Monday, April 30, 2007

So Blessed

I can’t help thinking tonight how blessed I am to have Mr Man. I have heard such awful tales recently of loveless marriages, and relationships and marriages that have failed. A lot of people that I am close to have been hurt so badly, or have never found love at all; it seems love is often far more complicated than “boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl marry, boy and girl live happily ever after”. I think I have been very lucky.

I remember when I was a very little girl, my Dad telling me that if a man loves me he should treat me like a lady, opening doors for me and walking on the outside of the path. It is probably the most important lesson he ever gave me, and my Dad treated me that way himself.

Mr Man did all those things for me and more. He was the perfect gentleman in every way, and so romantic. In a very short space of time I knew that I wanted to marry him and be with him for the rest of my life. But what if we had never met? Would I be alone? Would I be in a loveless marriage, or on the brink of divorce? Many people say “I just knew that he/she was the one”, but many people get it wrong.

Ten years on we still kiss and cuddle on the sofa. We still hold hands when we go out. We still say “I love you” every single day. I’m still amazed by the way the sun catches his eyes and makes them light up like sky blue topaz. We still leave little messages for each other around the house. I still miss him when I go out for the evening and I’m not with him. He’s still my best friend.

I sometimes wonder at the miracle of love. How did we get it so right?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Second Letter of Complaint

I’m really sorry that this blog seems to have become all about my ongoing complaint, rather than all issues relating to Schizophrenia and Mental Health care in general.

After receiving a letter from the Chairman of the Trust this morning I have been really angry all day. All I keep thinking is “How dare you! Don’t you dare try to sweep my complaint under the carpet again like you did last time!” and I’ve just been pacing the floor all day because I’m so angry.

I’ve written my letter of response anyway, and I would really appreciate some feed back on how it comes across and if any of it should be changed.

“Dear [Mr Scumbag],

Thank you for your letter dated 4th April 2007. Like you, I have also decided to copy this letter to all parties concerned, including [the name of], the Manager at [the respite home], and [the name of the], Complaints Manager.

Personally I find it completely inappropriate and unprofessional to point out the supposed errors of an individual in a letter and then forward it to so many people, thus undermining their authority on a particular subject in the eyes of others, but seeing as you have set the standard in this regard I presume you have no qualms with me doing likewise.

As you so rightly pointed out, the reductions in your budget which took place last year did not affect the funding of [the respite home], but to say that [the respite home] has been “wholly unaffected by those changes” is inaccurate to say the least.

As you well know, [the respite home] offers a range of services as well as short term respite, including but not limited to rehabilitation for individuals who have become less independent through prolonged stays in hospital, with 24 hour support. Previously [a different home] also provided this service, with a total of 10 beds, 6 of which included 24 hour support. Since the “reconfiguration” of services – or cut backs in layman’s terms – [this other home] can no longer offer 24 hour support to any of its users, and provides only 4 beds for rehabilitation, 6 fewer than what was available previously.

[The respite home] is now the only service in the North of the county which provides this kind of 24 hour support for service users. In addition to this, there are obviously a great deal more people on the waiting list for rehabilitation at [the respite home] who would previously have stayed at [the other home]. In response to this, the Manager at [the respite home], [A N Other], obviously had to find ways to accommodate for this increase in demand, and so it was decided that one of the respite beds would be used for this purpose, leaving only one respite bed.

It is my understanding that this decision was made partly to fulfil demand for rehabilitation beds, but also because the respite beds were actually being underused. This brings me to the second point in your letter which was entirely false.

You state that [Mr Man] only used the services at [the respite home] twice last year, and that the reduction in this provision was based on this. I can assure you that [Mr Man] stayed three times last year, and I am happy to provide the dates of his stays if you wish me to. In fact I actually needed him to be able to stay five times last year, and I am outraged to learn that the respite beds were being underused when I needed to take advantage of them so badly. Until my recent conversation with [the Manager at the respite home] I have always been led to believe that we were entitled to only three breaks a year and no more. I wonder how other service users and their carers would feel at knowing that services which were so sorely needed were going to waste by not being offered to them.

Indeed, rather than [Mr Man] having his respite stays reduced due to lack of use by us, it is a fact that all service users who use [the respite home] have had this provision reduced.

If you are sincere in believing that your false statements are true then I am more than a little disconcerted that you appear to be so unaware of what goes on within your own Trust, and unaware of how changes to one service can directly affect another. I would appreciate you taking a little more interest in the matters at hand, rather than trying to neatly sweep the whole issue under the carpet through denial, which, in my previous experience, seems to be the usual course of action by the [county] NHS Trust.

Finally, I would just like to add that I have spoken to [the Manager at the respite home] and she has been most obliging in allowing [Mr Man] to stay at [the respite home] at least three times a year. I am very grateful to her for accommodating our needs in this way, but would like to stress that the purpose of my original letter was to highlight with our own personal experiences as an example, how cutbacks in Mental Health Services affect all service users and their carers, not simply to procure extra respite breaks for [Mr Man] and myself.”

There is so much more that I want to add to this letter, mostly insults, but I’m doing my best to refrain! I really wanted to add something like: “I find your denial patronising and insulting to my intelligence, and I wonder what it is that you have done in your life that was so great that you presume you have the right to treat another individual in such a disgraceful way.” But I thought that was a little too “Elizabeth Bennett”!

