A woman who was treated as an inpatient at a North East psychiatric hospital has claimed that she was told to “go home and die” by the crisis team when expressing suicidal thoughts.

Charlotte Howell, 30, from Thornaby, told The Northern Echo that during her week-long stay at West Park Hospital, in Darlington, staff members told her that she could “go home and die” because committing suicide would be her own choice.

She also said that a psychiatrist told her to “stop thinking about [her] lost children and get over it” and would consistently “belittle” her grief and stress related to her children during appointments and assessments.

This comes off the back of criticism for Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), the trust that runs mental health and learning disability services in County Durham and Darlington

The Northern Echo: Charlotte Howell. Charlotte Howell. (Image: Handout)

Read more: Family claim West Park hospital, Darlington, was 'compassionless'

Last month, a damning report into the mental health provision at a different hospital previously run by TEWV was released, finding some areas of care to be “ultimately damaging to patients.”

The Trust has come under scrutiny following the tragic deaths of three teenagers in their care. An independent investigation found that the 2019 deaths of Christie Harnett, and Nadia Sharif, both 17, were the result of the care provided at West Lane Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Only weeks ago, The Northern Echo reported on the death of Matthew Gale, a patient at West Park Hospital who took his own life on Mothers’ Day after a years-long battle with his mental health. Matthew’s family believe that “compassionless” care at West Park ultimately led to his death.

Read more: 'Failures' exposed at West Lane Hospital before deaths of three girls

Since then, The Northern Echo has been approached by a number of patients to speak of their own experiences at the hospital, which we will be highlighting all this week.

Responding to Charlotte’s claims, TEWV said that they have “an unrelenting focus on safety and quality”, and have made several significant improvements since Charlotte’s 2018 stay in West Park.

About her time in hospital, Charlotte said: “I took a massive overdose, and the police took me to the hospital. The police were really helpful, but when I told hospital staff that I took the overdose because I wanted to die, they told me it was my choice to kill myself.”

She also told The Northern Echo that she had a similar experience trying to get an inpatient bed in Darlington, Charlotte claims she saw a crisis team three times in one day whilst trying to get an inpatient bed in the ward, but claims she was told to “go home and die” by the team.

Despite being in crisis, she did not get a bed, and was told to come back the next day.

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When she was eventually admitted to West Park and seen by medical staff, Charlotte said that a psychiatrist told her to “get over” and “stop thinking about” the children she had lost in a custody battle.

“I had to have so many different traumatic assessments to try to get support – over the years I have probably had 70 assessments," she said.

“They’d lie about assessments too, saying I was just going in with a nurse, but when I’d walk into the room there would be a large group. It was really, really overwhelming.

“But at the end of the assessment, I was always just put on a waiting list. I am still waiting for to get a community psychiatric nurse, seven years after originally asking the NHS for help.”

Once discharged from the hospital, Charlotte tried to keep up with appointments, but when she missed one, she was immediately dropped from the care list and all her care was stopped, despite being vulnerable.

Read more: 

Charlotte has labelled her whole experience with mental health care in the UK, including that offered by TEWV, as “absolutely shocking”.

Patrick Scott, managing director of the Durham, Tees Valley and Forensics care group at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are really sorry that Charlotte didn’t receive the level of care that she expected from us.

“We have an unrelenting focus on safety and quality in our Trust. We have made significant improvements since Charlotte was at West Park Hospital in 2018, including:

  • nearly £8 million spent on making our wards safer since 2019.
  • employing two lived experience directors, to make sure that experienced voices are heard at all levels of the organisation.
  • introducing 28 peer support workers, who use their experiences to support other people and their families receiving mental health services.

“Although we can’t comment on specific claims, we listen and act on the voices of the people we support, their families and carers. This helps us provide a better experience of high-quality, safe and compassionate care.

“We welcome the opportunity to talk to Charlotte about her experience in more detail.”