New scheme to reduce visits to A&E for mental health patients

A pilot scheme in North Lincolnshire is set to improve the care given to mental health patients who are acutely ill or have suffered a minor injury.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust (NLaG) and Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) have teamed up to work on the scheme which also aims to reduce unnecessary A&E attendances.

The Great Oaks mental health unit in Scunthorpe, which is run by RDaSH, treats patients who are suffering with their mental health. Around ten patients a week attend Scunthorpe A&E from the unit.

Under the pilot scheme Great Oaks staff can refer patients to the NLaG unscheduled care team (UCT) who will visit the patient on the unit, preventing a visit to A&E.

Maria Briggs, operational matron for the UCT, said: “A trip to A&E for a patient with mental health issues can be very distressing. Our staff are able to travel to the unit instead and treat the patient there and then.”

The UCT usually works with patients in their own home or care home during an episode of acute illness. The team includes registered nurses or paramedics who are able to assess, diagnose and treat a range of medical conditions. They are supported by healthcare assistants. The service operates 24/7 with staff assessing and treating medical conditions including chest infections, urinary tract infections, minor skin tears, injuries and assessments following a fall.

Martin Jones, interim matron at Great Oaks, said: “This is an excellent scheme. Patients at Great Oaks requiring a trip to A&E would normally be accompanied by a member of staff from RDaSH which means a member of the nursing team is taken off of the ward. The new pilot scheme helps to give us more nursing time and it means the patient’s needs are met on our ward, while also reducing the pressure on A&E. It’s win-win all around.”

The scheme will be assessed once the pilot is complete at the end of November.

One of the key priorities for NLaG as part of its Improving Together programme is to improve access and flow through its hospitals – that is, the way patients are treated and discharged or admitted to a ward for further treatment.

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