitored to keep them as well as possible and safe from distress, paranoid thoughts, self-neglect and harm.
Carers of those with enduring mental health conditions need to be available at times of crisis. Their greatest wish is to be there when their loved one needs care and protection. Currently due to the lack of resources available from the mental health service, ‘new models of care’ and constant changes in service provision, mentally ill people in the community are increasingly ‘falling through the cracks’. It is a constant worry to carers like me that their loved ones will join the rapidly increasing unexpected deaths statistics. These are our loved ones, not merely an entry in a spreadsheet.
Confidentiality should not apply when it is obvious that a person is a danger to themselves and the NHS is letting them down. The so-called Triangle of Care is a fallacy if information is not shared when a rational decision could be made to do so.
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