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Mental health and A&E nurses swap skills to better patient care

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Mental health nurses at trusts in London are swapping job skills with colleagues in accident and emergency to help both sets of professionals better manage and treat patients with mental health problems.

A three-month pilot will bring together 30 nurses from London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust (LNWUH) and neighbouring mental health provider Central and North West London Foundation NHS Trust (CNWL).

“Any support on how to best to manage patients who can arrive quite agitated and distressed is welcome”

Lauren Fraser

The scheme, which is funded by Health Education England’s Urgent and Emergency Care Workforce Collaborative for London, will see A&E nurses at Northwick Park Hospital from the LNWUH trust exchanging job skills with their counterparts in mental health at the CNWL trust.

The idea behind the initiative is that mental health nurses can treat basic conditions in a 136 suite and that A&E nurses can better manage patients with mental health problems.

It will primarily focus on reducing the number of patients on a Section 136 of the Mental Health Act coming into A&E, noted LNWUH, where individuals are picked up and detained by the police who are concerned about their mental health.

Although there is a 136 suite staffed by mental health nurses at the hospital, Dr Lauren Fraser, consultant in emergency medicine at Northwick Park Hospital, said that around 90 of these patients came through to A&E last year.

Dr Fraser said: “We’ve seen an increasing numbers of patients attending A&E with mental health conditions in recent years.”

“Our nurses don’t have specific mental health training, so any support on how to best to manage patients who can arrive quite agitated and distressed is welcome,” she added.

“We’ve seen an increasing numbers of patients attending A&E with mental health conditions in recent years”

Lauren Fraser

In return, A&E staff will be taught by their colleagues in mental health from CNWL, on how to undertake risk assessments as well as how to better communicate and manage patients with mental health conditions, as part of five two-hour training sessions.

The pilot will see A&E nurses teaching their mental health colleagues about assessing patients with physical health conditions, noted Dr Fraser.

“This includes head injuries, alcohol intoxication and overdoses, as well as basic emergency skills like vital signs measurement, simple wound management and catheter care,” Dr Fraser explained.

“This will allow patients to be treated, where appropriate, in the Section 136 suite,” she added.

London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust said the collaboration was helping to improve patients’ journey, as well as laying the foundation for an effective partnership between the organisations.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Excellent idea and well done

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  • I’m a newly qualified mental health nurse on an elderly organic ward and find myself wishing that I had just 1 placement on a general ward to develop wound care and physical health skills

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