Hospital trust secures £300k investment in emergency department mental health facilities

Sarah ChartersStaff at Southampton’s teaching hospitals have secured £300,000 to fund three specialist assessment rooms in the emergency department for patients with disturbed behaviour due to mental illness or substance use.

The department at Southampton General Hospital sees around 450 patients a month who require physical healthcare but who also have a mental health condition or are affected by substance use.

The majority of these patients are safely assessed in general curtained bays, but the noise and activity can be distressing for some and exacerbate their condition.

Additionally, mental illness or substance use may cause confusion and affect behaviour, which can create a difficult environment for others being treated in the area.

The funding, part of the Department of Health’s improving health-based places of safety programme, will see two new assessment rooms built within the emergency department and a third space refurbished to provide a safe, confidential and comfortable setting for patients and staff.

As part of the development, the assessment rooms will be fitted with alarm systems, doors which open both ways and safe toilet facilities, with one of the rooms configured to accommodate adults or children. The rooms will also be used for those who need a quiet and confidential space to cope with the stress of a hospital attendance.

“Improving the care of patients in the emergency department who have a mental health condition or who are affected by substance use continues to be a high priority for our trust and key to that is providing a safe, comfortable, calm and dignified clinical environment,” explained Sarah Charters, consultant nurse and emergency department mental health lead at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

“The provision of a confidential setting where sensitive issues can be discussed will not only reduce distress and anxiety among patients who require mental health assessment but, when behaviour is disturbed, will also ensure a more suitable and safe department for other patients, as well as staff and visitors.”

The new assessment rooms follow increased availability of specialist mental healthcare in the department, which is led by the liaison psychiatry service in partnership with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and is often provided alongside physical healthcare.

In addition, the emergency department has a vulnerable adult support team which works alongside clinicians and mental health professionals from 8am to 10pm seven days a week to manage issues such as domestic abuse, homelessness and substance use which often trigger a mental health crisis.

Ms Charters said: “The wider aim of this work is to provide a high quality emergency mental health environment for people attending the emergency department 24/7 and we are pleased with the progress being made to help achieve this.

"We are working alongside partner agencies such as NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, who are also developing and expanding their services for people in crisis, and we encourage those who need help to contact their GP or mental health team early in the hope they will not become so unwell as to need emergency care."

Posted on Wednesday 22 November 2017