Broken Referral

It has been a busy year. Elijah will be one year old in a couple of weeks and since he was born we have also moved out of London (hello Reading!) and I have published a book (in case you haven’t seen it, it’s here…)

I have to say, I wouldn’t necessarily advise people to do so many big life changing things in one go and my mental health has certainly suffered.

The state of my depression and anxiety though has caught me off guard. For the first time ever, I find myself exactly where I want to be. I am very happy with Mike and Elijah is a delight. I love my new house and have made some great friends. I like being able to drive to friends without having to spend an hour doing so. I like that there is an IKEA 10 minutes away. I am happy that my book has done OK and that people seem to be buying and reading it.

Essentially, life is good. I am where I want to be and despite the constant anxiety that comes from being an entirely disorganised person, I feel happy and content in my situation.

This is why my deteriorating mental health has caught me off guard. Usually, when I feel this ill, I have some situation or circumstance that has triggered it. Yes, there has been a lot of change but it has been positive and good. I am used to spotting where my health might deteriorate, seeing triggers and preparing myself, but this year I haven’t really been able to do that in the way I am used to.

What I am trying to say in all of this, is that I feel alarmingly unstable. One minute I am fine, the next I am having a panic attack that is bigger than I have had since 2 days after Elijah was born when my milk came in and I lost the plot.

My anxiety is worse than it has been in years and has been increasing since Elijah was born. My mood is more erratic, but all of it has caught me off guard, because I am happy. It’s very confusing and unsettling.

Within all of this I went get referred to mental health services in my new area – Reading. I went to the GP and spoke to them and was told I would be referred. It was suggested that I call my old psychiatric nurse and ask her to prompt from her end too, to hurry things up. The problem is, I, like many with mental health problems, am not very reliable when asked to do stuff to care for myself. I didn’t call her. I was too anxious and unwell to work out what to say. I left it.

Months have passed and I have heard nothing (almost 3 to be precise). I went back to the Dr today and found that no referral has been made. Nothing. Four months after leaving London – the longest I have gone without mental health care in over five years, and it looks like it will now be extended further.

What’s worse, is that the referral for ongoing mental health care is no different to a first time referral. I will be contacted by the central referrals team, who will then give me an appointment to be triaged. Only after that, if whoever triages me deems it necessary, will I be referred to a psychiatrist.

This is a JOKE.

My former mental health team sent a detailed (pages long) letter, outlining my mental health history and treatment to my GP to send on to the new team. My diagnosis is clear, my need for a psychiatrist to oversee my medication is clear. My medication is new, and I need to change as it is not working, and I have gone four months without any supervision over it, and yet, despite all this information being readily available I will still require triage before being referred on.

Mental health services are ridiculous. My husband has diabetes. Can you imagine if he was referred by his GP to see his diabetic consultant, but in order to actually see them, he had to be triaged by someone else first? Even though he had the letter and proof, notes and everything from his previous treatment team. It seems as though we cannot be trusted to inform doctors that we are sick. They need to confirm it for themselves. My previous psychiatrist also cannot be trusted, as otherwise they would not need to triage, they would accept the diagnosis.

The sad thing is, this is not necessarily the fault of the NHS. This, it seems to me, is the fault of a broken system that sees mental health as less important than physical health. People are left for months without care, to reach crisis point, before they can get effective support.

Politicians have been increasingly talking about extra funding to mental health services over the past few years, and yet, it seems, there is still no parity of care. There is no trust. There is months of waiting with deteriorating health, meaning that when we do get care we cost more to care for because our situation is more serious.

I don’t know what to do about my referral, other than make a complaint and make my own little bit of noise to join the rest of us clamoring for better care and greater consideration. So I have written a blog.

My brain is once again failing me. It feels serious. But I will just have to wait, because it would appear, until I need to go to A&E, until I have reached crisis, I cannot be taken seriously.


  • Sadly this is the experience of so many people with the “mental health” label over their condition. It does seem that unless you are dangerous to either yourself or someone else you aren’t a priority, and even then you’re only a priority whilst you are in crisis.

    We have recognised the value of proactive and preemptive care in so much of the healthcare system, “mental health” is barely coping with those in crisis.

    I hope and pray that you get some progress soon.

  • Sorry to hear you are having problems the part about being to unwell to get in connect with professionals runs true for me to being told you’ve been referred only to find out you haven’t has happened to everyone I know one had to wait 2 years to get an assessment we being told to come forward when you have a mental illness to find there’s no help it feels like you end up being gaslighted sadly even when you are unwell enough to end up in a and e there’s still none

  • I heard you on radio 2 this morning and immediately went onto Amazon to order your book. There I read a review which mentioned your blog, and here I am. I have been so saddened to read this latest piece about your experience waiting for a referral. The system seems broken. What can be so difficult about transferring a patient seamlessly from one area to another when they move house, and why on earth does the whole triage system need to be gone through again? It is ridiculous, and probably a reflection of a service struggling to cope with need. Sadly I fear that this situation is the same for far too many people. I like that you are able to give them a voice. I love your blogs. I have just read High Functioning and just kept saying to myself.. “I could have written this!” So thank you for what you do, and keep pushing until you get what you need, and what you deserve. xx

  • Katherine, I have just discovered your blog. I live in Trafford near Manchester and I can tell you that there is effectively no NHS psychiatric service available here either. My parents who are Scottish and were both in the medical profession are shocked at how poor the situation is with mental health in England. The criteria for referral are such that extremely ill people often do not get referred unless they are literally hanging from a bridge. I have a phenomenal G.P who has cared for me so well over the past 12 years since I was diagnosed with severe depression in my early 30s when I had two children under 3. However, obviously she is not a specialist, and can not possibly have the level of knowledge of psychiatric medication that a consultant has. I could tell that she was frustrated with the service (or lack therof) but her hands were tied. Over the years, my health has gone up and down and I have been on a lot of different medications, as well as in counselling. In the end last year, after a breakdown, I saw a consultant privately and got very effective treatment but I recognise that is simply not an option for most people. Anyway, thank you for your courage and honesty in highlighting these issues. I am also a Christian and could relate to much of what you said on Radio 2 this morning about our churches needing to learn more about what people with mental health problems need .? I wish you and your family well and look forward to reading your book. Katrina

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