Health & Fitness Scots mum felt 'powerless' as daughter took own life while on NHS waiting list for mental health services

00:15  02 july  2021
00:15  02 july  2021 Source:   msn.com

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NHS statistics show that last year almost 300,000 people spent a month or more waiting for talking therapy appointments - Paul Williams (pictured) said he tried to take his own life while waiting . Thousands of people with mental health problems are being left waiting for months on end for NHS therapy. Almost 300,000 patients who qualified for talking therapy last year spent at least a month on the 'hidden' waiting list , an investigation revealed. The patients had all had their first appointment, so could be counted as having started treatment, but that was usually an assessment and the real therapy started in the

People with mental health problems are waiting so long for NHS care they are ending up jobless, divorced or in financial distress because of the delay, according to a report. A Royal College of Psychiatrists survey of the experience of 500 diagnosed mental health patients found that some had waited up to 13 years to get the treatment they needed. It is also boosting other key areas of mental health care, such as A&E liaison psychiatry services and support for mothers with conditions related to giving birth such as postnatal depression and postpartum psychosis, in its drive to improve provision.

A Scots mum has told how she felt "powerless" after losing her daughter to suicide while she desperately waited for help on NHS waiting lists.

Olivia Johnstone, from Blackburn in West Lothian, tragically took her own life in May 2020 aged just 24 following a battle with mental health.

Despite being admitted to hospital on a number of occasions, Olivia's devastated mum Elaine Johnstone, 55, said her daughter never got the help she needed.

Young Olivia spent three months in St John's Hospital from April to June 2018 but was placed on a long waiting list for psychiatric help when she came home.

a group of people sitting posing for the camera: Elaine with twins Olivia and Emily. © Supplied Elaine with twins Olivia and Emily.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Elaine said: "Olivia had been unwell, it started off a long time ago, but she became very unwell three years ago and was hospitalised for three months.

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The waiting list for patients at NHS hospitals in England is the longest it has been since August 2007, and more than 3,000 patients have been waiting for more than a year to begin treatment. Experts today warned 'alarm bells' are ringing and the health service is heading straight for another winter crisis as it buckles under 'relentless pressure'. An ageing population and shortages of doctors and nurses have been blamed for increasing strain on the NHS and it taking longer to treat patients.

The NHS waiting list for routine operations has surged to record levels amid rising admissions of coronavirus patients, 'calamitous' figures reveal. NHS England data published today shows 4.46million people were waiting for routine ops like joint replacements or cataract surgery in England by December. A letter sent by NHS England bosses to dozens of trusts has ordered them to open the emergency capacity by tomorrow in a bid to take pressure off the worst-hit hospitals to keep vital treatment up and running. The letter, seen by the Health Service Journal , says transfers from the East and London

"When she came home we found there was very little support. The waiting lists were as long as your arm.

"Olivia was put on waiting lists and was never seen. The waiting times were just incredible and she didn't get to see a psychologist. She passed away before ever getting that appointment and the help she needed."

The mum-of-four praised her daughter's care while in hospital but says Olivia felt like there was "no end in sight" while waiting to access NHS psychiatric services.

Olivia was hospitalised a further seven times, sometimes for weeks at a time, in the period between being leaving hospital in 2018 and when she tragically took her life in 2020.

Elaine continued: "The waiting list is just unrealistic, to think you can't be seen when you need to be seen.

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Mental health services are open, including services for children and young people. If you're struggling to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression, a GP can refer you for NHS talking therapies or you can refer yourself online without speaking to a GP. It can take longer to get contraception at the moment and some types are not widely available. For life -threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance. Try to avoid going straight to

"It's sad and frustrating for the family when you know there might be someone out there to help your child but you just can't get to them.

"When my daughter was waiting there was just no end in sight. She felt like nobody was listening to her.

"She did have lots of further admissions through the psychiatric ward between being discharged in June 2018 until when she passed away in May 2020.

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"She had seven further admissions in total and still was never seen by psychologists."

The 55-year-old fears that the mental health crisis has worsened following pandemic and fears other families will suffer while waiting for vital services.

In the wake of Olivia's tragic death, Elaine has made an official complaint to the NHS over her daughter's care when she was not in hospital.

"Sadly I think it's still like this for other people. You hear about funding mental health support and that's great but I just feel like nothing changes", Elaine said.

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Health bosses warned earlier this month that the surgery waiting list , growing because routine operations were cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, could soar to 10million people by Christmas, with surgeons warning of a 'significant backlog'. 'A vital component would be the introduction of weekly routine testing of all NHS staff to keep them and patients safe from Covid-19 while receiving treatment. 'We’re calling on MPs to support this motion to tackle the rapidly growing queues of their constituents waiting for treatment.'

The health service is facing a shocking backlog of cases as it tries to return to normal after shutting down most of its services to cope with the pandemic. Leading charities estimate 2.5million cancer patients have missed out on vital tests and treatment this year because of the crisis. The health service is also bracing for its worst winter on record, when it will have to battle an influx of patients with seasonal flu and Covid-19. A new report by the NHS Confederation, which represents represents health and care leaders, predicts 10million people on waiting lists by Christmas.

"We felt powerless as parents waiting on help that never seemed to come, it's very difficult."

Speaking of her daughter, who worked in a hostel for homeless men, Elaine insists she never wants Olivia's illness to define who she was and says her daughter had a bright future ahead of her.

She said: "That's not who she was.

"She was a very strong, independent young woman who had a career and a bright future ahead of her. She was an individual who fought tooth and nail every day."

Despite her own battles, Olivia managed to fundraise for care packs to be given to people who were admitted to her ward at St John's Hospital with mental health problems.

"It's just one example of the kind person she was", Elaine added.

The family is now raising money in Olivia's memory for SMILE Counselling in Livingston, a local charity that provide outreach counselling to young people and came to her aid when she needed it most.

Elaine and her two sons, along with countless friends and family, took part in The Kiltwalk to raise over £18,000 for the charity - which continues to support them.

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Elaine said: "We really believe that SMILE gave us more time with Olivia.

"Olivia was all about helping people, that's what she did as a job, and would write lots of blogs even when she was really unwell and raise awareness around mental health.

"For me, that was something I needed to carry on and I don't want any other family to be going through what we are going through."

You can donate to SMILE Counselling here.

Fiona Wilson, Head of Health, West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said: "We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family.

"An investigation is underway to understand what further lessons can be learned. We are working hard to reduce waiting times for psychological interventions and increase capacity for community supports.

"We are stepping up the redesign processes, continually increasing our clinical capacity and developing new ways of working, such as providing both virtual and face-to-face treatment options to increase the number of available appointments.”

NHS backlog: Record 5.6 million patients on waiting list due to delays caused by Covid-19 pandemic .
Boris Johnson has warned the figures will 'get worse before they get better'July’s figure is an increase of more than 100,000 on the previous month, and the highest since records began in 2007.

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