Emergency and mental health nurses team up for skills swap project

Aim is to reduce number of mental health patients coming into hospital inappropriately via ED

Aim is to reduce the number of mental health patients coming into hospital inappropriately via ED

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Nurses have begun a skills swapping project intended to reduce the number of mental health patients coming into hospital inappropriately via the emergency department (ED).

Emergency nurses from Northwick Park Hospital, run by London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, are buddying with mental health nurses who work on the same site for services provided by neighbouring Central and North West London Foundation NHS Trust.

Design a better pathway

The emergency nurses are learning how to undertake risk assessments, as well as how to communicate with and manage patients with mental health conditions.

Similarly, the mental health nurses are learning basic emergency skills, such as vital signs measurement and simple wound management.

The three-month pilot, which began in early January, includes five two-hour training sessions and a number of ‘dip-in’ shifts where the nurses can experience the work their colleagues do.

Emergency department senior sister and practice development nurse Cassandra Kelly says the overall goal of the project is to design a better pathway for people who are detained by police using section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Ms Kelly says: ‘The primary aim of the training programme and dip-in shifts is to improve the service users’ experiences and their care. Nurses feel the training they are receiving is interesting and they have learned things that can benefit their practice.’

Support in managing patients

Consultant in emergency medicine Lauren Fraser said increasing numbers of patients with mental health conditions had attended the hospital’s ED in recent years. Those who are detained by police for their safety on a 136 order are assessed in a 136 suite, a secure place of safety staffed by mental health nurses.

‘Our nurses don’t have specific mental health training, so any support on how to manage patients who can arrive quite agitated and distressed is welcome,’ Dr Fraser said. ‘There is a section 136 suite on site, but around 90 of these patients came through A&E last year.’

Meanwhile, the ED nurses are teaching their mental health colleagues about assessing patients with physical health conditions, she added. ‘This includes head injuries, alcohol intoxication and overdoses, as well as basic emergency skills like vital signs measurement, simple wound management and catheter care so patients can be treated, where appropriate, in the section 136 suite.’

The project, which involves more than 30 nurses, is being funded by Health Education England’s Urgent and Emergency Care Workforce Collaborative for London.

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