A woman with severe depression phoned the Samaritans from her bedside at a psychiatric hospital after staff told her it was too late in the evening for her to speak to a nurse.
Lorna Dunlop, 52, spent more than 18 weeks in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital after being admitted following a mental health assessment given at an out-patient appointment in March.
The mother of one from Edinburgh, who runs a florist business, was diagnosed with depression as a result of years spent fighting back pain that left her addicted to prescribed opioid painkillers, including fentanyl patches.
Dunlop, who admitted she has felt suicidal, said that at no point during admission to the psychiatric ward was she asked if she had anything on her that could cause harm and no-one checked the contents of her handbag.
This made her “increasingly anxious” as she had a week’s worth of medicine collected from a chemist prior to her appointment and a pair of scissors. It wasn’t until two days later when a friend visited that she asked them to remove these items on her behalf over fears for her safety and the potential for self-harm.
Dunlop made a number of claims in a complaint letter sent to the hospital’s Patient Experience Team in June, to which she has just received a reply with the health board apologising several times for the issues she raised.
These included her not being given advice on locking the door to her bed space at night which led to Dunlop waking up one night to find a “psychotic” patient, who she had seen assaulting a nurse earlier that day, standing over her at 2am.
She said the experience of being in the Royal Edinburgh left her feeling more stressed and anxious than when she arrived for treatment.
Dunlop said: “I found it quite distressing to be in the position where I was walking into a locked ward for the first time and your mind’s thinking about other people having to have ladies’ razors and the like locked away.
“Some things were better managed than others but at no point did anyone ask me ‘what did I have in my bag’ – I felt really uncomfortable about that.”
Dunlop said she thought a lack of trained staff and beds were at the root of the Royal Edinburgh’s problems. She added: “My impression was that the staff were really frustrated.”
Professor Alex McMahon, director of nursing, NHS Lothian, said: “Our priority is to provide safe, effective and compassionate care and I would apologise to any patient whose care fell below the standards they should expect.”