More Responses to “The Letter”

Once again it’s been ages since I last posted, and I have so much to write about that I hardly know where to start. It seems I have another strong letter to write, this time to the Chairman of the NHS Trust in our county, as I have received a response from him regarding “the letter” which has made me furious. This is the most recent response after a long line of letters and telephone calls; mostly by people who I never sent a copy of the letter to in the first place.

Following the response I received from the local MP to “the letter”, I then received a letter of response from the Acting Manager for the local Community Mental Health Team. He wrote to acknowledge receipt of my letter and to inform me that the issues would be looked into, and that I would receive a full response within 20 working days. It was obvious by the content that that he had misunderstood my letter and taken it as a complaint about the services themselves rather than a complaint about the lack of services due to cut backs.

This was proved true by the fact that I then received another letter, this time from someone who I hadn’t even sent a copy of the letter to, which was the Complaints Manager. It felt very strange to receive a letter from her, and to see her name in print again after so many years. The last time I spoke to her was in October 2002 at a meeting which included her, the Ward Manager from the hospital that Mr Man was a patient in at the time, and the Medical Director. The Complaints Manager is a very nice lady and I feel that she is possibly the only person who recognised the seriousness of how Mr Man was treated back then, and the fact that my complaint wasn’t dealt with appropriately. At the time she advised me that I didn’t have to accept the outcome of the investigation if I wasn’t happy with it, and that I could pursue with my complaint if I wanted to, but I was at breaking point mentally and emotionally and unfortunately didn’t have the strength to take it further. I will write more about the occasion when I finally reach that part in “our story”, but seeing her name again brought back a lot of memories. I couldn’t help but wonder if she remembered my previous complaint, and if she would still be as supportive of me as she was back then, should I choose to take it up again, or if it was now too late to pursue a 4 ½ year old complaint.

It seems she wasn’t the only person who was sent a copy of my letter; even Mark, Mr Mans CPN, had seen a copy of it and commented to me during his last visit that it had caused “quite a stir”. In fact it would seem that very few people within the Trust haven’t seen it, despite the Complaints Manager assuring me in her letter that my “complaint and related correspondence will remain confidential.”

I was contacted by telephone by another “Acting Manager” of the CMHT as the Acting Manager that I had originally written to was away (apparently they have no real managers, just lots of people who act like managers), and she told me that she had discussed my letter with the Manager at the respite home, who also had been forwarded a copy of my letter. (So far this is four people who have responded in some way to my letter who I have not actually sent a copy of it to, including; the Complaints Manager, Mr Mans CPN, a second Acting Manager, and the Manager at the respite home, but only two responses from people who I have actually sent a copy to; the local MP and the Acting Manager of the CMHT.)

This second Acting Manager was very friendly and eager to settle the issues that had been raised, as was the Manager at the respite home, who not only agreed to Mr Man having three respite breaks a year instead of two, but also said that if I ever found myself in the same situation as I did last summer when I needed to go into hospital I should speak to her directly and she would make sure that Mr Man has a bed in the respite home and this would not be regarded as one of his three stays. In fact, she was extremely accommodating, even saying that if I ever wanted to get away for a couple of days extra I could ring the respite home on the “off chance” to see if they had any beds available for Mr Man, as they would rather the beds be occupied than to be left empty.

Obviously, I greatly appreciated these offers, but as I explained to both the Acting Manager for the CMHT and the Manager for the respite home, the point of my letter was really to highlight how the cut backs in Mental Health are affecting all patients and their carers, not simply to procure extra respite breaks for Mr Man and myself.

My conversation with the Manager at the respite home was very interesting, as she explained to me in more detail where exactly these cut backs have taken place in our area, and that the Trust prefers to refer to them as a “reconfiguration” rather than a “cut back”.

Next I received a “response” from the Chief Executive, who is actually one of the four people who I had sent a letter to, and the third to respond. I say “I” received it, but actually it was addressed to Mr Man, and I say “response” but actually it was merely an application form to become a member of the Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust with a photocopy of his signature at the bottom. So either he’s so lazy/busy/indifferent to my complaint that all he could be bothered to do is send out this “invitation”, or he thought that my letter was so extremely well written that I ought to be on the Board of Governors. I’m guessing it was the former reason, although there is a third option; maybe he presumes that I would fancy a position on the Board of Governors as I like the sound of my own voice so much, or the sight of my own typing at least.

Today I received a letter from the Chairman of the NHS Trust for our county, who I had not written to personally, but who had received a copy of my letter from the local MP. His letter has made me extremely angry, as although polite, I feel that it is very condescending and patronising, not to mention full of crap. In part he wrote:

…not unnaturally, you have been concerned by the reductions in our budget that took place last year. I must stress that [the respite home] has been wholly unaffected by those changes. My understanding is that your husband only needed to use [the respite home] twice last year and, therefore, that is why his provision was changed from three times a year to twice a year.
Which to me, translates as: “You don’t know what you’re talking about because the cut backs didn’t even affect the respite home that you use, and you obviously don’t need the breaks that badly because you didn’t even use all three breaks last year” which is insult enough, but what infuriates me even more is the fact that both statements are completely untrue and that he has copied his letter to the four people who I originally wrote to, thus undermining my letter of complaint and making me look completely stupid.

I assure you, I will be writing a very strong letter to this Chairman. I’ll have to try to resist the urge to resort to nit picking, such as the fact that he didn’t even use capital letters at the beginning of some names, and that his printer obviously needs a new ink cartridge as the header was faded. I’m wondering if I should send copies of my reply to the additional five people who have now seen my original letter, as well as the original four, or should I just request that a copy be sent to anyone and everyone who works for the Trust?