NHS Gagging Order

14 04 2011

I know I might have covered this in the past but it’s on my mind again and I just need to get it out there.

If you’re reading this then it’s quite likely that you have a mental health diagnosis of some form and it’s possible you’ve been resident in one of our fantastic acute treatment facilities

Sarcasm isn’t easy to do via text, it really is a verbal thing. Anyway, having been a guest twice in acute care, it’s interesting to see what people think it’s like going into hospital, especially if they’ve never been there.

For the uninitiated, here’s a little taster to get you going.

At first it’s like going into any hospital, the foods not exactly wonderful, the staff are pleasant enough, and the facilities have a lovely hue that makes you wonder who in the government throught bulk deal on that particular shade of green was a good choice. Of course you’re on the ward with a whole host of weird and wonderful characters but then that’s the good thing about the NHS, it’s treatment for everyone regardless of who they are.

So I guess you’re wondering why the title of this is ‘NHS Gagging Order’. Have the NHS had their legal team in contact to say I shouldn’t be saying something? Not so far. The gagging order is far more informal and far more insidious than that so lets get on with it.

When you are a patient on a ward the expectation is that you are welcome to talk to the staff and are encouraged to do so. Hell, I agree with this, keeping it bottled up inside isn’t going to help you. However, if you don’t feel that something is right for you then be prepared to encounter the gagging order.

My problem when I was on the ward the first time was that I acquiesced to the doctors and staff to begin with. I didn’t go with what I felt because, to be fair, I didn’t feel a great deal and as I’d gone through a traumatic event it was to be expected. Eventually my mind reset itself and then the staff were on the wrong foot.

I am… clever, I won’t say intelligent as I feel it’s inaccurate. I’m not small, I’m quite stocky. My upbringing has involved a degree of tactical violence instruction (don’t ask). I am opinionated, kind of a ‘well duh’ thing to say but it’s part and parcel. What this means is that staff didn’t really know how to deal with me. What I said went. Why? Because they couldn’t restrain me as I know how to get out of their restraints and have the bulk to do it? Possibly. Mostly it was because I knew what I could and could not get away with and always went my way.

I’m lucky in a way, because the vast majority of stuff that you get in hospital passed me by because of the above. However, there was still a way in which the gagging order hit me.

Mistakes happen. Fact of life. You acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and move on. Unless you are in a hospital. I’ve seen and encountered errors in care on an acute ward and when it’s time for complaints to be made then everyone tows the party line.

‘No mistake was made’.

If there were olympic medals for avoiding responsibility then you’d definitely see some people from the NHS in the finals. I know that in the government jobs covering your ass is an occupational neccesity, in the NHS it’s a fine art. You are mental so therefore you are at fault. You are mental so it’s to be expected that these things will happen, not our fault. You are mental so the fact we gave you the wrong meds is your fault.

Oversimplification? Perhaps. The reality is that this is the attitude if not the exact words.

So when in an acute treatment facility, expect these things;

  • That mistakes will happen and no-one will accept responsibility
  • That everyone will lie to you at some point and then deny that it happened
  • That when you bring up a mistake that it will be the line of ‘Well this is the first time this has happened’ or ‘You’re the first’ despite the fact that if you talk to fellow patients they will say it’s happened to them

We, as patients, have no voice because the voice we could have is always hidden. In my research I found that advocacy services available to all patients actually have to hide from patients they are not legally obligated to represent because the funding isn’t there for them to provide the service patients so desperately need and would benefit from.

You may write this whole post of a histrionics by a mental person, just goes to show how systemic stigma really is if you do. I’m not lying, these are the real experiences of mine or of people I know well. My motives are pure and simple. I advise anyone in acute treatment to be brutally honest otherwise how else can doctors etc get a proper handle on what we go through. I just wish that the doctors etc would be honest with us. We don’t want to sue you, we want to know that we’re not imagining it, we want to know that there is a glimmer of us in there. We want you to stop trying to shut us up because it makes a hard job a little easier.

We want the gagging order lifted.

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