Blogs Reports

The system needs to trust advocates

Reported by Charlie

Published on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Healthcare Access Mental Health Physical Health Recovery Service Delivery Support and Relationships Volunteering and Employment
Blogs Reports

The system needs to trust advocates

Written by Charlie

Published on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Healthcare Access

Mental Health

Physical Health


Service Delivery

Support and Relationships

Volunteering and Employment

This report mentions mental health crises and suicide





About a year ago or so, one of the peer mentors working with me was representing a client who found themselves in crisis. Subsequently the peer mentor took his client to the GP. The GP assessed the situation and talked to both the peer mentor and the client in an attempt to calm the client down. He advised the client to go to A&E if these symptoms persisted and gave them a note so that they wouldn’t have to explain themselves to the triage desk if and when they went.

Although the client’s mood didn’t improve, he initially declined to go to A&E but he was eventually persuaded to go after he began to experience a mental health crisis. At this stage the client was unable to talk with clarity or string a coherent sentence together so his peer mentor booked him in at reception, explained the situation and passed over the letter from the GP.

As they sat waiting, the mentor did everything in their skillset to keep his client calm. Eventually a psychiatrist nurse and practitioner/doctor arrived but they would only see the client alone, baring access to the support he desperately needed at the time which caused him great and immediate distress.

Through a follow up conversation a few days later the client revealed that they felt distressed – ‘alone’ and ‘lost’ as a direct result of losing this support, especially at that moment when they needed it most. A short time after seeing the medical professional in A&E, they were discharged without an explanation.

In fact they were released without so much as a word and told to go home. As soon as the client left A&E his suicidal crisis snowballed deeper and deeper. At 11.45pm I was phoned and the situation was explained to me. Because the client was dropping deeper into crisis and was considered a threat to himself or others, I made the peer mentor call the police and take over responsibilities, for his safety (the police were not happy I did this).

This is not the first time, that I have come across this, i.e. a situation where A&E will not allow an advocate in with the client, while they are assessed. In fact I have personal experience of this on a few occasions and know of others who have experienced the same.

We are allowed to support clients/friends at GPs, councils, DWP and most other appointments. In fact it is often encouraged. It gives people moral support, someone to lean on, someone to fill in the words they cannot say, help to express their feelings, to convey their emotional state as well as help talking about and planning what happens after the appointment.

This often doesn’t happen with A&E. When someone is at the depth of despair, at their lowest point, when people truly need that support, it is denied them. I talked to a professional I know to try and find out if this is a rule or just guidance and this is what I found. It is not a rule set in stone, but guidance, that is followed.

Some medical professionals believe that it is obstructive to have someone else at the assessment, because emotions can run high. But these are professionals, they should be able to control emotionally charged situations.

One solution to this problem would be to allow the person in the support role to come in for part of the assessment. They could also offer advice and support to the person in the support role and get invaluable context to help with a diagnosis. The medical professional could provide the support worker with tips and coping mechanisms instead of just walking away in the opposite direction.

When I was in crisis, and got taken into assessment on my own, an old adage would go through my mind. “It’s better to remain silent, and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth, and remove all doubt.”

What I didn’t realise at the time was that I wasn’t entering a competition to see who was the least foolish person in the hospital – I was trying to get treatment for a condition. As you can see, that was difficult to do as I couldn’t really talk to them in A&E.

So how was I going to get treatment if there wasn’t someone there to talk and listen for me. 

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

Written by Charlie

Charlie Radbourne has more than six years, peer support and advocacy experience. Sitting on many service user forums and local authority committees. Due to mental health problems, coming under CMHT and the crisis team, Charlie spent eight months sleeping rough and in the local night shelter, then four years in a hostel / supported accommodation.

Read all of Charlie's articles


Healthcare Access Mental Health Physical Health Recovery Service Delivery Support and Relationships Volunteering and Employment

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