Royston family speak out after ‘mental health treatment lottery’ delays daughter’s care

PUBLISHED: 08:25 15 March 2018

Abi Hodgetts with her family, who have always been supportive to her throughout her mental illness. Picture: Courtesy of Debbie Hodgetts

Abi Hodgetts with her family, who have always been supportive to her throughout her mental illness. Picture: Courtesy of Debbie Hodgetts

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The family of a young woman from Royston who has been under mental health services in both Herts and Cambs has said they feel the “treatment lottery” – and the delays in her care has caused her condition to worsen.

Abi Hodgetts  - pictured near her lowest weight - became ill with anorexia aged 16. Picture: Courtesy of Debbie HodgettsAbi Hodgetts - pictured near her lowest weight - became ill with anorexia aged 16. Picture: Courtesy of Debbie Hodgetts

Abi Hodgetts began experiencing difficulties after making a new year’s resolution to get healthier back in 2014 – within two months her regime had spiralled so out of control that she was consuming just 300 calories a day.

Mum Debbie said: “I could see what was happening, but Abi couldn’t – she thought she was in control. Her body was ravaged to the point it was shutting down.

“We kept going back to the GP, and was told she had anorexia – she was referred to the child and adolescent mental health service in Stevenage where she was seen regularly, and spent two months at Forest House in Radlett where her eating improved.”

Six months after she left the unit, her eating disorder symptoms were replaced by depression and the need to injure herself.

Abi Hodgetts, 20, from Royston is fighting for treatment for her personality disorder. Picture: Courtesy of Debbie HodgettsAbi Hodgetts, 20, from Royston is fighting for treatment for her personality disorder. Picture: Courtesy of Debbie Hodgetts

Abi said: “It feel like I might explode and had to get that feeling out. It would be a release at first, but then I’d feel worse.”

She was being seen regularly by the Herts-based CAMHS and her family thought this was the best chance she had of getting help, but the day she turned 18 she was transferred to the adult service in Cambs.

Debbie said: “There was nothing in place there, it was as though she had slipped into a black hole.

“We were told she had a personality disorder and that she’d get six months of counselling, but that treatment was withdrawn because there weren’t enough staff. We’ve now been told it could happen in July if they have the staff.

“We know there’s no magic wand. It’s about how she copes with her personality disorder, and how she lives her life going forward – the counselling would teach her skills to do that.

“The problem with being in a town which borders two counties like Royston is that the care is so different from one to another. It’s a lottery.

“She’s called 111 and the personality disorders team in crisis before, but she hardly ever gets referred to the right place and they don’t ring her back.”

Former Meridian School student Abi has the support of her family – dad Rick and her 17-year-old brother Sam, as well as mum Debbie.

Abi works at Royston’s Tesco Extra as a customer assistant where the staff’s support has also been invaluable.

She said: “They have been amazing – there’s always someone I can talk to. If I feel like I can’t carry on I can grab a drink and calm down.”

Debbie said: “If they feel they can’t manage the situation they contact me. They want to understand how they best support Abi, which is really refreshing. The mental health services that are suppose to be helping her aren’t, but fortunately Tesco staff have been so understanding.

“My employer Hotel Chocolat in Royston has been brilliant too. They understand that, although Abi is 20, I am her carer and when she needs me or sends alarming texts that I have to drop everything and get to her quickly.”

The family feel the treatment delay has lead to symptoms worsening for Abi – so much so that she attempted to get to the top of the Tesco Extra building two weeks ago to jump off. Fortunately the door was locked. 
Debbie said: “It’s as though she doesn’t want to die, but can’t go on feeling the way she does. We will continue to fight for what Abi needs.

“The amount of support we get on Facebook is amazing. We want to raise awareness – if this could turn our family’s lives upside down, it could happen to anyone.”

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust said: “We cannot comment on individual cases. However, in general, as well as assessment and treatment, our personality disorder community service offers an open clinic which patients can contact throughout the week for advice and support. Anyone in mental health crisis can also access our first response service via 111 or speak to their GP.”

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