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Help in a crisis
Sarah Hales

Sarah Hales, Mental Health Practitioner

Sarah Hales has spent the past 10 months of her 23-year Trust nursing career as a Mental Health Practitioner working for the Community Perinatal Mental Health Service, in West Norfolk.

“I’m really looking forward to early 2019 because that’s when an eight-bed Mother and Baby Unit opens at Hellesdon Hospital for new mothers with serious mental health problems.

“The most frustrating part of my job right now is when a woman needs to be admitted and I have to tell them and their families that the nearest MBU is in Chelmsford. There have even been times when the nearest available bed has been further afield, such as in Birmingham, which means that some women choose not to be admitted.

“Our unit will be one of just four across the country commissioned by NHS England and will ensure mums and their babies can stay together while the mother receives care. It will also accept women in late pregnancy who need acute psychiatric inpatient care.

“I was attracted to mental health nursing because I found the mental health element of my ‘A’ level psychology interesting and my own family had experience of mental illness.

“After training in Leeds and qualifying as a mental health nurse in 1995, I’ve done many different roles at the Trust. What made me join the Community Perinatal Mental Health Service last July was the prospect of a new experience and working with a completely different client group. I’ve never gained so much knowledge and learnt so many new skills in such a short space of time.

“I enjoy going into the homes of the women and building a relationship with them and also  working with different professions, such as the midwives at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

“When I worked for the Mental Health Liaison Service that NSFT provides at NNUH, I came to learn that there is great scope for a better understanding of mental health among staff employed by acute hospitals.

“An important part of my role is educating and training other people, including mental health colleagues like those in the crisis teams who may potentially come into contact with the same women who I am supporting.”