Accessing information

Routes to accessing information

Various carers reported positive experiences of getting information via telephone contact.  This was not always seen as necessary if visiting frequently, but was valued more if visits were infrequent.  For some, phone calls have been a last resort, feeling like a real struggle to chase around information, or they can struggle to get through to the right person, often taking a long time and at a cost to them.  Visiting times could be capitalised upon for information exchange, to some extent depending on how adept they were at asking for information.  Overwrought relatives found it difficult to comprehend information:

I’ve been so strung out sometimes that I couldn’t take everything in.  (sister)

Some carers were fairly confident that information requests or asking for explanations would be met positively by staff, but did not always ask.  There were, however, variable experiences of different staff, different disciplines and these experiences could change over time:

The only person who told me about my rights was a psychiatrist in the last year or so.  (sister)

It seems that for many carers, having a good consultant psychiatrist who is committed to information exchange is crucial.  Nurses and MHOs were also mentioned positively in this regard, but it seems that impressions of the whole service can be hugely influenced by contact with the psychiatrist, for good or ill.  Some reported that in circumstances where information or explanations from staff were minimal or unsatisfactory, they often did not ask further questions or raise this as an issue, preferring to keep quiet and not cause a fuss.  Others were more assertive seekers of information, although appreciative that the exchange of information takes up staff time that may be in short supply:

Even spending an hour with a patient’s carer can take a big chunk out of someone’s day and I understand that, so whatever time they spent with me I’m quite grateful for. (mother)

Sometimes the positive experience around information pivots on a particular member of staff, and forensic carers value their input.  But this is vulnerable to being derailed by staff turnover or patient moves through the system.  Sometimes information is difficult to decipher because of jargon and terminology:

They come away with their doctor language that you have to just sit there and nod and pretend that you know exactly what they’re talking about. (mother)

On the other hand, forensic carers appreciated efforts to make information accessible:

There’s a need for information and a lot more information but also it has to be offered in a way that suits the person that’s needing that information. (father)

One interviewee valued a simplified approach because it demonstrated that care was being taken not to use exclusionary language.

Forensic carers reported taking time to prepare for information seeking:

I write down everything I have a query about, before I go tomorrow I will go through all my stuff and I’ll think of anything that I want to ask about and I will write it down before the meeting and I would advise anyone to do that because you know when you’re face to face with someone you forget things and I also write down things they tell me.(mother)

Information was sought via books or the internet about mental health, medication or side effects, for instance, or Scottish government information on the named persons role, or advance directives, or information about the unit:

I’m – inquisitive is a nice word, nosey is a better word. I quite like to know, whenever medication is mentioned I’m right on to the internet, find out what it’s for, where it’s been tested, you know. (sister)

Internet information would often be used to facilitate discussions with staff, including checking out the accuracy of any self-directed learning