Make a written record of what you have observed. Keep any written material that looks odd.
What to do next depends upon whether family member agrees to see the GP. If so write a letter to the Gp with your observed record to be seen before the appointment but not to be disclosed as from you.
It is now often the case that your GP will refer on any first contact you have with the GP to a Community Mental Health Team member - even if that first contact may be in a few days time. Ask for the qualification and grade of the staff member who will be the first Team visitor.
First and most importantly, at first illness get famiiar with the Care Programme Approachprotocol [CPA}Care Programme Approach Guidance applies when the first contact is with the Trust Community mental health Team.
This is 'where and when' you get yourself registered with the local Trust Inpatient admission Team as the carer - to be part of decisions about your family patient.
You should intrude with your views in all the steps within the Care Programme Approach before any discharge plan is accepted by you - as the carer. Schizophrenia is a continuing illness [ see 'burden of Care' ]
Request a Carer Assessment by the Trust Team at the first assessment stages. This assessment is what you will need as support if you are to carry the burden of care
You will want the diagnosis - not 'psychosis' but 'is it schizophrenia?' - the working diagnosis that will be guiding the Team aftercare plan.
The first Team visitor is doing the first part of the CPA - a needs assessment.
They can just refer them back to the GP.
If no immediate urgency they will take their information and conclusions to the weekly Commuity Team meeting at which the Consultant psychiatrist and senior nurses will be present: the discussion and outcome will be minuted as should/will be any carer concerns as you have represented them.
If In-patient admission is to follow the Mental Health Act may be invoked in which case an Approved Mental Health Professional [ the old Approved Social Worker ] independent of the Team, will need to approve and accept the two medical Recommendations, will need to ask the Officially acceptable Nearest Relative - it may or may not be you - to agree or disagree with the Mental Health act admission, if the first admission, usually the 28 day Observation Order, then go out and find a 'bed' .
The grounds for admission will be necessary for risk to health,and/ or risk to others.
Don't think that if the professional Care has passed from the GP to the local Mental Health Trust Team that you should let the GP off his duty to the patient.
Make an appointment for yourself to see the GP and request that the GP keeps in touch with the continuing care.
If you are meeting concerns with Trust care that you are not satisfied with the answers, make it the business of the GP to address them directly.
The patient remains the patient of the GP - even if they try to 'pass the buck' to the Trust community team.
An established grey beard psychiatrist once described professional and family carers as 'equal partners in care'.
An elderly fellow carer exclaimed
" equal partners ! they see patients for ten minutes or so every now and again - we are caring for and about them continually all the days of their lives and ours !!!!!
and another " they have all the authority - but little of the care ... we have little of the authority , and all of the care".
In Inquiries after failures of care, one comment often stands out - 'they were not ill enough as we saw them '
The key to good care is to get carer observation and concern into the Team. Carer, always, should know when the team weekly meeting is and how to speak to a team member.
If a carer has doubts as to how any message will be received , it should be put in writing to the catchment area clinical lead consultant and if crtiical, witnessed.
If carer scepticism is serious, the letter should go to the Chief Executive of the Trust delivering the service. Most care failure is down to information not being given the concern and response that was necessary, sometimes by someone who received a message but did not let it go further.
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