Wednesday, 29 August 2012

police presence in psychiatric wards

Where I live the police have become honorary members of the psychiatric nursing fraternity.  They are a familiar presence in psychiatric wards.  Like sheriffs in the wild west.  Bringing law and order to a chaotic environment.  Sent out after runaways.  Investigating crimes or misdemeanors.  In full uniform they are an imposing presence to carers and to patients experiencing mental distress. 

It seems that in Stratheden Hospital therapeutic staff have been replaced by the police.  There used to be occupational therapists on the wards, doing group work and activities to aid recovery and restore confidence.  I remember this.  Now there are no activities ongoing apart from smoking groups of patients outside in the patio (while nurses have been known to smoke inside the ward).  Nurses are too busy with writing notes and having important meetings.  

The head nurses in the acute ward have even got their own room now, away from the patients, where they can have peace and quiet to write their notes.  To phone the police.  To discuss management of patients.  To meet with carers and visitors and others.  To talk over confidential matters.  To reflect on their practice.

Meanwhile the police are sent for, most days, to deal with the problems that the nurses can't handle.  Meaning that the acute psychiatric ward environment has become a battle ground.  Of ever increasing compulsion and force.  Do what you're told or else.  Take the psychiatric drugs or else.  Stand back or else.  Restraint, seclusion and forced treatment an ever present threat.  And the police on hand to back them up.

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