So can we do better?

So when I tell people what I do, I feel so proud, I smile and feel like the NHS is my baby that has just said their first word (weird analogy but you get the gist). That doesn’t mean I think the NHS always gets it right, because I don’t think they do. After all, no one or nothing is perfect, it’s impossible. But I do think the NHS is a wonderful organisation. It’s stretched, we who work for it are often stressed and personally, being a nurse is hard work physically and mentally.

But looking back on my own patient experience. I received incredible care. That’s not to boast, that’s to hope one day everyone will. It’s to talk about the good and celebrate it but more importantly learn from it. I went into A&E at around 8pm on Sunday evening. I had a midwife appointment on the Monday where me and Jordan had agreed I needed to tell her how I was feeling. But by Sunday evening I had decided I couldn’t manage any longer and if I didn’t receive help I was going to kill myself. I stayed in A&E till Wednesday evening. Usually you stay in A&E for a max of 4 hours until you are either sent home or sent to another department or ward of the hospital or another organisation. Within those 4 hours treatment needs to be decided.

Within 4 hours treatment was decided for me, but there were no beds available in the country on a mother and baby unit. Winchester had some but they had a policy that babies had to be over a month old and Arth was around 3 weeks. I stayed in a room for those 3 days with Jord, Arthur and my sisters came in and out too. We all cried, a lot. I slept a little bit on a mattress on the floor. We even smiled a little bit. We talked and cried some more. I begged those who looked after me to help me, I begged them not to give up trying to find me somewhere, and they didn’t.

I didn’t go onto the follow on ward from A&E because I worked there. Just two months before, I had been there working, heavily pregnant excited for my new adventure. Fast forward two months and I was a shell of who I was once. The thought of my colleagues seeing me like this mortified me. I wasn’t ashamed of the situation but I didn’t want to be unprofessional, I didn’t want them to see me any differently. I didn’t want to lose my “credibility” as a nurse. It wasn’t about having a mental illness, it was just about having an illness. So they let me stay in that room for 3 days. I went to the matron who I had worked with before, I broke down and sobbed as I asked her to help. My manager of my ward came in and told me she wouldn’t let me go home, she promised me she would make sure they find me a bed somewhere.

When I look back at that incredibly difficult time, I will never forget those who worked tirelessly to help me. But I know this is not always the case. I have had people message me saying they’ve been to their GP and they’ve sent them home saying “there’s not much they can do, see how you feel in a few weeks”. I’ve seen people bounce in and out of hospital overdosing again and again. I know young people who were put on waiting lists even thought they harm themselves every day. We say depression and people roll their eyes. They say “oh she just gets a bit anxious”, like it’s nothing.

But it’s not. There isn’t enough mother and baby units in the country. Some people don’t have one anywhere near where they live. There isn’t enough inpatient beds. There isn’t enough permanent staff because nurses are too stretched. We have waiting lists even though some people don’t have time. We have people who work in healthcare who disapprove of mental illnesses. But we can do better. And from a few years ago I think we already are.

Finally it is becoming more recognised that men suffer depression too. Addiction is treated as a mental illness. There are more volunteers on the streets because 80% of those who are homeless in the UK report their mental health suffers. Charities like Samaritans have call lines open 24/7. We have World mental health day, International day of happiness. Of course there is still a long way to go. More money is needed. More education in schools, healthcare and workplaces. More staff and more organisations to make more beds. But, like I said before, nothing is perfect. But, to me the NHS gets it right a lot more than they get it wrong.

Stay tuned guys. Sorry it’s been a bit quiet here.

Love, Kate. X