NHS told to pay bill for patient it turned away

HEALTH chiefs have been ordered to pay the overseas treatment bill of a mentally-ill patient they turned away without medication.

Friday, 24th October 2014, 10:31 am
Staff at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital were found to be at fault. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) handed NHS Lothian the £440 bill after the woman’s family were forced to seek treatment abroad when doctors here wrongly diagnosed her as having a personality disorder.

The investigation found staff at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital were at fault for diagnosing and discharging the 34-year-old woman despite her “displaying evidence of an abnormal mental state”.

The woman, who is called Anne, but asked for her surname not to be disclosed, was admitted to the Meadows ward of the mental health facility in December 2011 after saying she was seeing and hearing things and “thought she had superpowers”.

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She had told police she was feeling suicidal and there were concerns she might hurt herself or her young daughter.

But despite telling a consultant psychiatrist about her symptoms of sleeplessness and erratic behaviour, she was “inappropriately discharged” without medication.

Friends were so concerned by her behaviour and lack of treatment, they contacted her parents and she was flown to France the next day where she was diagnosed with puerperal psychosis, a treatable condition that can affect new mothers, and underwent three-weeks of treatment.

When she returned home, her GP referred her to mental health services, where she was seen by a consultant psychiatrist, who agreed with the overseas diagnosis.

Upholding her complaints, the SPSO report said she had been displaying evidence of an abnormal mental state. It added: “There was no communication with her carer or friends or proper assessment of her needs.”

The report made recommendations about improved discharge planning and record-keeping, as well as that the board should meet her outstanding treatment costs.

Following the ruling, Anne said: “I needed inpatient care, but I didn’t get it in Scotland.

“I did reach out – I’d never felt suicidal in my life – but I was seen as attention seeking.

“If I didn’t have friends and family, I dread to think what would have happened. I’d probably be dead.”

Melanie Johnson, executive nurse director, NHS Lothian, said she wanted to repeat the apology for the failures in care which Anne experienced.

“We accept the report from the Ombudsman and will act on the recommendations as a matter of urgency.

“This includes reviewing practices and protocols in relation to record-keeping, information sharing and carer involvement in relevant wards in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.”