A specialist team from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) which assesses and treats people with mental health issues when they attend an acute hospital is now able to offer faster help to more patients after the service more than doubled in size.
The announcement comes during national Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 14 to 20 May.
NSFT's Mental Health Liaison Service, based at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NNUH) has increased its staffing from 13 to almost 30 thanks to local investment and as part of the Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).
Antek Lejk, CEO of NSFT and lead for the STP's Mental Health Workstream, said the expansion of this vital service was an example of how collaborative STP working was ensuring the right services were available to people, when they needed them the most.
"As STP partners, our Trust is working closely with the CCGs and the NNUH to ensure that the mental health liaison services we provide fully meet the needs of each community.
"The additional funding has allowed us to develop a more robust service for people with mental health issues who arrive at the hospital for treatment, as well as reaching more patients every year.
"The service provides patients with safe, high quality and responsive care, and this closer partnership working is vital to ensuring people are seen in the whole and that their mental health as well as their physical health needs can be supported immediately.
"We are also delighted that NSFT and NNUH are now jointly funding the new Matron post for the team, to enable the service to function better across the hospital while increasing support for NNUH staff who are caring for patients with mental health issues."
The team is responsible for assessing patients with mental health problems who come to hospital with physical health needs. Their aim is to see patients quickly so that they can either return home safely, be referred onto other NSFT services or receive the right support for their mental health needs during an admission for a physical health problem.
The expansion will enable the team of nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and assistant practitioners to continue providing 24-hour cover across the hospital while also managing increasing demand. In addition, it will ensure they can respond to referrals from the Emergency Department within one hour, in line with national guidance.
The team also delivers training to NNUH staff to enhance their awareness of common mental problems, and is working closely with the hospital's Dementia Support Team to enhance the care provided to patients with the condition throughout their admission.
They also liaise regularly with Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind, who will contact people after discharge to provide follow-up within a few days of admission to the Emergency Department.
Amy Eagle, Operational Director for Women's and Children's Division and NNUH Mental Health Lead said: "Treating patients' physical health and mental health together is really important, and the expansion of the NSFT Mental Health Liaison Service, based at NNUH, will be of massive benefit to the local community needing this joined up service.
"The service aims to provide specialist and timely assessments of mental health need across all clinical areas at NNUH, and the expansion of the service demonstrates the local commitment to ensuring that patients who access services at NNUH but whom also have a mental health need are given every opportunity to receive person-centred, holistic assessment and care at the right time."
Case Study: Jenny Thurston, Matron & Head of Clinical Practice, NSFT Mental Health Liaison Service at NNUH
"A career in mental health was always on the cards for me – my father was a senior charge nurse at Hellesdon Hospital and my grandmother a sister at the old St Andrew's Hospital in Norwich.
"I joined the Trust as a student nurse in 1984 and have been here ever since, undertaking various roles including acute adult inpatient services, governance, the Norfolk Recovery Partnership and being a matron for the past 11 years.
"I took on my current post last year at a very exciting time because the Mental Health Liaison Service at the Norfolk and Norwich was expanding and now has almost 30 staff. They are all employed by NSFT, providing a 24/7 service, including consultant psychiatrists, a clinical psychologist, 19 Band 6 assessors and five associate practitioners, supported by a comprehensive admin team.
"My post is a new role partly funded by the Norfolk and Norwich, which has given me a warm welcome and is an excellent support to the service we provide.
"We offer mental health assessments, brief intervention and treatment for patients who are experiencing mental health difficulties within the acute hospital. We are also heavily involved in the training and education of Norfolk and Norwich staff, including at induction, and we promote the mental health and wellbeing of their staff.
"The Mental Health Liaison Service is a developing team and a fabulous group of people to work with, and I can only see the team growing.
"Going forward, I want the team to focus more on qualitative improvements in addition to achieving the key performance indicators."
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