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Monday, 06 April 2020

Our Trust creates an ‘Emergency Department’ to support vulnerable patients in crisis as a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic

Our Trust creates  an ‘Emergency Department’ to support vulnerable patients in crisis as a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic

South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust sets up innovative 24/7 mental health emergency departments for patients in crisis during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. 

We are opening innovative new ‘phone-first’ Emergency Department-style services this week to support those in the community who need urgent mental health care.  The aim is to create a mental health alternative to acute hospital emergency departments, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues, where patients of any age (including children) who have been triaged[1]or rung ahead on a dedicated number, will be able to attend a mental health emergency department. This new service will take much needed pressure off local acute trusts who are dealing with the full brunt of the pandemic.

This dedicated Mental Health Emergency Department will ensure anyone in crisis, who does not have serious physical health needs, will be able to receive specialist care from expert mental health professionals day or night.  Based at Springfield University Hospital in Tooting, it will serve to protect mental health patients and service users, who would have normally attended acute hospitals. With the need for self-isolation and worry over coronavirus, there is evidence of increased risk to mental health.

Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director for Acute and Urgent Care at South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust Dr Sean Whyte said:

“We are extremely proud to be setting up the country’s first all-age mental health emergency service at Springfield University Hospital. It represents the hard work of scores of staff alongside their day jobs, as well as a small group of service users who co-designed aspects of the service with us.

“Our business is providing the best possible care for those with mental health conditions and right now, this mission is more important than ever. That’s why, in just one week, our Trust set up this much-needed Mental Health Emergency Department, which will support and care for those people in our community who are most in need of our specialist mental health care.

“Our staff are working with great dedication and commitment throughout this pandemic to ensure our community’s mental health is safe, and this pioneering service is one of the ways we are doing this.”

Cllr Piers Allen of the Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Committee for Richmond Council said:

“Coronavirus is putting a strain on the mental wellbeing, as well as the physical wellbeing, of our whole country.  Some people need specialist help and support to help them to deal with the pressure of isolation, illness or in some case bereavement.

“These new emergency mental health departments are an innovative response to dealing with this challenging situation. These vital services will reduce some of the pressure on hospital A&E departments, whilst ensuring that people with mental health needs are receiving the specialist support they need.

“I welcome these new units and we will support both South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust to ensure they have access to the resources they need from the local authority.”

Cllr Marian James, Chair of People Committee for Sutton Council said:

“In these difficult times, many of our residents will be feeling more isolated and vulnerable. It is crucial that they have access to mental health support. The new phone first mental health emergency departments are an innovative response to the Coronavirus outbreak and to ensure that the mental health needs of residents do not go unmet at this time. My thanks go to our partners who have worked tirelessly to make this happen.”

Cllr Melanie Hampton, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health for Wandsworth Council also welcomed the new service, saying:

“Here at Wandsworth Council we recognise that the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 may have an adverse impact on mental health.  I want to thank the trusts for taking swift action and providing a safe and calm place for residents suffering from a variety of mental health issues. This telephone number provides a fast service to reach out for support.”

This service complements the many others run by the Trust for those in the community with mental health needs. Many services have now been adapted to allow safe care to continue amidst social distancing, for example using phone, video conferencing appointments where a face-to-face appointment is not essential.  However, our dedicated staff are continuing to ensure that those people who need to be seen and supported in person are.

The Trust is also looking at skills of existing staff, including non-clinical colleagues, so we can make the best use of everyone’s skills to support our front line services.

Digital services, training and equipment have been rapidly deployed across the Trust in order for corporate staff and those self-isolating to work from home in line with Government guidance on self-isolation. This allows continued support to front line services to ensure safe patient care continues. 24/7 advice lines have also been set up for staff to provide support and information about Covid-19 anytime.

This service will care for patients in Wandsworth, Merton, Richmond, Kingston and Sutton.

How to attend

Those who need support should call the Trust's mental health support line on 0800 028 8000

Organisations who can refer patients to these services include acute A&Es, police, London Ambulance Service and NHS 111.

A screening process must take place before patients are referred to the service, to ensure any physical health problems do not require urgent medical attention. Therefore, these services do not operate on a ‘walk-in’ basis but take referrals through the mental health support line and through the organisations listed above.

[1] Organisations who can refer patients to these services include Acute Trust Emergency Departments, Police, London Ambulance Service and NHS 111. A screening process must take place before patients are referred to the service, to ensure any physical health problems do not require urgent medical attention. Therefore, these services do not operate on a ‘walk-in’ basis but take referrals through the mental health support line and through the organisations mentioned previously.