Sunday 16 December 2012

Three young people failed by the NHS

Saturday morning is obviously Eating Disorder and other mental health issues morning at the private therapy clinic we went to yesterday. On duty are the two dieticians - the one we saw last week (the one on the telly) and the one we used to see at CAMHS before her funding was withdrawn. (Back then, she didn't do private work.)

Also on duty was the eating disorder psychologist who Ben was booked in with and the CBT therapist we saw three years ago while on the CAMHS waiting list.

There, with us in the waiting room, was a stick-like teenage girl (seeing the dietician) and a teenage boy (seeing the CBT therapist). In all, three young people whose parents are - presumably - being forced to go private because - presumably - the NHS isn't delivering what their children need, for whatever reason: poor treatment, no treatment, waiting lists, whatever.

Meanwhile that particular private clinic (which deals in a range of alternative therapies and counselling, etc services) has set up its own specialist eating disorders team comprising some of the best eating disorders professionals the city has to offer. Charging from £70 an hour upwards.

It was set up, I assume, is because there is "a need".

And there can only be a need if our dear children are being failed by the very National Health Service that should be protecting them. For free.

We daren't even think of all those young people out there whose parents simply can't afford to go private and whose children are being atrociously let down by the NHS for one reason or another.

As we all know, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders. In other words, they are a potential killer.

Can you imagine if our children were suffering from another life-threatening illness, for instance cancer, but were being forced to go private - or simply do without?

There would be a public outcry.


  1. I'm not saying it is right, not at all, but working in CAMHS, it's really tough for us too. We have the "option" of seeing people right through to the end when they decide they no longer need to see us, but in doing so, prevent lots of others coming through, or we try to do a 'good enough' job and hope that they can build on what they've done which enables us to see more people. I know it's not ideal, in fact it is pretty awful, but at least we have a system that is free at entry and offers a service (however minimal) to everyone. I see it both ways - I sit in both camps and am frustrated as a professional and patient. But I can't see any alternatives when we're in a deep recession and CAMHS are stretched to the absolute limit. I guess it feels a little unfair to me to bash CAMHS, but equally understand your frustrations with broken promises.

  2. I didn't mean to appear to 'bash cahms' as such, more the general 'state of affairs' - just struck me as so sad.... Your reply is really great by the way. xx

  3. I also work within the NHS (although not as a clinician) and agree - people, including the much maligned managers and administrators, are trying to balance impossible demands. We are all being encouraged to have higher expectations (and a good job too, in the "good old days" people were institutionalised for years or hidden in their own homes with no services at all) in an atmosphere of extreme regulation (again understandable but sometimes very frustrating) and budget and resources cuts. I have mixed feelings about the private sector - an opportunity for some, even a relief of pressure on stretched NHS resources or a drain on NHS personnel and profiting from the woes of the system? I dunno! It's frustrating isn't it that there's no real answer to this, just a lot of people chasing their tails and trying to make things work.

  4. Batty, thank you so much for bravely addressing this issue. National Health Care is an issue that many countries need to address. So many Americans think it is the answer and voted as such. I can't believe that Americans who wanted this could have been paying attention to these things you describe. We will soon be facing these very same issues.

    I'm so glad you are speaking up and raising awareness.
    Becky Henry
    Hope Network, LLC

    1. Seeing from an 'insiders' perspective as outlined by the above comments is invaluable too. And another prob is that in the few instances when we Brits do have private insurance (usually as a result of a job perk or if you are wealthy) there is precious little provision for mental health probs. For example 3 yrs ago when we were on a 18-22 week waiting list for CAMHS treatment (ouch!) we had some private insurance (no longer do BTW) but only £500 was allocated for MH probs per annum whereas I was seeing a private ENT consultant at the same time for an ear prob and there seemed to be plenty of funds available for that. But I know it's a prob in the States too.

  5. I understand your frustration. Frustration all round, I suspect, on behalf of these dear young people and their loving familes. Even though I was going through my own trauma on Sat I couldn't help my heart going out to these other troubled young people and their anxious looking parents. I longed to hug them and say "You're not alone in this" just as I felt whenever another anxious family came into the waiting room at camhs with their skinny child...

  6. PS Probably just a frustration and anger fueled need to beat up ED as an illness until it's black and blue and preferably well and truly deceased!!!!