saved my life'
January 16, 2008
A debate in the House of
Commons will today try to persuade the government to save the acclaimed
Henderson hospital in Surrey, one of England's handful of "therapeutic
The Henderson treats people
diagnosed with personality disorder and residents run the service
in partnership with staff.
But referrals to the unit
dwindled when commissioning was switched from the NHS nationally
to local mental health trusts. In December, the South West London
and St George's Mental Health NHS trust said it could no longer
afford to keep it open.
Kath Lovell, a
former Henderson resident argues the hospital
should be saved as it provides a desperately needed personality
disorder centre of excellence.
It is with immense sadness that
there is a need to write this piece urging the government to consider
the future of the Henderson, given that its closure is a very real
I feel extremely passionate that
the Henderson must survive and I urge the government to consider
the following points:
the issue of financial outcomes. Although
the cost of treatment per person seems very high, most people who
go onto receive treatment at the Henderson have spent most of their
lives in a revolving door pattern, frequently accessing and sometimes
draining the resources of ill-equipped services such as A&E,
primary and secondary care and acute mental health services. Indeed
in the 18 months before I went to the Henderson I spent 11 months
in a drug and alcohol programme that showed no efficacy in reducing
my personality disorder (PD) symptoms and seven continuous months
as an inpatient on an acute psychiatric ward interspersed with various
trips to A&E after overdosing.
In the three years since leaving the Henderson I have neither attended
A&E nor needed to be admitted to a psychiatric unit and I firmly
believe that the cost of my treatment was recouped in the first
12 months since completing my year at the Henderson.
there is the question of “worthwhile’ outcomes:
How do you measure if a service is worthwhile? Is it all about how
much money will be saved? What difference does a service like the
Henderson make to people’s lives? In my case I believe the
Henderson saved my life as I am sure that without this treatment,
I would have continued with the destructive patterns that frequently
resulted in serious self harm and suicide attempts. As a result
I would likely be either dead or in hospital or prison.
Instead I am preparing to go back
into full-time work, looking towards a bright future rather than
at a bleak past. Not only was my treatment life saving, it helped
me work towards a future, with optimism and a sense of recovery,
something I could not have been able to sustain or even conceptualize
five years ago. Many of my peers have gone on to educational opportunities,
some completing degrees and professional training courses, others
going back to work, and many putting something back into the mental
health system through service user involvement. The most worthwhile
outcomes for the majority of ex-residents include making significant
improvements in social functioning, reductions in destructive behaviours
and engagement in meaningful activity, these are not easily quantified
by cost or financial saving but mean everything and more to those
who achieve much after spending most of their lives socially excluded,
disempowered, chronically distressed and labeled as ‘untreatable’.
Thirdly, the Henderson is a centre
of excellence in terms of its knowledge base around personality
disorder. Many of the newer pilot PD services are influenced in
part by the Henderson and the model of treatment it delivers or
by training and consultation from the outreach team. Many look to
the Henderson as a source of inspiration and expertise and the loss
of this centre of knowledge developed over the past 60 years could
severely affect sustainability of new and existing services and
I have worked as an expert by experience
with the Henderson for the past two years and have been continually
amazed by the innovative involvement and empowerment of service
users which is unrivalled by any other initiatives I have been involved
with on local, regional and national levels.
Why can’t everyone be treated
in the community? Why have residential treatments? It is true that
some would benefit from treatment offered in the community, but
there will always be some whose behaviours and symptoms are so severe
that they could not be contained in a community setting. I was deemed
too unsafe to live in the community prior to my time at the Henderson,
hence my extended period on an acute ward and this scenario was
all too familiar with other residents’ histories. I now live
independently in my own flat, an inconceivable thought five years
ago. My argument is thus: there are pediatric departments in most
hospital trusts, but there will always be need for a specialist
hospital like Great Ormond Street, I believe the same to be true
with Personality Disorder and the Henderson.
I implore for there to be solution
that will secure a future for the Henderson that will ostensibly
allow more lives to be changed for the better.
* Kath Lovell
was a resident in the Henderson Hospital from September 2003 to
September 2004. She is now project development manager for the charity,
Borderline UK, and is a service user trainer.
7, 2007: Personality disorder an invalid "catch-all" label
which damages women, says clinical psychologist - Gillian Proctor,
left, attacks "growing prevalence of labeling women with BPD"
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