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Mental health patients often feel discriminated against by GP surgeries

Posted: 13th May 2016 by Andrew Voyce, Trustee
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Would the same request for a repeat prescription be treated in the same way from, say, patients with a heart-condition, kidney, or other chronic physical conditions?  I very much doubted that it would.  Although I was eventually given the repeat prescription one day before going on holiday, the whole experience made me feel stigmatised because of my mental health status.  I felt that I had to make a stand and complain.

 

Be prepared!  That was the intention when getting ready for my holiday.  Be organised.  Plan in advance. Keep stress to a minimum.  Make sure I submit my repeat prescription in good time so that I could continue taking my mental health medication while I was away.  So I did just that.  I submitted my repeat prescription to my GP’s surgery with a note clearly stating that the reason why it was a little earlier than usual was due to the fact that I was going away and that there would be a time over-lap.   Usually the prescription goes directly from the GPs surgery to the pharmacy where I collect my medication.  Following several unsuccessful visits to the pharmacy where I was told that they had not yet received a repeat prescription from my GP’s surgery, I made numerous subsequent visits to my GP’s surgery enquiring as to the whereabouts and status of my repeat prescription.  No-one seemed to know where it was. 

Eventually after a lot of coming and going, I found out that the reason my prescription had all but disappeared was down to the fact that my GP had ‘disallowed’ it on the grounds that the request was too soon.  This was despite the fact that I had clearly stated that the reason for an early repeat prescription was because I would be away on holiday and it would be detrimental to my mental health to stop taking my medication due to an overlap in time.  Prior to this, the GP’s surgery made no attempt to notify me of this decision either by phone, letter or to respond directly to me during one of my numerous visits to their reception.  My enquiries were mostly met with an indifferent shrug.   I was appalled that the GP and staff seemed to think that this sort of treatment to one of their patients was acceptable.  Would the same request for a repeat prescription be treated in the same way from, say, patients with a heart-condition, kidney, or other chronic physical conditions?  I very much doubted that it would.  Although I was eventually given the repeat prescription one day before going on holiday, the whole experience made me feel stigmatised because of my mental health status.  I felt that I had to make a stand and complain.

Despite feeling very strongly about making a complaint about how the whole process had been badly handled by the GP’s surgery, I didn’t feel quite up to it without some sort of support.  So I contacted seAp Advocacy who allocated my case to one of their advocates.  Advocacy gave me focus and clarity.  My advocate listened to me, articulating everything from my viewpoint in a letter to my GP.  I felt reassured having her listen to and communicate with me in way that was clear and unbiased.   Eventually I was offered a meeting with my GP’s surgery which Jennifer attended with me.   There were four members of staff at that meeting - sat behind a table - the Surgery Manager, Practice Manager, Deputy Practice Manager and the GP.  Without my advocate there to support me I would have found the whole experience very intimidating and I would have floundered.  Instead I felt empowered.  Throughout the meeting, my advocate remained calm and focussed, articulating that part of my complaint is that mental health patients often feel discriminated against by GP surgeries and consequently practices should be mindful of this and treat everyone with the same level of professionalism. 

My complaint resulted in an acknowledgement of this plus an apology for the fiasco with my repeat prescription - from the Doctor’s surgery.  However, to my dismay, part of the response was a suggestion that I move to another practice.   Thankfully my advocate saw the injustice in this and helped me to stay, being allocated instead to a different GP at the same practice.  I was pleased with the result to my complaint which I could not have achieved without advocacy support.  


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