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Matrons welcome new scheme to reduce visits to A&E for mental health patients

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

It is a joint project involving acute provider Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust and mental health organisation Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust.

“The new pilot scheme helps to give us more nursing time”

Martin Jones

The two trusts have teamed up to work on the scheme which, as well as improving care, also aims to reduce unnecessary accident and emergency attendances.

Currently around 10 patients a week attend Scunthorpe A&E from the Great Oaks mental health unit in Scunthorpe, which is run by the mental health trust.

Under the new pilot scheme, Great Oaks staff can now refer patients to the mental health trust’s unscheduled care team, who will visit the patient on the unit, minimising the need for a visit to A&E.

The unscheduled care team 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.

“A trip to A&E for a patient with mental health issues can be very distressing”

Maria Briggs

Maria Briggs, operational matron for the unscheduled care unit, noted that a trip to A&E for a patient with mental health issues could be “very distressing”.

“Our staff are able to travel to the unit instead and treat the patient there and then,” she said.

Martin Jones, interim matron at Great Oaks, described the pilot, which will be assessed at the end of November, as an “excellent scheme”.

“Patients at Great Oaks requiring a trip to A&E would normally be accompanied by a member of staff from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber, which means a member of the nursing team is taken off of the ward,” he said.

“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,” he added.

It forms part of the Improving Together programme, which is being implemented across the acute trust in response to receiving an “inadequate” rating from the Care Quality Commission in April.

One of the key priorities for the trust as part of the Improving Together programme is to improve access and patient flow through its hospitals.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole provides acute hospital services and community services to a population of more than 400,000 people. In 2016-17, it’s A&Es received 132,000 attendances.

It runs three main hospitals, Diana Princess of Wales in Grimsby, Scunthorpe General Hospital and Goole Hospital.

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