People with mental health issues visiting hospitals in Gloucestershire are getting a swift and compassionate response from an award-winning team.
The Mental Health Liaison Team is poised to deal with all kinds of situations in both adults and young people aged 16+, 24 hours a day across the county’s Accident and Emergency units and wards.
The 22 staff are part of ²gether NHS Foundation Trust but are based at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH). The team also covers Cheltenham General Hospital (CGH) and the eight community hospitals in Gloucestershire, dealing with between 200 to 300 patients each month who are experiencing mental health problems across the sites. The service comprises four teams in total, these include working age, older age and alcohol, and staff work across patient groups. This involves partnership working with other agencies so that high quality patient care is delivered to the right person at the right time.
People need help due to a range of issues, including alcohol dependency, self-harm and severe mental health problems. The team helps existing ²gether service users during their inpatient stay, helping to manage their anxieties and support communication with the ward teams.
Jim Welch, Mental Health Liaison Manager, ²gether, said they see a wide range of patients from all communities and backgrounds.
He said: “We see anyone and everyone. It could be me or you. We’re all one day away from being ill.
“We forget that 40% of the workforce may have a mental illness. This means 40% of people in this hospital and the staff caring for them will have some degree of mental health need.
“People in their middle years may have been successfully contained within jobs and marriages. Take that away and mental health issues can develop.”
The role of the team is to provide a full psycho-social assessment of anyone referred. Clinicians look at why the person has come for help, and the events that brought them. A full background history review will take place for those who are unknown to mental health services.
Carrying pagers and working locally within acute settings means staff can literally pop next door to respond to an emergency. The team maintains a high profile and actively engages staff by providing tailored training to make sure that the mental health needs of patients are equal to their physical needs. Staff have won a number of awards including a ²gether Recognising Outstanding Service and Contribution Award (ROSCA) for clinical team of the year in 2017.
Previously, young people were facing long waits for mental health support in A&E because the Children and Young People’s Service isn’t available 24/7. Now if a young person aged 16+ needs help late at night they don’t need to wait until the next day as the team can help them there and then. There are plans to lower the threshold to 11+ in the future. The team also seeks to involve families and carers in developing packages of care that take the needs of the whole family into consideration.
Jim added: “The team is adapting to meet the needs of our community. We have evolved service delivery to meet the needs of the client group so support is available at the earliest opportunity.”
The team members all have a registered mental health qualification and are psychiatrists, nurses or from a social work background.
Jim added: “One of the key messages for us is that it’s ok to talk about it, if you talk about it, you’re not alone.”