Hospital A&E for mental health patients 'intimidating and anxiety-provoking' warns Derry Councillor
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SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid made the comments as she asked the Trust to consider alternative pathways for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
"I work in mental health, so I know all patients go to Accident and Emergency for assessment,” she said.
“Is there any consideration of another ‘safe place’, because when a mental health patient goes to the Emergency Department it’s quite intimidating and anxiety-provoking?"
Other Derry City and Strabane District Council elected representatives also voiced their concerns about current emergency health services, as Western Trust representatives outlined their plans for the coming weeks at a Winter Preparedness briefing.
Addressing the Council’s Health and Community Committee meeting on Thursday before taking comments and questions, the Trust’s Director of Performance and Service Improvement, Teresa Molloy, outlined plans to ‘anticipate a time of increased pressure for departments and the Trust more generally’.
She said that the Winter Preparedness plan was focused on maximising ambulance capacity, reducing time spent by patients in emergency departments, and timely hospital discharges.
"These are the priorities that are judged to have the highest impact across our services,” she said. “The plan also covers additional investments in community pharmacy and in the ambulance service.”
As well as raising concerns over mental health patients being treated in emergency rooms, Colr. McDaid also praised the introduction of a discharge lounge at Altnagelvin Hospital, which can help free up beds for patients.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” she said. “Whenever you’re waiting for information or medication when you could be away home a few hours earlier, and that’s a bed empty, I think it’s a great idea."
Sinn Féin Councillor Aisling Hutton said patients were often referred to Emergency Departments when they ‘really didn’t need to be there’.
She said: "Services like ‘Phone First’, which has been rolled out in the Belfast Trust and Ards and North Down area, and ‘Hospital at Home’ alleviate that bottleneck in Emergency Departments.
"Are there plans for these services being rolled out here? Because they seem very useful and impactful.
"We have a duty of care to everybody and need to be vocal and see if services can be brought in to keep them safe and well.”
The Western Trust’s Medical Director, Dr Brendan Lavery, said the ‘Phone First’ service was available, but doesn’t alleviate waiting times in emergency departments.
“It has less impact than people think as it’s aimed at people with minor ailments,” he said. “If lots of people used ‘Phone First’, the waiting rooms might be slightly less busy, but the Emergency Department would never change."
Assistant Director Performance and Service Improvement, Dr Maura O’Neill, said the ‘Hospital at Home’ service was available to Derry patients, and was something the Trust plans to ‘build on’.
She said: “There are also a number of other pathways for vulnerable patients in residential homes, like rapid response nursing, the district nursing team and the setting up of frail elderly clinics."
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney, who chaired the meeting, concluded: "We anticipate this is going to be a very difficult Winter for everyone, but we will do all we can as elected representatives to support you.”