New nurse boost for mental health kids

AN ON-CALL nurse service for children who arrive at hospital with mental health problems is expected to be up and running within the next few weeks.Until now, there has been no dedicated on-call service for children and teenagers who arrive at Ipswich Hospital's accident and emergency department with mental health problems during the night.

AN ON-CALL nurse service for children who arrive at hospital with mental health problems is expected to be up and running within the next few weeks.

Until now, there has been no dedicated on-call service for children and teenagers who arrive at Ipswich Hospital's accident and emergency department with mental health problems during the night.

As The Evening Star revealed in November this has led to some young people experiencing waits of more than 12 hours before they are seen by a mental health specialist, despite the fact they may have been self-harming or attempted to commit suicide.

Alan Staff, director of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), said a lot of work has been going on to try to bridge the gap.

He said: “We are working to get an on-call nurse service in place within the next few weeks and this will be backed up by an on-call consultant for the most serious cases.”

He estimates that, at the moment, nurses probably have to be called out once or twice a week, but this is on top of the long hours they already work.

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One of the other big problems is the lack of in-patient beds for children and teenagers in the county. Staff told the Star how they sometimes have to spend hours ringing hospitals around the country to see if they have space for a child from Suffolk.

Mr Staff said: “We have worked very closely with the primary care trusts and managed to secure a bed in Colchester which will be available to us at all times. It's still not much, but it's certainly better than nothing.

“In the current financial climate we are very lucky that the PCT have agreed to give us this extra funding.”

Other options CAMHS are considering are admitting 17-year-olds to adult hospitals like St Clements - usually, anyone under 18 would go to a specialist unit for young people.

Mr Staff said: “Some 17-year-olds may be best dealt with in an adult setting, others may be quite young and vulnerable so we are going to have to take it on a case by case basis.

“This is something that already happens in the west of the county and across the country.”

The new on-call service will be set up as a pilot initially and closely evaluated to see if it is working.

Has your child experienced a long wait for mental health treatment at Ipswich Hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Ipswich Hospital has also made changes to the way young people are treated while they are waiting to see a mental health specialist.

Any young person under the age of 18 who turns up at the accident and emergency department with a suspected mental health problem now receives one-to-one nursing immediately.

This was introduced at the end of last year after a 15-year-old girl had a 13 hour wait for treatment and was then transferred to an out-of-county treatment centre where she fell from the roof of a building.

Rowan Procter, the hospital's lead nurse for safeguarding children, said they only see a handful of children with this severity of mental health problems every year but said the incident had definitely reinforced the need for changes to the way they cared for all young people with mental health problems.

She said: “The hospital reacted to it in a very positive manner. It was reported to the Strategic Health Authority as a serious untoward incident and to the county's Safeguarding Children board.

“It was definitely a catalyst for change.”

Each month the hospital sees between 20 and 30 young people aged 14-18 with a suspected mental health problem.

Ms Procter said: “These patients will immediately get one to one nursing while we decide what the next steps will be.”

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