Why we need this in Dorset

PICU storyMike and Clare’s story

Mike and Clare are not this couple’s real name, but these are their words. Imagine your child is so unwell she needs prolonged, specialist in-patient hospital care. But the only care available is hundreds of miles away. This is the story of Mike and Clare, and their daughter.

  • a child in mental health crisis needing specialist inpatient care
  • no suitable facilities close to home
  • seven months away from home in two years
  • four out of county placements – Manchester, Kent and Surrey
  • 27,902 miles driven to visit and £9,000 in fuel
  • cost to the NHS - £226,800.

Our daughter has had a total of four out of county placements since her mental health began to deteriorate. Each time, we have seen her terrified as she entered a secure ambulance to face a six-hour journey. She spent four months as an inpatient on the East Sussex/Kent border before two six week stays in a psychiatric intensive care unit in Bury, North of Manchester and a further six weeks in Woking, Surrey, all because there are no suitable facilities for children like her in Dorset or the surrounding area.

Circumnavigation of the globe equals 24,902 miles. We have driven a total of 27,902 miles to support our daughter - so literally once round the world and then one way to New York.

Every mile was worth it because we could see the immense value to her of regular time with us –to know we cared, even in her darkest times. Now she is stable and has told us the positive impact our contact had, and compared this to the adverse impact she witnessed on her peers where family visits were not possible. She believes, and I suspect the evidence will corroborate – that her recovery was quicker, and others delayed, directly linked to access to parental support when placed a long way from home.

We are not heroes or superhuman – just lucky. Lucky that my husband has a gargantuan capacity for driving long distances at the end of a working week; that our employers were supportive and flexible; that we could afford to spend £9,000 on fuel, and lucky that we have supportive friends and friends of friends who have put us up near to where our daughter has been. If we had had to pay for accommodation as well, our costs would have risen to around £14,000.

I shudder every time I think of how different it could have been. If we were on a lower income, had other young children, or different marital circumstances, we would have had long gaps where we just could not see our daughter, or get to know the professionals caring for her. Her stays in remote PICUs would have been longer and her mental health slower to stabilise. The pain and anguish was tough enough in our circumstances – I can’t imagine how bad it would be had we not been able to visit her.

Apart from the central importance of a local PICU in keeping families together and facilitating a timely recovery, there is a sound financial imperative for the NHS of supporting our young people locally. At one point, a private company was being paid £1,800 a day to care for our daughter. This means that her out of county care in just one year cost £226,800 – equivalent to two full time consultant psychiatrists or 6.5 staff nurses.

We personally know of at least six young people who also spent protracted stays out of county. Surely it makes sense to build on the fantastic service provided by the Pebble Lodge team to enable a more intensive level of care when needed.

I can only imagine the difference it would have made to our daughter to have walked through a door locally to the right care.

Alumhurst Road.jpgMike and Clare were lucky. They had the means to travel to visit their daughter and aid her recovery.

Theirs is not an isolated case in Dorset. Many parents can’t travel to visit their children in their times of greatest need. Evidence shows those children take longer to recover. This is unacceptable for children and young people and costs the NHS more than it needs to.

A CAMHS PICU here in Dorset will provide the facilities needed to help young people recover quicker and at less cost to the NHS.

A message from our Acting Chief Executive, Dawn Dawson, explaining the need for this CAMHS PICU

CAMHS Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit