Mike’s Story

M ike had spent many years in mental hospitals. Shyly at first and then more frequently, he would come to the advocates’ office, asking for help with small things: writing letters, making phone calls, then speaking up at the reviews regularly made of his condition – steadily gaining confidence.

Eventually Mike said that he wanted to leave hospital and live in the community.  But at first no suitable housing could be found for him.  With help from his advocate a housing association was persuaded to offer him a place in a care home and invited him to come and see it – in a building that Mike was absolutely enchanted with.  Hospital staff were still uncertain about his ability to cope with life in the community, but his appeal went to a tribunal, supported by the advocate and a good solicitor, and the tribunal found in his favour.  Funds for his care had still to be provided by the social Work department whose Resource Review Group, allocating a budget this purpose, met once a week.  Eventually, under pressure from Mike’s advocate, they accepted that he must be given a place in the queue, but still released no funds.

Happy old man photo
That left Mike marooned on the ‘delayed discharge’ list where patients were supposed to wait for no more than six weeks at most.  The care home held their offer open but warned that they could not do this forever.  Hospital staff grew increasingly worried about Mike’s mental health as he became more frustrated, angry and threatening – writing letters in his usual style to every authority he could think of.  His advocate wrote too – to senior social workers in the hospital and the social Work department, and then to the Mental Welfare Commission, which oversees the treatment of patients with mental disorders throughout Scotland – all to no avail.

Finally, and reluctantly, eight weeks after the tribunal hearing, Mike’s advocate resorted to the ‘nuclear option’ – emailing a brief account of the case to the local Member of the Scottish Parliament who promptly emailed the Director of Social Work, copying his message back to the advocate.  Later that day, funds for Mike’s place in the care home were provided.

The home, which stands on the coast, looks like a Victorian castle “I always wanted to live in a castle”, said Mike.

‘Speaking to Power’ – Advocacy for health and social care.
David Donnison
The Policy Press, University of Bristol 2009

 

Note: Whilst this is a true story, all names and images have been changed in the interests of privacy.