Among the proposed improvements was that a patient's risk of harm should not be separated into categories such as high, medium and low risk, and that organisations ensure they involve the patient's families in care planning and assessments.
These proposed changes will go a long way to helping community mental health care staff to better manage patients in the community and give them the right tools to provide not just the patient, but also their families, with the correct advice and care.
The wife of my former client John tragically committed suicide in 2018 after failures in her care at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The key issues in her treatment were that she was not appropriately risk assessed, and thereafter was not assigned with a Care Co-ordinator who would be able to assist her and be a regular point of contact for her in the community.
John regularly asked the hospital for advice on how he could support his wife while he was caring for her at home and her mental state was deteriorating. He was not helped through this process and the hospital did not undertake a carer's assessment, which would have identified John's concerns and allowed him to receive advice on how he could protect his wife. He felt powerless as her mental state deteriorated. She should have received more tailored support for her condition, as should John and their two children.
The proposed changes will hopefully support families who find themselves in a similar situation to ensure their relative is appropriately risk assessed, taking into account the individual nuances in each presentation, and to ensure the whole family is involved and understands how to care for the person struggling with their mental health.
It remains to be seen exactly how these recommendations are implemented across the different hospital trusts, but at least the HSIB's proposals are a good start to improving the community mental healthcare on offer to patients and their families.
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