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Emergency department nurses supported over patients with mental health symptoms

New guidance issued in a consensus statement by the RCN and other royal colleges sets out protocol for working together to treat patients in emergency departments
Picture shows a nurse in an emergency department at the bedside of a male patient. New guidance prevents psychiatric teams refusing to help treat patients in emergency departments

New guidance issued in a consensus statement by the RCN and other royal colleges sets out protocol for working together to treat patients in emergency departments

Support for emergency department (ED) nurses faced with resistance from psychiatric teams to treat patients with mental health symptoms is set out in new guidance issued in a consensus statement by the RCN, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Emergency Medicine and Royal College of Physicians .

The guidance says such patients must be treated for both physical and psychiatric conditions before being discharged from

New guidance issued in a consensus statement by the RCN and other royal colleges sets out protocol for working together to treat patients in emergency departments

Picture shows a nurse in an emergency department at the bedside of a male patient. New guidance prevents psychiatric teams refusing to help treat patients in emergency departments
Picture: John Houlihan

Support for emergency department (ED) nurses faced with resistance from psychiatric teams to treat patients with mental health symptoms is set out in new guidance issued in a consensus statement by the RCN, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Emergency Medicine and Royal College of Physicians.

The guidance says such patients must be treated for both physical and psychiatric conditions before being discharged from an ED.

RCN Emergency Care Association chair David Smith said the guidance gives a clear structure that nurses can use to ensure patients receive the support they need.

‘When, potentially, the psychiatric team is resistant, nurses can point out that this is the agreed protocol that their colleagues and colleges have agreed,’ he said.

The new rules result from an investigation by the clinical practice review body, the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death, which found that some mental health services refuse to treat patients unless they are declared physically well, which can lead to delays in receiving mental health support.

The new guidance says:

  • All ED nurses must be trained in assessing and supporting a patient with mental health support needs.
  • A psychiatric team must be contacted as soon as it is clear that a patient needs mental health support.
  • There must be an agreed protocol for handover notes from ED teams to psychiatric teams.
  • Patients must remain under the care of the ED and psychiatric teams until they have left the ED.

Find out more

Side by side: A UK-wide consensus statement on working together to help patients with mental health needs in acute hospitals


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