Southern Health’s development of “care navigators” and involvement of patients with mental health needs and carers in decisions about their care have been highlighted by Lord Nigel Crisp, former Chief Executive of the NHS.
Lord Crisp features the care navigator role at Southern Health as an example of good practice in his report Old Problems, New Solutions: Improving Acute Psychiatric Care for Adults in England.
The report calls for urgent action to improve acute psychiatric care for severely ill adult mental health patients in England. It found that nationally access to acute care for adults with severe mental illness was inadequate and potentially dangerous in some cases, with a common issue being difficulties in finding beds locally for all those who needed them.
However, Southern Health has already experienced a significant reduction in people experiencing mental health crisis being sent out of area for care. This is a result of a number of steps, including the introduction of care navigators, to provide better co-ordinated care for patients and support staff.
The role of care navigators ranges from securing beds locally and working with patients to establish their individual needs to liaising with relatives and carers. They assist clinicians and work as part of a Multi-Disciplinary Team, as well as monitoring the availability of beds and ensuring patients are safely transferred between services.
Dr Lesley Stevens, Medical Director at Southern Health, said: “In October 2014 the Trust was using more than 50 out-of-area beds which was unacceptable to us. However, it is now eightmonths since anyone experiencing a mental health crisis has had to travel outside of Hampshire for a bed. We are committed to helping people stay in the community with their families wherever possible, and where it is necessary for a person to be admitted, to ensuring that this is as close to home as possible.”
“We are pleased to have been recognised in Lord Crisp’s report. However we recognise that there is still more to do. We continue to work with our local partners to improve our services and proactively plan for situations before they arise.”
Old Problems, New Solutions: Improving Acute Psychiatric Care for Adults in England, was commissioned by the Independent Commission on Acute Adult Psychiatric Care, which is chaired by Lord Crisp. The report is supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.