Last month, Southern Health announced that its Crisis Lounge, based at Antelope House, will be extending its opening hours to 24 hours a day, 7 days per week in response to its success in the first six months of operation.
The Crisis Lounge complements the care currently provided to a very vulnerable group of people and is part of a wider programme of investment and improvement, as a result of Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group’s Mental Health Matters strategy.
By offering a safe haven, the Lounge avoids people having to visit Southampton General‘s A&E as they previously would have had to do. Whilst there is a psychiatric liaison service at A&E, it is acknowledged that an emergency department is not the most suitable place for people in mental health crisis or who may be experiencing highly distressing symptoms but who have no urgent physical health needs.
The Crisis Lounge reduces the risks to patients themselves, the risks to others at A&E who may be vulnerable and also reduces the risk of people leaving an A&E waiting room without even being seen or assessed. It offers a calm environment away from the noise and energy of a busy A&E department.
Natascha Eden, Crisis Pathway Manager at Southern Health, explained: “Local people using the new Crisis Lounge are able to benefit from improved and more rapid triage, assessments, interventions, advice and support. They’re cared for by mental health nurses, as well as peer supporters who have lived experience of mental illness themselves. By using the Crisis Lounge, people may be able to avoid an unwanted admission to an inpatient unit, instead benefitting from intensive support whilst remaining in their homes.”
She added: “We can offer visitors to the Crisis Lounge constructive and compassionate support, specific to their needs. We are based in a safe, calm and welcoming environment where people going through a mental health crisis can regroup and begin to focus on a positive future.”
Since opening its doors last October, the Crisis Lounge has been well received by patients. Following a patient survey, 81% said that the Lounge ‘prevented my mental health from deteriorating further’ and 90% agreed it ‘helped me manage a difficult time’ and ‘gave me a safe place to go’. 100% of respondents said that the Crisis Lounge’s staff respected their privacy, treated them with dignity, respect, warmth and compassion and that they felt listened to and their concerns were taken seriously.
One patient described the Lounge as: “A safe space, somewhere to go. It prevented me self-harming.” Another said: “Excellent. I was at crisis point and very distressed. The staff listened, understood and I felt supported that a plan would be put in place. Whilst still unwell, it made me feel more enabled and supported.”
Since initially opening, the Crisis Lounge has made several positive changes based on the feedback of its patients. The environment has been re-decorated and additional items like bean bags, a rocking chair, soft mood lighting, a sensory rug, wall projector and blue tooth speakers to play music have been added.
The team are also currently liaising with Solent Mind to see if they can work with patients to paint a mural on one of the Crisis Lounge walls. In addition, a patient experience group has been set up and meets on a bi-monthly basis in order to work collaboratively with staff to help constantly improve and enhance the service.
Whilst the Crisis Lounge is open to the majority of local adults in mental health crisis, there are certain criteria to enable the service to run efficiently. For example, patients can’t be under the influence of substances, lack capacity, display aggressive behaviour or be detained under the Mental Health Act.
The Crisis Lounge originally opened for four twilight shifts a week (4pm – midnight) Monday to Thursday. From 26 February this year, the service opened for seven twilight shifts a week and, from 23 April, the Lounge opened from 9am to midnight. It is now open 24/7.